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 hare-brained 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 over-valued high-tech stocks of the '90s are peculiarly 20th century aberrations, but Mackay's classic - first published in 1841 - shows 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 naiveté. Essential for any student of human nature or the transmission of ideas.
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This book so captures the irrationality of human beings it's a shock to remember that it was written in 1841. It doesn't take much to steer groups of people to actions that go against their interest and defy rational explanation. How else to explain Trump? The sections on John Law and the Dutch tulip mania are Mackay's best remembered studies. Gardner is one of my favorite American narrators.
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