Gretchen Morgenson observes:
For example, since 1995, according to Standard & Poor’s, earnings of financial concerns have accounted for 22 percent of profits, on average, among the S.& P. 500 companies. That performance is almost double that of the next largest contributor — the energy industry. In 2003, earnings among financial companies peaked at 30 percent of total profits generated by the S.& P. 500; back in 1995, financial company earnings accounted for 18.4 percent of the total.
You can see how this goes with energy. Oil only exists in certain places, and everywhere you look oil reserves are heavily influenced by government policy. It’s a situation where there’s a lot of opportunity for rents, for acquiring quasi-monopolies, and for wracking up huge profits. It’s much harder to see why the financial sector should ever have gotten this fat and profitable—it’s a competitive marketplace and so forth. Now it looks like a lot of those gains were ill-gotten to one extent or another. But beyond that, it seems unhealthy for the finance sector to be so huge and lucrative—drawing talented people away from other fields with a clearer productive output.