In 1976, a professor of economic history at the University of California, Berkeley published an essay outlining the fundamental laws of a force he perceived as humanity’s greatest existential threat: Stupidity.
Stupid people, Carlo M. Cipolla explained, share several identifying traits: they are abundant, they are irrational, and they cause problems for others without apparent benefit to themselves, thereby lowering society’s total well-being. There are no defenses against stupidity, argued the Italian-born professor, who died in 2000. The only way a society can avoid being crushed by the burden of its idiots is if the non-stupid work even harder to offset the losses of their stupid brethren.
Let’s take a look at Cipolla’s five basic laws of human stupidity:
Law 1: Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
Law 2: The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
Law 3. 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.
Law 4: 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.
Law 5: A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.