Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets | William Bonner

Summary of: Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets: Surviving the Public Spectacle in Finance and Politics
By: William Bonner

Introduction

In the book ‘Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets: Surviving the Public Spectacle in Finance and Politics’, William Bonner explores the actions and motivations of historical figures and politicians who attempted to change the world, for better or worse. He dives deep into human nature and explains how innate flaws in people’s analytical abilities can lead to unwanted consequences based on emotional and visceral decision-making. With examples like war, terrorism, and investment bubbles, Bonner puts the spotlight on how easily humans can be manipulated by charismatic leaders and crowd mentality.

The Pitfalls of World Improvement

The human desire for power and influence fuels world improvers with the belief that they know what’s best for everyone, leading to catastrophic consequences. In “Do-Gooders Gone Bad,” leaders like Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Osama bin Laden, George W. Bush, and Alexander the Great share a propensity to impose their will on others. This article argues that this belief is flawed as humans are irrational and emotional decision-makers, driven by the desire to be more attractive to the opposite sex rather than making rational choices. With this in mind, the article highlights the misguided war in Iraq, driven by a misguided sense of fear, hysteria, and a desire to fix the rest of the world. The author posits that man is an imposter, an unreliable, illogical, selfish, and insane creature who thinks he is more capable of responding to crises with coolheaded intellect when, in reality, he is viscerally, unthinkingly, and emotionally driven.

Human Behavior and the Crowd Mentality

This book summary explores the biology behind human behavior, revealing that our actions are ultimately driven by our desire to pass down our genes. The limitations of our evolved brains mean that we simplify complex information, leading to crowd mentality and irrational decision-making. The author argues that the media can manipulate this crowd mentality to create enemies and perpetuate certain agendas.

The answer to why we behave the way we do lies in our biology. As homo sapiens, our primary goal is to propagate our gene pool to future generations. This self-propagation motive drives even seemingly altruistic acts. The author presents the example of a man sacrificing his lifeboat spot for a woman or child. While his sacrifice may seem pure, it is ultimately driven by the desire to be seen as a desirable mate, as being perceived as a coward would negatively impact his chances of reproducing.

The author also delves into the limitations of our evolved brains, which stopped evolving millennia ago. As the world becomes increasingly complex, it becomes more difficult for our brains to handle all of the information, leading to generalizations and oversimplification. When millions of people pare down their views in the same way, crowd mentality can take over, resulting in irrational decision-making.

The author cites examples of this happening with tech stocks in the late 1990s and home prices in 2004 and 2005. The crowd forgets what is logical and participates in a mass hallucination. The author asserts that the media can manipulate this crowd mentality to create enemies and perpetuate certain agendas. Rather than acting as a watchdog for the people, reporters become pawns for ambitious world improvers.

Overall, this book summary presents a thought-provoking exploration of human behavior and the dangers of crowd mentality. It emphasizes the importance of critical thinking and avoiding oversimplification in decision-making.

The Illogicality of War

Humans are incapable of rational thought and often force the facts to match their delusions, as seen in pointless and unfailingly ridiculous wars fought throughout history. Our genetic preprogramming to band together and fight for survival still holds true, leading soldiers to risk their lives for political disputes and territory grabs rather than logical self-preservation.

It is a common belief that humans are rational beings who consider facts and change their views accordingly. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Humans are, in fact, incapable of logical and rational thought. Instead, they often force facts to match whatever mass delusion happens to be popular at any given time.

A prime example of this is seen in reflexive patriotism that accompanies every war ever fought. Wars, which are often pointless and unfailingly ridiculous, begin with “fraud and treachery” as political leaders grasp for an excuse to send soldiers off to die. These unnecessary wars are fought poorly with flawed strategies and mixed-up orders, leading to soldiers paying the ultimate price.

Despite the risk to their lives, soldiers, and their officers, never seem to question the illogicality of fighting for a political dispute or a territory grab. This is because humans are preprogrammed to band together in groups for survival, with each member being willing to fight and die for their fellows. The warrior still bases his self-esteem on fighting in a manner that preserves his reputation among his fellow warriors.

This self-preservation programming is evident throughout history, with wars being fought for reasons that don’t threaten the way of life or culture of the aggressor. For example, Britain celebrates Remembrance Day with politicians, veterans, and journalists spouting clichés about how soldiers have died to preserve “the British way of life.” In reality, Britain has not been threatened in any war since 1066. The Brits were fighting to impose their way of life on someone else, and winning a war doesn’t preserve anything.

Ideally, soldiers would ask hard questions and arrive at logical conclusions, but there’s no logic in the foxhole, only genetic preprogramming. Civilization has evolved, but mankind hasn’t. Soldiers still risk their lives based on illogical choices that lead to fighting for their reputation among fellow warriors instead of logical self-preservation.

In conclusion, humans are incapable of rational thought, as they force the facts to match their delusions, leading to pointless and unfailingly ridiculous wars fought throughout history. Understanding this self-preservation system is essential in understanding why soldiers fight regardless of logical self-preservation.

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