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Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds Paperback – March 26, 2009
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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 less than 2, and sometimes considerably less than 0. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Charles Mackay first details France's Mississippi Scheme & England's South Sea Bubble (from the early 1700's). Then he covers the famous Dutch "tulipomania" of the 1600's. These are all enjoyable reports of financial manias and their aftermaths (though the South Sea Bubble chapter dragged on a bit). But the financial reader will be surprised when she realizes she's still only 100 pages into a 700 page book! Mackay proceeds to cover:
Alchemy - 150 pages of exhaustive (& exhausting) detail of hobbyists & serious investors who were convinced they could turn base metals into gold, if only they could find the right ancient recipe & stoke their workshop cauldrons just a little bit hotter.
The Crusades - 100 pages that prove that modern Islamic fundamentalists did not invent the idea of a "holy war". I had no idea the Crusades came out of official harassment of Y1K religious pilgrims! Remember this: If your country is being inundated with religious pilgrims, just try to think of them as a tourist opportunity. You don't want to get them angry!
The Witch Mania - 100pp. This section was unexpectedly chilling. As I read about European witch trials of the 1400s-1600s, I kept thinking of our recent satanic child abuse trials. It's all been done before: The wild unprovable accusations, including eating dead babies; trusting unreliable witnesses specifically BECAUSE of the severity of the charges; False Memory Syndrome. At least the rack & Trial by Ordeal are no longer recognized as valid forensic techniques.Read more ›
I particularly liked the chapter on witchcraft and witch hunts since it told me everything I'll ever need to know on why seemingly intelligent groups of people band together to banish or murder innocent members of society - just because they are different. Another engaging chapter deals with millennialism - the fear and dread that grips society at the end of each millennium. If you thought the end of the last one brought turbulence, you should read what happened a thousand years ago.
This book is often quoted by stock market pundits and talking heads as if it were a treatise on irrational behaviour in the financial markets. It isn't. It deals with irrational behaviour and mass stupidity in all walks of life. Five Stars.
While Mackay's points about the irrationality of crowds are useful for the investor, these "lessons" about Dutch tulips and other financial manias are cliches today. You need not read this book to find out about them. This book's true value lies in its comprehensive history and analyses of other fads, hoaxes, and "manias," most of which have, fittingly enough, been forgotten today.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A list of major financial crashes, deals gone bad, crazy commodities run-ups and so on.Published 1 day ago by Thomas Dunnam
After I finished reading the book, I bought a few more to give as present to friends that still had illusions about humans - as individuals and as groups (religious, political,... Read morePublished 21 days ago by Jaysonrex
This edition of this great book has less than half the total chapters of the original classic.Published 3 months ago by The book wizard
It's the oldest book I know of that exposes and explores our human capacity to delude ourselves and others, and how mass hysteria can shape history and the world we live in. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Gordon W. Tobutt
A great book, hard to believe it was written so long ago - it seems very contemporary!Published 9 months ago by Jmoss
Interesting reading, interesting stuff, and another learning process.Published 10 months ago by Amazon Customer