First God Created Stupidity. That was for practice. Then He created school boards. Mark Twain
Carlo Cipolla (1922-2000) was and Italian economist and historian. In 1976 he Published The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity. He postulated five such laws.
- Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
- The probability that a certain person will be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
- A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
- Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.
- A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.
The laws are presented in graphic form below.
Do not interpret the graph as indicating that the four quadrants are equally populated. The tally of stupid and helpless people vastly outnumbers the intelligent cohort and the bandits. Also consider that the groups on the right are fluid. Intelligent people sometimes engage in banditry. Also, no man no matter how smart is always smart. Thus, the intelligent (along with the bandits) often do really stupid things. The constitutionally stupid are stuck in place forever. The same for the helpless. Thus, at any instant the stupid and helpless form a significant majority.
Let’s focus on the stupid. The helpless are a problem just for themselves. They’re a burden to others only when the stupid focus on them. A stupid person can be very well educated, or at least what masquerades as education. A stupid person can also be helpless and even a poorly performing bandit. The only thing he can’t be is intelligent. Obviously the neat categories that Cipolla delineated are blurry and shifting more than he imagined. The stupid can rise to the top of virtually any profession. There are some were it’s a virtual requirement for office – for example, the CEO of a university, the chairman of a humanities department, or the head of a school board.
Cipolla was dead on with rule #5. The carnage wrecked upon humanity and the planet by the stupid is beyond measure. The current destruction wrought by stupidity rampant before us today is so obvious that it needs no exposition. If one has difficulty distinguishing a boy from a girl, a process hitherto self-evident, then one has openly declared he’s stupid. For the past two billion years gender was not fluid. In the twitch of a muscle 58 new gender variants have appeared to the confusion of all but the doggedly stupid.
Stupidity was well established as far back as Genesis. Esau sells his birthright for some stew – setting the bar at ground level, where it still is. The non-stupid segment of the US population’s subdued reaction to a stampede of stupid pronunciamientos emphasizes Cipolla’s first and fourth rules. Normal people have difficulty accepting the high prevalence of stupidity at all levels of society and therefore don’t deal with it until it’s metastasized so widely that radical intervention is necessary at a stage when it may not be sufficient to reverse stupidity’s malign effects. A long winded way of saying stamp it out before it devours you.
I won’t waste any time on the sinkhole of stupidity, the American academy. It’s been immersed in stupid stuff for more than two generations. Hide your wallet and let it die of inanition. To do otherwise is to be stupid.
On the subject of wallets and their contents, consider the world’s economy and those who run its central banks. They are flooding the planet with unmoored currency similar in scope to the biblical flood, only this time there’s no Noah and his ark. They are guilty of ignoring Hayek’s dictum that complex systems are so intricate that one person or group of people cannot understand them and that efforts to successfully direct them will always fail. The stupid love the distribution of “free” money not realizing that it is a tax (inflation) that they will pay in an amount greater than what they received. A healthy society cannot float on a sea of debt. When we are launched on a sea of stupidity we will suffer the fate of the Vasa.
Our politicians are a mix of stupids and bandits. The voters who keep returning them to office are mostly stupid. Churchill’s famous quip that democracy was the worst form of government excerpt for all the others is hardly a reassuring endorsement. Alas, mankind seems ungovernable. Matthew got the earth’s inheritance wrong. The bandits will get it from the stupid.
Another example of bandits and stupids is the former’s promise to pay for the retirement of the latter. The government will meet their pension obligations with debased dollars. The large corporations, mostly bandits with a fillip of stupidity, change employees more often than a 10 day old baby’s diapers and will wriggle out of any long term obligation to anyone other than themselves. The government will fill the void with more “free” stuff.
The mix of fear and stupidity is infectious. The recent pandemic with its nostrums and restrictions supposedly predicated on following the science brought great masses of people back to infancy. Wearing a mask was and still is like holding your blankee close to your face. Thumb sucking is a likely late sequalae of viral panic. Compulsive handwashing and spreading antimicrobial lotions on all exposed surfaces will help only bacteria; they will become resistant to drugs designed to harm them. All this craziness to ineffectually fight a virus spread by airborne submicroscopic particles. No intelligent group would have allowed all the destructive lunacy that was imposed on a supine public in the name of science. The economic, social, emotional, political, and religious costs may – like the debt – never be paid.
The supply chain almost broke and still is bent. Shortages of things we previously took for granted are popping up like hives following a histamine rush. Once people allow themselves to be treated like sheep they can be sure that sheep dogs will be their constant companions.
In summary, memorize Cipolla’s rules. Just because you’re a nice person doesn’t mean you’re not stupid – see law #2. The same holds for those closest to you and they’re the ones that can do you the most damage.
And just a related bit. The world is about to go stupid again over the so called delta variant of the coronavirus. Be aware that the natural history of a viral epidemic is for the culprit to become more contagious and less lethal as it passes from host to host. The reason should be obvious. A virus that spreads more readily than other versions but which doesn’t kill its host will prevail. So don’t let a stupid person or a bandit talk you into another lockdown.
Neil, Because both of us served time in higher education, we could tell story after story about the foibles of college and university administration. A well-regarded private college in which I was a tenured professor hired a new president with zero higher-education experience solely because he was extremely wealthy. The trustees’ reasoning was that the new president would tap his wealthy friends, and the endowment would grow exponentially. It didn’t. During the new president’s first week in the spacious home he was provided as a perk, his first order of business was to have a buzzer installed near his right foot so he could summon the live-in cook, who was now required to dress as a butler. At a southern land-grant university I served in, a new president was hired because he had been a senior research administrator at a much larger university. Instead of focusing upon research and teaching in his new role, this president decided to fire the head football coach and replace him with “a coach who is a practicing Christian.” Within three years, both the president and his coach were history. As my maternal grandfather, a mechanical engineer, often told us, “If you give a fool an education, what you’ll get is an educated fool.”
[…] play is set in a time shortly after our brains underwent miniaturization. I’ve written about stupidity before. The video below presents another view of the fatal flaw which is apt for today’s […]