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Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets by Lila Rajiva, Will Bonner

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One and One Make Eleven

We have already described our encounter with James Surowiecki's opus, The Wisdom of Crowds,1 in our previous book. We not only expected to be appalled by it; we counted on it—it is much easier to write a review of a man's errors than it is to praise his merits. Besides, having come to believe that crowds are full of dumbbells and psychopaths, it would be a nuisance to alter our strongly held opinions at this stage in life.

“Large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant,” says the jacket cover.

But we have observed exactly the opposite. When they are thrown into the company of legions of their fellow men, some chemistry turns humans who are individually of irreproachable integrity and unimpeachable prudence into stark, raving blockheads. That this is sometimes called democracy does not improve matters. And that popular business columnists announce the very opposite practically seals the matter for us.

Did a large group of people write Shakespeare's sonnets?, we wonder. Did a large group of people invent the beret or crispy duck? However, it was a large group of people who wanted Adolf Hitler in the chancellor's office in Berlin.

Nevertheless, Surowiecki's book is not bad. In fact, it is delightful in its deceptiveness. Its idea is the old one: “Two heads are better than one.”

Here, we don't disagree. Putting people together with different points of view, different tastes, different brains, and different incentives can actually ...

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