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PRINT Summer 1989

THE AUCTION

WHAT LEAD TO THE STOCK market’s sudden depression of prices on October 19, 1987? Was Black Monday a glimpse into final chaos and collapse: a financial nova—or something else?

In the monographs, textbooks, and long analytic articles that would be written about it, many invoking the panic and mania of similar traumas—the bursting of the South Sea and Mississippi bubbles in the 18th century, the crash of 1873, Black Thursday of 1907, and, of course, the apocalypse of ’29—two major schools of analysts emerged. The ecotastrophists (who based their thought on chaos and catastrophe theory) maintained that the computer was not the culprit, only an inevitable factor in the increasing subdivision of the world’s markets, and thus subject to classical economic laws, albeit much speeded up. As far as they were concerned, the warning signs were clear long before the debacle. The only question was which

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