History of Risk

Summary: An investigation into the history of risk as an economic concept and the origins of economic risk as part of the institutionalization of futures trading in the latter half of the 19th century US. Conceived with Marc Ventresca, this research shows how risk became a solution to a political (not economic) problem: how to distinguish futures trading from gambling. By using risk and hedging, members of the Chicago Board of Trade were able to make convincing arguments about the social value of futures trading. We use court cases, legislation, and expert discourses in the form of early economics writings about futures trading to show how futures went from being understood as akin to gambling, to being treated like insurance.

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