The Highwaymen

A fool and his money are soon parted, goes the old saying. What has always puzzled us is how the two of them got together in the first place. Markets are supposed to sort such things out. In their free give-and-take, human strengths and weaknesses are rewarded or punished, as the case may be. And if the results seem unfair, who are we to argue with them Do unto others and they will do unto you. And the more you do for others, the more you can expect them to do for you. People bake bread not to...

How To Make A Turkey Stew

Indeed, animal behavior provides many cases of how such triggers work. Take the mother turkey and its natural enemy, the polecat. When a mother turkey sees a polecat, she automatically starts squawking, pecking, and clawing in anger. Even a stuffed polecat elicits the same rage from the turkey. However, what animal behaviorist M. W Fox found was that if you put a tiny tape recorder inside the faux cat and let it play the cheep-cheep sound characteristic of baby turkeys, mama turkey not only...

Extraordinary Popular Headlines

We turn our inquiry now to one of the principal organs of mob sentiment the press. In London, expecially, the newspapers are robust and shameless. We recall the greatest headline ever written in the tabloid press, after a minor figure in the Tory Party, Boris Johnson, was caught in a lurid peccadillo. The headline over a photo of the woman ran Bonking Boris Made Me Pregnant Bonking Boris is still around. Still around, too, are the newspaper headlines that shout the latest news as though they...

Witness For The Persecution

But, if the witchcraft trials of early modern Europe were not really a purge of moon-worshipping midwives by patriarchal Catholic inquisitors, how did they ever come about In Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Charles Mackay describes a typical manifestation of witches in the South ofFrance All the witches confessed that they had been present at the great Domdaniel, or Sabbath. At these Saturnalia, the devil sat upon a large gilded throne, sometimes in the form of a goat...

The Transit Of Venus

Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven William Shakespeare, Measure forMeasure In Chapter 1, we attempted only to show that the world improvers were nitwits. It was light work, we admit, but it had to be done. In this chapter, our burden is equally modest to show what the world improver has to work with the soft mush and muscle that is man as he actually is. We recall the week of June 5, 2004. It was a good one in which to die you would have been in such good company. Ronald Reagan, Ray...

Still Trying To Hustle The East

But, even in a whole nation of hallucinators, the grandeur of New York Times editorialist Thomas L. Friedman's follies stand out. Take that column in which he complained about America's Failure of Imagination. In it, Friedman imagined Osama bin Laden as a combination of Charles Manson and Jack Welch an evil personality, but with organizational skills. We Americans can't imagine such evil, said Friedman. We keep reverting to our natural, naively optimistic selves.11 Actually, at the time he...

World Improvers

The trouble with the big wide world is that it is never quite good enough for some people. They keep trying to improve it. No harm in that you should always try to make your world a better place. Wink at a homely girl, perhaps, or curse a bad driver. But the world improvers are rarely content with private acts of kindness. Instead, they want gas chambers and Social Security vast changes almost always brought about at the point of a gun. Thus it was that central banks were set up and given the...