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Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay – book review

I suppose you don’t need a book to drive home the point. Men have climbed the mountain of moron countless times in the past. Even if such a mole hill were made in the days of Charles Mackay (1814 – 1889), you can be sure man has figured a way to traverse the well worn paths of logic and find a way to the impossible peak, to summit the high crags of ignorance– the apparent destiny of most men.

Charled Mackay

In the days that follow, how will the great writers of our time use the power of the pen? How will the artist demonstrate the ignorance of men rushing to the government in hopes of a cure? A cure for what, I do not know. Methinks it is a cure for their worthless life.

So go now, ye morons of the world and take your injection. Put your name on the booster schedule, dawn your mask and double mask, make haste to your vaccination centers and kill yourself and your family.

I’m sure we don’t need your genetic codes in our pool. I say goodbye to you and your family, to your children who have no viable future in the experimental vaccine culture. I say goodbye, not with malice or hatred, but with a kind, loving heart; like a mother who cries when their child enlists in the army during war time, knowing they will never return. Goodbye.

Published in 1841, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, is a glorious romp through the history of ignorant men and their schemes for money, long life, glory–  but mostly money.

The classic writing style and wit is unmatched in today’s throwaway culture. The ancient books referenced within have surely been locked away under the vatican lest their contents be revealed to the ignorant masses. Enjoy.

Here are my highlights:

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay

Book last read: 2021-03-29 19:21:16
Percentage read: 100%

Chapter 6: National Delusions. 8
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Chapter progress: 1.35%
Highlight: 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.

Chapter 7: The Mississippi Scheme. 9
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Chapter progress: 1.62%
Highlight: Some in clandestine companies combine; Erect new stocks to trade beyond the line; With air and empty names beguile the town, And raise new credits first, then cry ‘em down; Divide the empty nothing into shares, And set the crowd together by the ears. Defoe.

Chapter 7: The Mississippi Scheme. 9
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Chapter progress: 1.76%
Highlight: At the age of seventeen he was tall, strong, and well made; and his face, although deeply scarred with the small-pox, was agreeable in its expression, and full of intelligence.
Notes: John Law

Chapter 7: The Mississippi Scheme. 9
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Chapter progress: 2.17%
Highlight: The finances of the country were in a state of the utmost disorder. A profuse and corrupt monarch, whose profuseness and corruption were imitated by almost every functionary, from the highest to the lowest grade, had brought France to the verge of ruin.

Chapter 7: The Mississippi Scheme. 9
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Chapter progress: 2.57%
Highlight: money, was wholly inadequate to the wants of a commercial country, and particularly cited the examples of Great Britain and Holland to show the advantages of paper. He used many sound arguments on the subject of credit, and proposed, as a means of restoring that of France, then at so low an ebb among the nations, that he should be allowed to set up a bank, which should have the management of the royal revenues, and issue notes, both on that and on landed security. He further proposed that this bank should be administered in the King’s name, but subject to the control of commissioners, to be named by the States-General.

Chapter 7: The Mississippi Scheme. 9
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Chapter progress: 2.71%
Highlight: The Regent appears to have been utterly astonished at his success, and gradually to have conceived the idea, that paper, which could so aid a metallic currency, could entirely supersede it.

Chapter 7: The Mississippi Scheme. 9
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Chapter progress: 2.84%
Highlight: Law found that he lived under a despotic government, but he was not yet aware of the pernicious influence which such a government could exercise upon so delicate a framework as that of credit.

Chapter 7: The Mississippi Scheme. 9
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Chapter progress: 3.25%
Highlight: People of every age and sex, and condition in life, speculated in the rise and fall of the Mississippi bonds.

Chapter 7: The Mississippi Scheme. 9
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Chapter progress: 3.65%
Highlight: The price of shares sometimes rose ten or twenty per cent. in the course of a few hours, and many persons in the humbler walks of life, who had risen poor in the morning, went to bed in affluence.

Chapter 7: The Mississippi Scheme. 9
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Chapter progress: 4.19%
Highlight: The looms of the country worked with unusual activity, to supply rich laces, silks, broad-cloth, and velvets, which being paid for in abundant paper, increased in price four-fold.

Chapter 7: The Mississippi Scheme. 9
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Chapter progress: 4.33%
Highlight: New houses were built in every direction; an illusory prosperity shone over the land, and so dazzled the eyes of the whole nation that none could see the dark cloud on the horizon, announcing the storm that was too rapidly approaching.

