Mimetic Bubbles & Manias: A History and Exploration

Austin, TX

Date: March 25 - 26, 2022

Location: Austin, TX


Economic and technological bubbles and manias are found throughout history. Explanations for them differ, though. It's not enough to simply say that people speculate on railroads and software because they expect outsized returns from that speculation. Why does that speculation occur in the first place? What fuels it? What can we learn from bubbles and manias of the past to help inform our decision-making about both macroeconomic trends and our own personal and professional decisions now?

We will explore manias and bubbles throughout history, starting with the railway mania of the 19th century through the bubbles of Southeast Asia, the real estate bubble of the 1990s and 2000s, and the tech bubble. This workshop will include excerpts of Girard's Desire, Deceit & the Novel, Soros' The Alchemy of Finance, and numerous other works looking at manias and bubbles throughout history. Full reading list coming soon.

Join 1517 Fund for a two-day Socratic seminar and workshop as we explore the mimetic theory of bubbles and manias with Byrne Hobart.


Session 1: Intro, Girard, Soros

Soros, Alchemy of Finance, Ch1-2

Girard, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel Ch 1-5

Brian Timar: "Mimetic Traps" https://www.briantimar.com/notes/mimetic/mimetic/

Session 2: Railways

"How we got up the Glenmutchkin Railway, and how we got out of it"

"Collective hallucinations and inefficient markets: The British Railway Mania of the 1840s," Chs: 1, 6-9, 17-18

Session 3: Southeast Asia/EM (How Harvard Lost Russia)

Bluster, The Chastening, Ch 1-5

Session 4: Conglomerates

D Magazine, "Jim Ling"

Brooks & Lewis, The Go-Go Years: Chs 6 and 10

Session 5: Housing

McLean & Nocera, All the Devils are Here: Ch 5,6, 8, 9

Session 6: Today


https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=30070287 for the counterpoint

Inc Magazine, "How Playing the Long Game Made Elizabeth Holmes a Billionaire"

Bloomberg, "How Do You Like We Now" first section

About the Facilitator

Byrne Hobart is the founder and a writer at The Diff. He is also the author of "Manias and Mimesis: Applying René Girard’s Mimetic Theory to Financial Bubbles" with Tobias Huber.

About 1517 Workshops

1517 Workshops are small, invite-only (you can request an invite here) Socratic-style roundtable conversations held a few times a year on a variety of topics. The goal of the workshops is to facilitate conversation and connection between participants who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to engage in depth on important topics. These workshops aim to fill the void in in-depth discussion left by universities in both liberal arts and the sciences.

You should apply for an invite if:

  • You're a college dropout, current student, recent grad, or a founder interested in meeting others to discuss weird ideas.
  • You are comfortable with some light reading over a 1-month period.
  • You can get yourself to Austin, TX. We will cover supplies and food over those two days. You just have to get yourself there.

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