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Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds and Confusin de Confusiones Paperback – December 15, 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (December 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471133124
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471133124
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #756,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Why do otherwise intelligent individuals form seething masses of idiocy when they engage in collective action? Why do financially sensible people jump lemming-like into harebrained speculative frenzies -- only to jump broker-like out of windows when their fantasies dissolve? We may think that the Great Crash of 1929, junk bonds of the '80s, and overvalued high-tech stocks of the '90s are peculiarly 20th century aberrations, but the excerpts of these two classics--first published in 1841 and 1688, respectively--show that the madness and confusion of crowds knows no limits, and has no temporal bounds. These are extraordinarily illuminating and, unfortunately, entertaining tales of chicanery, greed, and naivete. Essential reading for any student of human nature or the transmission of ideas.

In fact, cases such as Tulipomania in 1624--when tulip bulbs traded at a higher price than gold--suggest the existence of what I would dub "Mackay's Law of Mass Action": when it comes to the effect of social behavior on the intelligence of individuals, 1+1 is often considerably less than 1, and sometimes less than 0.

Review

"...the book sears into modern investor minds the dangers of following the crowd." -- Greg Heberlein, The Seattle Times

"This is the most important book ever written about crowd psychology and, by extension, about financial markets..." -- Ron Insana, CNBC

"You will see between its staid lines...that...nothing really important has changed in the financial markets in centuries." -- Kenneth L. Fisher, Forbes --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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When you are done with the book, I also hope you will also consider where else mania take over.
Donald Mitchell
It's always good to check a place like Project Gutenberg when you're considering older texts, especially things published before 1923.
Chris Walters
Even if you have no interest in finance, read this book just to have a good laugh at our species.
Rivkah Maccaby

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
The stories in this book will have appeal as long as human beings exhibit great greed and fear in their investing. Those traits will encourage people to manipulate those emotions to their advantage, and these tales will recur with new investments every few years or so. Some few winners will garner long-term wealth while most will lose their seats in this game of financial musical chairs . . . known as speculating in endless opportunity. Fast success draws attention, which draws new investors, which creates more fast success. The price takes off like a rocket ship to eventually crash to earth when it runs out of the fuel of optimism and greed.
No one can hope to be a successful investor without absorbing the stories of these timeless follies.
You will find in this book three sections from Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay in 1841, and Confusion de Confusion by Joseph de la Vega from 1680. The Mackay material describes the almost simultaneous Mississippi Scheme in France and the South Sea Bubble in England, as well as the earlier speculation in tulips in the Netherlands. Confusion de Confusion is a translation from the Spanish about speculation in Amersterdam in the securities of the Dutch East and West India Companies.
The Mississippi scheme involved the use of private bank notes to improve the French debt and currency that were eventually tied into investments in a colony in Mississippi. John Law, a Scotsman, was the originator of the scheme, which grew out of control when the French printed too much money and the Mississippi colony foundered. You can read more about this in the recent book, The Millionaire. The basic facts are more easily absorbed, however, in this volume.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Rivkah Maccaby on December 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds has been a favorite of mine for years, so while I'm happy to see it popularized, there's so much I miss! This is the first book of Urban Legends. There's so much to the book, and so much is so funny, and the financial stuff is the driest part of the book.
That said, I understand Fridson has a theme, and by using these two old works, one Victorian, and one Louis XIV, he shows that nothing much changes: people will do very stupid things if that's what everyone else is doing. More to the point, people will do very risky things with their money, if everyone else is doing so. Examples abound in these two great books, and Fridson doesn't miss a chance to make a point, and usually gets a good laugh in as well.
Tulipomania (when the price of tulip bulbs in Holland inflated beyond the ridiculous) is especially revealing, and though Fridson is using it to make a point about price inflation, I couldn't help thinking also about the marketing technique by which the public is convinced it needs something, then that something is doled out like Oreos to a diabetic. I'm thinking specifically of diamonds, but there are lots of examples.
Fridson pulls this altogether, and as big a fan as I am of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, the original work he has created by mating a part of it with the other work, and with his own explanatory text is a great book.
I am not an investor, and generally find economics petrifyingly boring, but this book was a fun romp. Even if you have no interest in finance, read this book just to have a good laugh at our species.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
Last week's over 25% percent decline in the Nasdaq surprised and scared all of us. . . ahh but not if you had read this book.
So after the meltdown we had this past week, I picked up the book and read it again over the weekend. Everything was put into perspective.
If I may borrow from the book, from the introduction by Fridson to be more specific, "Popular Delusions makes a forceful case that when a price trend is overdone, fine-tuned analysis becomes superfluous. Nevertheless, 'obviously' overvalued markets sometimes proceed to become even more overvalued. It is not a bad idea, therefore, to leaven Mackay's emphasis on mass hysteria with Joseph de la Vega's attention to the coldly calculating side of things."
You will understand why the even the most talented have been lured into the hysteria of joining the dot.com world for those lucrative (or at least they were)stock options which aren't worth much anymore and why they will never reach the highs that they experienced not too long ago. It's not mathematical, it's psychological. Crowd psychology actually.
So if you haven't yet read these classics that are truly timeless even a century and a half later, what are you waiting for?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Chris Walters on July 21, 2008
Format: Kindle Edition
It's always good to check a place like Project Gutenberg when you're considering older texts, especially things published before 1923. In this case, the book is in the public domain and you can download it for free.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 3, 1997
Format: Hardcover
This book has been around for over 100 years. The lessons of those events is applicable to the present time. I highly recommend it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Joao Cortez on February 27, 2011
Format: Paperback
I'm not sure how to categorize this book - history, comedy, psychology. It does a good job in describing some of the most hysterical manias over the course of history, but not in a very exciting manner and I'm not sure to what point: no deep motives are presented and no conclusions are drawn. Some frenzies are described in too much detail (like in the case of 'The Duels') while others are very succinct (like the case of the Tulipomania).
Overall there are some interesting parts but it's mixed with some very boring ones... I recommend it if the reader is interested in a plain history of Mankind manias.
PS: By the way, it seems that we are not able to learn from the past. History keeps repeating itself...
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