Chapter 7: The Mississippi Scheme. 9
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Chapter progress: 4.74%
Highlight: The Regent, who knew nothing whatever of the philosophy of finance, thought that a system which had produced such good effects could never be carried to excess. If five hundred millions of paper had been of such advantage, five hundred millions additional would be of still greater advantage.

Chapter 7: The Mississippi Scheme. 9
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Chapter progress: 4.87%
Highlight: Vermalet, a jobber, who sniffed the coming storm, procured gold and silver coin to the amount of nearly a million of livres, which he packed in a farmer’s cart, and covered over with hay and cow-dung. He then disguised himself in the dirty smock-frock, or blouse, of a peasant, and drove his precious load in safety into Belgium. From thence he soon found means to transport it to Amsterdam.

Chapter 7: The Mississippi Scheme. 9
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Chapter progress: 5.01%
Highlight: It is inconceivable to those who were witnesses of the horrors of those times, and who look back upon them now as on a dream, that a sudden revolution did not break out – that Law and the Regent did not perish by a tragical death. They were both held in horror, but the people confined themselves to complaints; a sombre and timid despair, a stupid consternation, had seized upon all, and men’s minds were too vile even to be capable of a courageous crime.

Chapter 7: The Mississippi Scheme. 9
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Chapter progress: 5.01%
Highlight: Lord Stair, the English ambassador, said, that it was now impossible to doubt of the sincerity of Law’s conversion to the Catholic religion; he had established the inquisition, after having given abundant evidence of his faith in transubstantiation, by turning so much gold into paper.

Chapter 7: The Mississippi Scheme. 9
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Chapter progress: 5.55%
Highlight: These measures were productive of considerable advantage. All the population of Paris hastened to the bank, to get coin for their small notes; and silver becoming scarce, they were paid in copper.

Chapter 7: The Mississippi Scheme. 9
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Chapter progress: 5.55%
Highlight: The crowds around the bank were so great, that hardly a day passed that some one was not pressed to death.

Chapter 8: The South Sea Bubble. 32
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Chapter progress: 9.2%
Highlight: Nations, like individuals, cannot become desperate gamblers with impunity. Punishment is sure to overtake them sooner or later.

Chapter 8: The South Sea Bubble. 32
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Chapter progress: 9.34%
Highlight: Is there no warmth in the despair of a plundered people? – no life and animation in the picture which might be drawn of the woes of hundreds of impoverished and ruined families? of the wealthy of yesterday become the beggars of to-day? of the powerful and influential changed into exiles and outcasts, and the voice of self-reproach and imprecation resounding from every corner of the land?

Chapter 9: The Tulipomania. 54
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Chapter progress: 11.5%
Highlight: Many persons grow insensibly attached to that which gives them a great deal of trouble, as a mother often loves her sick and ever-ailing child better than her more healthy offspring.

Chapter 13: Influence Of Politics And Religion On The Hair And Beard. 85
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Chapter progress: 18.54%
Highlight: Speak with respect and honour Both of the beard and the beard’s owner. HUDIBRAS

Chapter 13: Influence Of Politics And Religion On The Hair And Beard. 85
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Chapter progress: 18.54%
Highlight: At one time, long hair was the symbol of sovereignty in Europe.

Chapter 13: Influence Of Politics And Religion On The Hair And Beard. 85
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Chapter progress: 18.81%
Highlight: Stowe, in writing of this period, asserts, on the authority of some more ancient chronicler, “that men, forgetting their birth, transformed themselves, by the length of their haires, into the semblance of woman kind;”

Chapter 14: Duels And Ordeals. 90
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Chapter progress: 23.27%
Highlight: A coward has often fought – a coward has often conquered, but a coward never forgave.

Chapter 14: Duels And Ordeals. 90
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Chapter progress: 24.36%
Highlight: The bonds of reason, though iron-strong, are easily burst through; but those of folly, though lithe and frail as the rushes by a stream, defy the stoutest heart to snap them asunder.

Chapter 15: The Love Of The Marvellous And The Disbelief Of The True. 114
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Chapter progress: 25.17%
Highlight: Of all the offspring of Time, Error is the most ancient, and is so old and familiar an acquaintance, that Truth, when discovered, comes upon most of us like an intruder, and meets the intruder’s welcome.

