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Customer Review

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting, Very Important, and Very Readable, October 16, 2007
This review is from: Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets: Surviving the Public Spectacle in Finance and Politics (Hardcover)
"Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets" by William Bonner and Lila Rajiva is a fascinating work which considers how people think and behave, privately and collectively, and the effects these different modes have within the public sphere. I haven't quite decided which specific literary genre this book falls into; maybe that is inconsequential anyway. There's a lot of history, much economics and politics and, well, almost every other recognized social science comes into play. The main theme, however, seems to be well illustrated in the subtitle of the book: "Surviving the Public Spectacle in Finance and Politics." This is not, therefore, merely an academic inquiry into group dynamics, but a very practical one as well.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have received Bill Bonner's "Daily Reckoning" financial newsletter via e-mail for a number of years, so I am somewhat familiar with his writing style and his viewpoint regarding matters economic and political. This is the first time, however, that I have read a book which he has authored or co-authored. Fortunately for the casual reader, this book is not the least bit "dry" or dull, as all too many books dealing with this or similar topics seem to be. In fact, there are many times in this work where the authors relate or allude to something that is downright hilarious. Be that as it may, this is a serious look at an important phenomenon in the human condition.

Mob psychology is one of the most interesting topics to study and reflect upon. Even a brief inquiry into the dynamics of crowd behavior raises all sorts of interesting questions. And then there is the notion of so-called "groupthink," a term used by Bonner and Rajiva in their book. I particularly liked their colorful way of describing that notion. Referring to it as the "shifting bog of groupthink," it is "not only completely different from private thinking but is an illusion, piled on top of a fraud, stacked on a foundation of humbug, built in the mud of misconception with the building blocks of lunacy." Couldn't have said it better myself! As for me, someone who is just as fearful of a "mobocracy" as of an "autocracy, that description is more than satisfying.

Many insights into crowd psychology are provided during this journey into human thinking and behavior and the historical range of illustrative topics is broad and sweeping. Why do so many otherwise intelligent people jettison their common sense and rational thinking in order to just "follow the crowd"? Why do so-called "do-gooders" go so bad? Why do "witch hunts" occur so often, even in sophisticated and intellectually advanced societies? How do Hitlers and Stalins come to captivate the attention of and accumulate power over otherwise intelligent and rational human beings? How does "groupthink" affect those involved in the financial markets, such as investors and advisors? Moreover, how can one avoid getting caught up in the frenzy of mob psychology, whether in economics or politics or anywhere else?

This book is both an interesting historical adventure and a very practical primer, especially for those involved in the financial markets. As it says inside the dust-cover: "The authors' cautionary tale of the current bubble economy warns that the gush of credit let loose by Alan Greenspan is fraught with perils for the unwary -- but their thoughtful and always entertaining approach also offers some sound investing principles for avoiding the pitfalls of the public spectacle, thinking for yourself, and protecting your money, your sanity, and your soul." Who could ask for more than that?
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 1, 2007 10:12:42 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 1, 2007 10:16:30 AM PST
A. Watcher says:
The group think concept implies that non-group think people bother to think. The masses merely collect a pay check and take their two week vacation and fail to "individual think." What is the voting percentage? About 33%? The masses read headlines from time to time informing them that their pensions have been squandered by one or several of the "thinkers" at a toga party or worse. Pity the economy when the novacaine wears off the masses and an economic civil uprising ensues. Maybe that will be fodder for the sequel.

Posted on Jan 2, 2008 7:45:39 AM PST
LILA RAJIVA says:
On the division of labor in the book for reviewers:
http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2007/11/23/stories/2007112350660900.htm
It will be placed in the acknowledgments in future editions.
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