Machines Hijack Our Stock Market: Opinion

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Our markets have been hijacked and are not so slowly coming apart. That's what I conclude from seeing what are being optimistically called trading "glitches" at Knight Capital Group ( KCG).

But Knight's problems with its latest software are certainly not the first sign of an electronic market run amok. We've seen it over and over again: the Flash Crash in 2010; high-speed "mistakes" in initial public offerings (including Facebook's ( FB)); and countless small electronic missteps over the past three years.

All of this has sapped investors' confidence about the fairness of our stock and commodity markets.

They're not sure why or how, but investors suspect that the game is rigged and are more and more refusing to be a part of it. The monthly outflows from stock mutual funds and indices show how deep their distrust has become.

It's not just the regular retail investor who has been marginalized in this rise of the machines. A generation of traders, mostly of my generation, have been slowly and nickeled and dimed out of a career that used to allow their wits and courage to generate a living.

Now all of their historic advantages are instead delivered inexorably to those diabolical black boxes, leaving nothing -- not a crumb -- for a smart kid looking to work hard and be his own boss as a trader, a job I was lucky enough to have for more than two decades.

The big boys are feeling it, too. It's no coincidence that monster hedge funds run by the likes of George Soros, Stanley Druckenmiller, John Arnold and Louis Bacon have decided to return money to investors, becoming smaller, entirely private or totally retired and gone.

Sure, the markets aren't delivering the "easy" returns of the 1990s, but mostly they're a lot less reliable, courtesy of machines that generate thousands of trades an hour for reasons no human can possible understand or process.

I'm no Luddite -- I hear the inexorable march of technology. But I also think it's time to try and put at least a part of that genie back into the bottle from whence it came. A transaction tax is a great first step toward doing that.

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