Efficient Frontier
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William J. Bernstein

Coming February 21, 2021

The Delusions of Crowds: Why People Go Mad in Groups


For those of you who have been wondering where I've been the last several years, I've been firmly planted in my lonely writer's garrett working on a modern update of a classic known to all finance enthusiasts, Charles Mackay's Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.

I first came across the Mackay book in the early 1990s, and while fascinated by his descriptions of the financial manias of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, I did not think them terribly relevant to the well-behaved capital markets of those years.

Little did I know! Two decades later, I became equally fascinated by the ability of the Islamic State to attract tens of thousands of followers, many from the prosperous West, to fight and die in one of the worst places on earth.  During the interim, I had immersed myself in the neuropsychology, social psychology, and evolutionary psychology that explains exactly why people are susceptible  to both financial and religious end-times manias.

The book begins with accounts of several fantastical medieval religious upheavals and ends with the Islamic State's bloody, and theologically "foretold" denoument in Syria and Iraq. In between I'll recount the panoply of mass human financial and apocalyptic folly and connect it to the modern science of human nature.

In February 2021 the book will be available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and, of course, at your local independent book store. In the meantime, my publisher, Grove Atlantic Press, has graciously allowed me to post its Prelude.

Copyright 2020, William J. Bernstein. All rights reserved.

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