Banker calls for economic reform

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Though the world is still recovering from the 2008 economic crisis and financial stresses are rippling across Europe, investment banker David Darst ’69 told students Tuesday afternoon that this instability will soon pass.

Darst, the managing director and chief investment strategist of the financial services firm Morgan Stanley, discussed the plight of the global economy with roughly 25 students at an Ezra Stiles Master’s Tea. He said he is optimistic that the crisis is only a “phase” as long as lawmakers address the problems promptly with long-term policies.

“Structural reforms is what the country needs,” he said. “We need to work on education, investments and infrastructures. Otherwise, we risk permanent economic stagnation.”

Darst called recent shocks to the global economy “incredibly odd,” referring to Greece’s debt crisis that has spread to Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy, in addition to the United States economy’s struggles in the wake of the 2008 recession. The political partisanship of Democrats and Republicans is preventing the nation from enacting effective long-term programs, he said, adding that policymakers must compromise to make the structural changes needed to emerge from the crisis.

“This is not the end of the world,” Darst said. “It is only the end of the world as we know it, with its technology and demographics.”

He added that the recent leap in gold prices, which he said are determined by “trust” among investors, is a sign of uncertainty around the world. Darst said that it is necessary to focus both on maintaining the dollar’s value and decreasing wealth disparities. Excessively printing money is only a short-term solution, he said, since it promotes inflation and renders the money less valuable.

When asked about the Occupy Wall Street protests, Darst said that demonstrators are sending the “important national message” that the government must develop new solutions. He added that he spent one night at the Occupy Wall Street camp and talked with protestors.

“I’m from Wall Street, but I also go to Burning Man,” Darst said, alluding to his regular attendance at a techno-hippie art festival that takes place every year in Nevada’s Black Rock desert.

Three students and two faculty members interviewed after the talk said they appreciated learning the perspective of a investment banker on economic matters and found his presentation clear and engaging. Grace Hirshorn ’15 said the talk helped her better understand the changing global economy, adding that Darst excelled at making technical terms easy to understand.

“Darst is one of the most charismatic men I’ve ever met,” Yusu Liu ’15 said.

Darst’s seventh book, “Voyager 3: Fifty-Four Phases of Feeling,” a collection of creative writing pieces, will come out next month.

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