Skip to comments.Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
Posted on 09/27/2008 5:55:58 PM PDT by XEHRpa
In reading the history of nations, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities; their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first. We see one nation suddenly seized, from its highest to its lowest members, with a fierce desire of military glory; another as suddenly becoming crazed upon a religious scruple; and neither of them recovering its senses until it has shed rivers of blood and sowed a harvest of groans and tears, to be reaped by its posterity. At an early age in the annals of Europe its population lost their wits about the sepulchre of Jesus, and crowded in frenzied multitudes to the Holy Land; another age went mad for fear of the devil, and offered up hundreds of thousands of victims to the delusion of witchcraft. At another time, the many became crazed on the subject of the philosophers stone, and committed follies till then unheard of in the pursuit. It was once thought a venial offence, in very many countries of Europe, to destroy an enemy by slow poison. Persons who would have revolted at the idea of stabbing a man to the heart, drugged his pottage without scruple. Ladies of gentle birth and manners caught the contagion of murder, until poisoning, under their auspices, became quite fashionable. Some delusions, though notorious to all the world, have subsisted for ages, flourishing as widely among civilised and polished nations as among the early barbarians with whom they originated,that of duelling, for instance, and the belief in omens and divination of the future, which seem to defy the progress of knowledge to eradicate them entirely from the popular mind. Money, again, has often been a cause of the delusion of multitudes. Sober nations have all at once become desperate gamblers, and risked almost their existence upon the turn of a piece of paper. To trace the history of the most prominent of these delusions is the object of the present pages. Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.
Some of the subjects introduced may be familiar to the reader; but the Author hopes that sufficient novelty of detail will be found even in these, to render them acceptable, while they could not be wholly omitted in justice to the subject of which it was proposed to treat. The memoirs of the South-Sea madness and the Mississippi delusion are more complete and copious than are to be found elsewhere; and the same may be said of the history of the Witch Mania, which contains an account of its terrific progress in Germany, a part of the subject which has been left comparatively untouched by Sir Walter Scott in his Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft, the most important that have yet appeared on this fearful but most interesting subject.
Popular delusions began so early, spread so widely, and have lasted so long, that instead of two or three volumes, fifty would scarcely suffice to detail their history. The present may be considered more of a miscellany of delusions than a historya chapter only in the great and awful book of human folly which yet remains to be written, and which Porson once jestingly said he would write in five hundred volumes! Interspersed are sketches of some lighter matters,amusing instances of the imitativeness and wrongheadedness of the people, rather than examples of folly and delusion.
Religious matters have been purposely excluded as incompatible with the limits prescribed to the present work; a mere list of them would alone be sufficient to occupy a volume.
Of particular interest to the current crowd should be
MONEY MANIA. THE MISSISSIPPI SCHEME.
I just posted the preface to give a taste
The cited source is to the Gutenberg home page for the book, but one can jump right to the meat at
Funny, I was thinking of this book when reading on the other thread about the Obama Youth...I mean “Camp Obama”.
One of the best books ever written on mass hysteria. I first heard of MacKay in a gold buying guide written by Donald Hoppe (or was it Harry Browne?) back in the early 70’s.
I will be tuning in to Brinker’s Money Talk radio program tomorrow with great interest. So, far, he has not issued any sell warnings, which means he either thinks his timing model is still in positive territory, or he’s screwing over his subscribers in the Name of the Wall Street god. But, he has touted the Tulipmania book many times on his program. We live in interesting times.
The chapter on the South Sea Bubble is also apt for these times, especially in that it shows how the multitude turns on former favorites when the bubble bursts. See also the chapter on John Law, the Scotsman who introduced inflationary (Keynesian!) inflation to France, and was adulated while the bubble lasted, and then driven out, fleeing for his very life when everything collapsed.
Also, don’t forget the great Poisoning Epidemic, an early form of very radical feminism.
Some folks just need a place to live so they bought a house at market price.
My Dad had (still has I imagine) that book up on the shelf. I confess I never read it though.
> My Dad had (still has I imagine) that book up on the shelf. I confess I never read it though.
You need not fret over its fate. Thanks to the wonders of the internet and Project Gutenberg, it is in the public domain and may be freely downloaded.
“Some folks just need a place to live so they bought a house at market price.”
Which isn’t the point. I guess many of the people in Holland just wanted to have flowers, right? We have just witnessed a speculative boom/bust in residential housing. Just a few years (months?) ago I remember watching a program on A&E about “flipping” remodeled homes. How many radio and television segments have been devoted to housing as an investment? How many newspaper and magazine articles? You have to have some sympathy for the last buyers but in the greater scheme of things other people are worse off. You pick it, overpriced house or terminal cancer.
We all have to live with our choices in life.
FLIP THIS HOUSE is a popular series on A&E.
Bob Brinker has only been wrong for about the past 9 months. He’s done nothing to prepare his subscribers or listeners for the havoc that they now find themselves apart of. His timing model has been shown to have a few flaws.
Yep, I may put it on my Palm to read in waiting rooms lol
I bought a house at market pricing... It is my house... so there was no madness... it was and is a rational decision.
Further, I’d rather own realestate then that junk in the market.
It’s nice that this great classic is available on the internet.
bump for later
I simply don't have the nose for the stock market. Those who do get rich. And then there's the rest of us.
However he has been rated near the top for stock market timing for a long time.
Even he says you really can't time it for sure, you can only try.
That book and Crowds and Power by Canetti are masterful.
PING, in light of today’s market activity.