Mario Draghi didn’t give much away in his opening remarks at the 6th Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences in southern Germany. In his highly anticipated speech Wednesday morning, the president of the European Central Bank kept mum on the most titillating topic in Europe: upcoming stimulus negotiations.

However disappointing, his silence was not altogether surprising: Draghi has to bear in mind the political consequences of his words. But this is not necessarily true for the rest of the conference speakers. In this veritable meeting of the minds, held every three years, 17 Nobel laureates in economics will take the stage this week to share their thoughts on the world’s financial future. And while there are reasons for this intellectual dream team to feel optimistic — a decade after the start of the global financial crisis, the world’s economy appears to be well on the mend — there is also cause for concern, as the German daily Die Welt noted on the eve of the conference.

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Mario Draghi in Lindau after his Aug. 23 opening speech — Photo: lindaunobel via Instragram

So what exactly keeps these prize-winning economists up at night? Donald Trump, for one thing. The laureates emphasize that about-faces in Washington, global terror and potential nuclear disputes could trigger a bank run if not properly handled.

In fact, thinking we are secure only increases the possibility of another crisis, argues Finnish economist Bengt Holmstrom, last year’s Nobel Prize recipient. Edward Prescott, the 2004 laureate, told Die Welt, adding that a financial crisis will take place in the not so distant future "with great certainty."

What exactly keeps these prize-winning economists up at night? Donald Trump, for one thing.

Another problem is the world’s expanding digital network. With greater interconnection between national governments, businesses, and financial systems comes the potential for more chaos. As 2000 Nobel Prize winner Daniel McFadden explains, financial risks move like "electricity" through this vast network, and even small problems can easily infect the entire system.

Unfortunately, says McFadden, the world hasn’t developed the proper mechanisms to survey, regulate, and manage its instabilities — quite the opposite. Since taking power in January, the Trump administration has worked to undo global cooperation in many areas, most notably by removing the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. The U.S. leader has also pledged to revoke parts of Dodd-Frank, a crucial piece of legislation that curtailed abuse on Wall Street in 2009.

Each rollback, the economists argue, poses more uncertainties for the future and ups the chance that history — and a not-so-distant one at that — will ultimately repeat itself.


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