Chapter 20: The Crusades …. 146
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Chapter progress: 33.15%
Highlight: Thus, while Feudalism told them they had no rights in this world, Religion told them they had every right in the next.

Chapter 20: The Crusades …. 146
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Chapter progress: 33.96%
Highlight: Guibert de Nogent tells of a monk who made a large incision upon his forehead in the form of a cross, which he coloured with some powerful ingredient, telling the people that an angel had done it when he was asleep.

Chapter 21: The Witch Mania. 198
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Chapter progress: 44.38%
Highlight: In many cities of Germany, as will be shown more fully in its due place hereafter, the average number of executions for this pretended crime, was six hundred annually, or two every day, if we leave out the Sundays, when, it is to be supposed, that even this madness refrained from its work.
Notes: Witchcraft

Chapter 21: The Witch Mania. 198
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Chapter progress: 45.74%
Highlight: This devil presides at their Sabbaths, when they all kiss him and dance around him. He then envelopes them in total darkness, and they all, male and female, give themselves up to the grossest and most disgusting debauchery.”

Chapter 21: The Witch Mania. 198
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Chapter progress: 45.87%
Highlight: That all the members were forbidden to have connexion with women, but might give themselves up without restraint to every species of unmentionable debauchery.
Notes: Templars

Chapter 21: The Witch Mania. 198
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Chapter progress: 46.41%
Highlight: Immediately a class of men sprang up in Europe, who made it the sole business of their lives to discover and burn the witches.

Chapter 21: The Witch Mania. 198
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Chapter progress: 47.09%
Highlight: Luther and Calvin were as firm believers in witchcraft as Pope Innocent himself, and their followers showed themselves more zealous persecutors than the Romanists.

Chapter 21: The Witch Mania. 198
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Chapter progress: 49.8%
Highlight: . It was thought that witches could not weep more than three tears, and those only from the left eye.

Chapter 22: The Slow Poisoners. 249
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Chapter progress: 55.89%
Highlight: those found guilty of it, were to be boiled to death.

Chapter 23: Haunted Houses. 263
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Chapter progress: 62.11%
Highlight: It is to be hoped that the day is not far distant when lawgivers will teach the people by some more direct means, and prevent the recurrence of delusions like these, and many worse, which might be cited, by securing to every child born within their dominions an education in accordance with the advancing state of civilization.

Chapter 24: The Third Volume. 276
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Chapter progress: 62.38%
Highlight: Three causes especially have excited our discontent; and, by impelling us to seek for remedies for the irremediable, have bewildered us in a maze of madness and error. These are death, toil, and ignorance of the future – the doom of man upon this sphere, and for which he shows his antipathy by his love of life, his longing for abundance, and his craving curiosity to pierce the secrets of the days to come.

Chapter 54: George Agricola. 309
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Chapter progress: 76.73%
Highlight: Nobody would believe that they were possessors of the philosopher’s stone, if it were once suspected that they did not know how to procure bread for their subsistence.

Chapter 54: George Agricola. 309
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Chapter progress: 81.19%
Highlight: but he could not long continue to live so magnificently upon the funds he had brought from Italy; and the philosopher’s stone, though it promised all for the wants of the morrow, never brought anything for the necessities of to-day.

Chapter 54: George Agricola. 309
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Chapter progress: 90.26%
Highlight: If men could bring themselves to look upon Death in this manner, living well and wisely till her inevitable approach, how vast a store of grief and vexation would they spare themselves!

Chapter 54: George Agricola. 309
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Chapter progress: 90.26%
Highlight: If a swarm of bees alight in your garden, some very high honour and great joys await you.

Chapter 54: George Agricola. 309
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Chapter progress: 92.69%
Highlight: according to Montegre, whose account we quote [Dictionnaire des Sciences Medicales – Article “Convulsionnaires,” par Montegre.] was so enraptured with this ill usage, that nothing but the hardest blows would satisfy her. While a fellow of herculean strength was beating her with all his might with a heavy bar of iron, she kept continually urging him to renewed exertion. The harder he struck the better she liked it, exclaiming all the while, “Well done, brother; well done; oh, how pleasant it is! what good you are doing me! courage, my brother, courage; strike harder; strike harder still!

Chapter 54: George Agricola. 309
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Chapter progress: 99.46%
Highlight: She was a flower of light, living upon sunbeams.

 

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