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“Vast Fund of Stupidity [& Recycling Cupidity]”?!

(All indented quotes are found in Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation by Edward Chancellor, © 1999, A Plume Book, pp. 59, 67, 67, 69, 76, 77, 92.)

In memory of the birth of the South Sea Company (in 1711 – 300 years ago), Deja Vu Times recycles a few comments/quotes from the “bubble-bath” of 1720. These words from the 1700s are also recycled in memory of the many bubble-baths since and in expectation of The Great Bath (TGB) to come (sooner than later), if we don’t renounce this Vast Fund (and all its fundamentalists).

Cato’s Letters, January 1721: “There must certainly be a vast Fund of Stupidity in Human Nature, else Men would not be caught as they are, a thousand times over, by the same Snare; and while they yet remember their past Misfortunes, go on to court and encourage the Causes to which they are owing, and which will again produce them.”

Anonymous Insider (circa 1720): “’Twas his [John Blunt, leading schemer’s] avow’d Maxim, a thousand time repeated, That the advancing by all means of the price of stock, was the only way to promote the good of the company. [And his second maxim:] the more confusion the better: People must not know what they do, which will make them the more eager to come into our measures: the execution of the Scheme is our business; the Eyes of all Europe are upon us.”

Sir Isaac Newton (who lost £20,000 in South Sea investment): “I can calculate the motions of the heavenly bodies, but not the madness of the people.”

Alexander Pope: “I am really piqued at the stocks, which put a stop at present, to all trade and all friendship, and I fear all honour too.” // “… [give no heed to] this miserable mercenary Period; and turn yourself, in a just Contempt of these Sons of Mammon, to the Contemplation of Books, Gardens, and Marriage.”

Edward Harley (whose brother Robert was a former British Tory minister & co-founder of the South Sea Company in 1711): “… the demon stock jobbing is the genius of this place. This fills all hearts, tongues, and thoughts, and nothing is so like bedlam as the present humour which has seized all parties … and all sects. No one is satisfied with even exorbitant gains, but everyone thirsts for more, and all this is founded upon a machine of paper credit supported only by imagination …”

Jonathan Swift: “I have enquired of some that have come from London, what is the religion there? They tell me it is South Sea stock; what is the policy of England? the answer is the same; what is the trade? South Sea still; and what is the business? nothing but South Sea.”

Adam Anderson (former cashier of the South Sea Company): “… may [1720] serve for a perpetual memento to the legislators and ministers of our own nation, never to leave it in the power of any, hereafter, to hoodwink mankind into so shameful and baneful an imposition on the credulity of the people, thereby diverted from their lawful industry.”

How many more “South Sea” tsunamis and false profits can our irrationality and folly endure?

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