New Books: Immelt's 'Hot Seat,' And Five Kinds Of Crazy

● The Delusions Of Crowds: Why People Go Mad in Groups
William J. Bernstein
Review via Publishers Weekly
God, greed, and the yen for conformity reliably override reason, according to this sweeping survey of religious and financial manias. Neurologist and historian Bernstein (A Splendid Exchange) shares vivid accounts of several centuries of sectarian crazies, from the Anabaptists who took over the German city of Münster in 1534, imposing communism and polygamy and executing dissenters, to Branch Davidian messiah David Koresh and the Islamic State. On the finance front, he recaps the South Sea bubble in 18th-century England, the 1990s tech bubble, and other stock market frenzies. Bernstein lucidly deploys neurobiology, behavioral economics, and social psychology to explain why reason fails and other instances, noting, for example, that many people will believe two obviously unequal line segments to be the same length if other people say they are.


● The World For Sale: Money, Power, and the Traders Who Barter the Earth’s Resources
Javier Blas and Jack Farchy
Review via The Economist
The commodity-traders who feature in “The World for Sale” are not the kind who yell orders at each other in the ring of the London Metal Exchange. Javier Blas and Jack Farchy, journalists at Bloomberg News, are instead interested in the small band of mostly private companies that move bulk commodities from there to here. It is a fascinating and revealing story, largely because of where “there” is: usually a place where many people would prefer not to do business, run by characters they would prefer not to do it with. A handful of swashbucklers became billionaires by overcoming such qualms.

● Blood Gun Money: How America Arms Gangs and Cartels
Ioan Grillo
Review via LA Times
Grillo’s new book, “Blood Gun Money,” explores the “iron river” that allows guns, especially assault rifles, to flow from America’s wildly permissive gun culture south to Mexico and Latin America — as many as 200,000 trafficked guns per year, according to Grillo.
It’s the author’s third book (after “El Narco” and “Gangster Warlords”) about the endless bloodshed in Latin America, and it’s a culmination of his years on the beat. Like so many journalists, Grillo didn’t realize at first that he’d been watching “the beginning of the meltdown” of Mexico. His moment of clarity came during the government’s first military crackdown, when he saw an entire town fleeing in a convoy of trucks, “like refugees.”

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Disclosures: None.

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