You can see why the simple question remains an impossible puzzle. The very first step in answering it would be to define finance and explain what is meant by the real economy – without quotation marks. That, the university economics cannot do. Hence, the endless discussions and points and counterpoints.
In Vol. 4, I take up this question in detail. Before then, here is a news item from the New York Times to highlight the relation between finance and the real economy. The article is about the massing of lobbyist to influence the new law overhauling the financial industry.
But since virtually every imaginable company could be touched by the comprehensive legislation proposed by the Obama administration, the surprisingly broad array of lobbyist trooping to Capitol Hill also includes advocates for airlines, pawnbrokers, real estate developers, farmers, car dealers, retailers and energy and telephone companies. They want to make sure any new oversight of the financial system does not lead to tighter regulations of their businesses or make it more expensive for them to finance their operations or hedge their risks.By far, the most direct link between finance and industry is through money markets, where hundreds of billions of dollars of the corporate working capital are parked to earn a few basis points. Any loss of this capital directly impacts the production and could even disrupt it, as we saw in the aftermath of the Lehman bankruptcy.