A surprising factoid from Tyler Cowen's The Complacent Class:
If we look at the S&P 500 stock index in 1975, the category of “intangible assets” accounted for about 18 percent of the value of American capital. Most American capital was in physical assets, such as machines and factories, tangible items that can be purchased and replicated if need be. Today, over 80 percent of the value of the S&P 500 is due to intangible assets, including trademarks, patents, brand name reputation, consumer goodwill, and other factors.
I don't have a firm grasp of what assets count as intangible, but if I'm understanding this right, most of the value of many large American companies doesn't exist outside of people's heads.
[rereads: 1, edits: 0]