Cyber View; January 2000; Scientific American Magazine; by Grossman; 2 Page(s)
If you read the business press on the subject of stocks, finance and the Internet, you will come away with two strong impressions. First, day trading is very, very dangerous, and the Internet is turning investing into a highstakes casino. Second, everyone's getting rich on Internet bubble stocks, and they are going to crash soon but maybe not yet. There is, however, a subtler, more interesting question: Is the Internet democratizing finance?
Certainly the past couple of decades have created a record number of millionaires and even billionaires. But, as studies show, the gap between rich and poor has widened over those decades, and the wealth has become more concentrated in the hands of a smaller percentage of people. On the other hand, stock ownership has increased its penetration into the general public. According to a CNBC survey, some 70 million Americans now own stocks. The bug is catching internationally: everyone I know in Britain, where as recently as a generation ago only the very wealthiest few owned shares, is calling me up to ask how to trade in the U.S. (Alarmists take note: if ever you wanted evidence that the bubble was about to pop, this may be it.)