On Stupidity

Carlo Cipolla, an economic historian, penned an interesting essay, “The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity“. In this essay, which is both serious and tongue in cheek, he postulates the following laws of stupidity:

  1. Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
  2. The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
  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.
  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.
  5. A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.

When I read this essay, I immediately thought of a story written by one of the greatest science fiction authors, H. Beam Piper, “Day of the Moron“. This is a wonderful example of the laws of stupidity.

Note: I found this essay via Al Fin and Johannes Koelman. I disagree with the former’s interpretation of the essay as he takes the concept of IQ seriously. While I disagree with the latter’s interpretation as he falls for the ludic fallacy.

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