(K. Brent Tomer),
The Confidence Game: The Psychology of the Con and Why We Fall for It Every Time. By Maria Konnikova. Viking; 321 pages; $28. Canongate; £12.99.
HONOURED for his charitable works, Mervyn Barrett was ready for a change. He decided to run for police commissioner of Lincolnshire, encouraged by a trusted new employee who offered not only to manage his campaign but also to fund it with help from his mother. The man took on everything from pamphlets to social media, and swiftly delivered evidence of Mr Barrett’s rising popularity. So no one raised an eyebrow when he asked for access to Mr Barrett’s private bank account, to cover expenses when his mother was unreachable. Alas, Mr Barrett suddenly had to end his candidacy, having discovered that his so-called campaign manager had drained his account of £84,000 ($135,000), and left bills worth another £16,000.
Humans are a trusting sort. This is largely a good thing, as progress requires co-operation, and co-operation demands trust. Countries with higher levels of trust grow faster and have more stable public institutions. Trusting citizens are healthier, happier and more likely to start their own businesses. People can be bad at spotting deception because, ultimately, very few are downright deceptive. This is great news for humanity. It is also a boon for crooks.