There are not a lot of ways that individual investors can piggyback on the strategies of hedge fund managers. One way they can is investing in closed-end funds with the hope that they will open-end. Hedge funds have the means to agitate fund management for open-ending, in opposition to small investors.
James Altucher at RealMoney.com reports on how one hedge fund manager went about convincing the Salomon Brothers Fund (SBF) to open-end. Altucher also points to some online resources for individuals interested in doing further research on closed-end funds.
In this case hedge funds were able to unlock some hidden value. Amanda Cantrell at CNN/Money asks whether hedge funds harm or help the economy? The sheer size and growth of the hedge fund universe gives some analysts pause. However, size does not really answer the question. In short, nobody really knows what role hedge funds play in the broader economy.