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All societies seem to pass through phases of delusion, where almost the entire population comes to accept as irrefutable truth a belief-system which to any rational outsider would appear insane. These bubbles of madness are the psychological equivalent of Ponzi schemes: as long as people continue to believe in them, they look reasonable. Those few who probe the foundations of the pyramid are dismissed as irrelevant, crazy, Luddites, Utopianists, or whatever term of abuse currently means “wrong.”

John Lanchester’s great book Whoops!: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay (Allen Lane) hilariously autopsies this process in the…

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