Creative Destruction on the Steps of St. Paul’s

Protesters calling themselves Occupy LSX (?) have set up shop outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London after failing to disrupt the London Stock Exchange (LSE). It wouldn’t have mattered if they did – the trading floor vanished years ago when the exchange embraced technology and went screen-based, and the LSE Group is far too savvy an organization to have a single point of failure.

Still, even if they did somehow disrupt the operation of the server-racks contained deep within Paternoster Square – and the service didn’t fail over to other datacentres including Milan – then alternative venues such as BATS, Chi-X and Turquoise would take up the slack. Between them, these slim outfits see more volume than the LSE – yet BATS itself probably employs less people than the LSE’s canteen.

It’s an odd day when pseudo-Marxist protesters and the free market align to hurry the demise of an old business model and replace it with a leaner, nimbler and more efficient alternative – but however curious the alliance, it’s Joseph Schumpeter’s creative destruction at work: the same force for rapid progress that has seen Apple’s stock increase by 400% since the fall of Lehman, whereas RIM has lost 85% of its value.

I wonder whether the protesters appreciate their contribution to industry’s advancement?