SHORT STORY: Pick something of value, make bets on the future value of "something", add contract & you have a derivative. Banks make massive profits on derivatives, and when the bubble bursts chances are the tax payer will end up with the bill. This visualizes the total coverage for derivatives (notional). Similar to insurance company's total coverage for all cars. LONG STORY: A derivative is a legal bet (contract) that derives its value from another asset, such as the future or current value of oil, government bonds or anything else. Ex- A derivative buys you the option (but not obligation) to buy oil in 6 months for today's price/any agreed price, hoping that oil will cost more in future. (I'll bet you it'll cost more in 6 months). Derivative can also be used as insurance, betting that a loan will or won't default before a given date. So its a big betting system, like a Casino, but instead of betting on cards and roulette, you bet on future values and performance of practically anything that holds value. The system is not regulated what-so-ever, and you can buy a derivative on an existing derivative. Most large banks try to prevent smaller investors from gaining access to the derivative market on the basis of there being too much risk. Deriv. market has blown a galactic bubble, just like the real estate bubble or stock market bubble (that's going on right now). Since there is literally no economist in the world that knows exactly how the derivative money flows or how the system works, while derivatives are traded in microseconds by computers, we really don't know what will trigger the crash, or when it will happen, but considering the global financial crisis this system is in for tough times, that will be catastrophic for the world financial system since the 9 largest banks shown below hold a total of $228.72 trillion in Derivatives - Approximately 3 times the entire world economy. No government in world has money for this bailout. Lets take a look at what banks have the biggest Derivative Exposures and what scandals they've been lately involved in. Click Here to see it how it stacks up. Goldman Sachs has advantage over other banks because it has awesome connections in US Government. A lot of former Goldman employees hold high-level US Government positions (chart). (For those amongst us who have never heard of corporate fascism . . . this is what it looks like.) Mitt Romney's top donor is Goldman Sachs, and one of Obama's best donors. Ex-CEO of Goldman Sachs, Hank Paulson became the Secretary of Treasury under Bush and during the 2008 financial crisis authored the TARP bill demanding $700 billion bail-out. In UK, Goldman Sachs escaped £10 million bill on a failed tax avoidance scheme with help of good connections. The bank is the largest player in the food commodities market, earned $955m from food speculation in 2009" - That's your $$$. Goldman Sachs employees are arming themselves with guns in case there is a populist uprising against the bank. Goldman Sachs calls their investors "muppets". and use clients to make money for themselves, disregarding the clients. The bank was fined $22 million for sharing valuable nonpublic information with top clients (Think insider trading with best clients). Goldman Sachs was part-owner America's leading website for prostitution ads until the ownership stake was exposed. Goldman Sachs helped Greece conceal its debt with secret loans, while simultaneously taking advantage of Greece. Goldman Sachs got a $814 billion SECRET bailout from the Federal Reserve during the 2008 crisis. Goldman Sachs got $10 billion of the 2008 TARP bailout, and in the same year paid $10.9 billion in employee compensation and "benefits", while paying a tax rate of 1%. That means an average of $327,000 to each Goldman Sach's employee. Little wonder there is no questions about monetary policy or derivatives in the so called "presidential debates".