"The longest bull market in history" is a term that gets used a lot these days. Since 1990, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen some 8,000 points, from around 2,700 in January 1990 to nearly 11,000 today--a boom by anyone's standards, including Edward Chancellor's. In Devil Take the Hindmost
, Chancellor takes an entertaining, albeit sobering, look at the history of speculative manias and the mass delusion that surrounds them.
Beginning with the "tulipomania" that gripped Holland in the 1630s, Chancellor chronicles the formations and irrational euphoria that can inflate markets, from shares of South Sea stock in England in the 1720s to real estate in Japan in the late 1980s. He characterizes the speculative spirit as one that
loves freedom, detests cant, and abhors restrictions. From the tulip Colleges of the seventeenth century to the Internet investment clubs of the late twentieth century, speculation has established itself as the most demotic of economic activities. Although profoundly secular, speculation is not simply about greed. The essence of speculation remains a Utopian yearning for freedom and equality which counterbalances the drab rationalistic materialism of the modern economic system with its inevitable inequalities of wealth.
But it's precisely such inevitability that always seems to win out, when "sharply rising prices followed by sudden panic without cause" bring speculative excess to an abrupt end.
Chancellor makes Devil Take the Hindmost especially relevant to today's U.S. investors by using his analysis of past speculative manias as a lens through which to view the current bull-market binge. No matter what his or her current investment outlook is--bull or bear--anyone with capital to invest would do well to spend a thoughtful weekend with this book. Highly recommended. --Harry C. Edwards
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From Library Journal
In an era of rampant speculation and questionable investor habits, it is a pleasure to read an insightful, well-focused analysis of the events that have dominated social and economic history since at least the second century B.C.E. Starting with the speculative frenzy that gripped ancient Rome, British business journalist Chancellor goes on to provide keen insight into a wide variety of events, including the emergence of stock exchanges from the great fairs of northern Europe, the tulip mania that gripped the Dutch Republic in the 1630s, the insanity of the Mississippi and South Sea bubbles, the robber barons and their impact during the Gilded Age, the events leading to the Crash of 1929, the Japanese bubble economy of the 1980s, the Mexican crisis of 1994, the Asian market crisis of 1997, and the speculative manias that have accompanied the emergence of new technologies, including railroads, the telegraph, automobiles, radio, and the Internet. A well-rounded presentation that should be included in all public and academic libraries.ANorman B. Hutcherson, Beale Memorial Lib., Bakersfield, CA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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