“The Five Universal Laws of Human Stupidity”


That’s the title of an interesting article I found at Getpocket.  Here’s how it starts.

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.

No matter how many idiots you suspect yourself surrounded by, Cipolla wrote, you are invariably lowballing the total. This problem is compounded by biased assumptions that certain people are intelligent based on superficial factors like their job, education level, or other traits we believe to be exclusive of stupidity. They aren’t. Which takes us to:

Law 2: The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.

Cipolla posits stupidity is a variable that remains constant across all populations. Every category one can imagine—gender, race, nationality, education level, income—possesses a fixed percentage of stupid people. There are stupid college professors. There are stupid people at Davos and at the UN General Assembly. There are stupid people in every nation on earth. How numerous are the stupid amongst us? It’s impossible to say. And any guess would almost certainly violate the first law, anyway.

There’s much more at the link.  Interesting and thought-provoking reading.

I couldn’t help but be struck by the concluding paragraphs.

Declining societies have the same percentage of stupid people as successful ones. But they also have high percentages of helpless people and, Cipolla writes, “an alarming proliferation of the bandits with overtones of stupidity.”

“Such change in the composition of the non-stupid population inevitably strengthens the destructive power of the [stupid] fraction and makes decline a certainty,” Cipolla concludes. “And the country goes to Hell.”

Might that describe the current condition of these United States?  Go read the whole article, then judge for yourself.



  1. So, you're suggesting that there are large numbers of them, and they are trending to positions of power? They should not be underestimated. I suggest the elemental symbol Sp with all atomic values initially set at zero.

  2. i blame the lawyers. if they had not made a religion of suing profitable, beneficial companies; over the most frivolous bs on behalf of the stupidest among us; darwin would have worked his magic long ago. just think where we'd be without labels telling us not to drink the contents of the battery or stand on the tool tray of your ladder. we wouldn't have to be subjected to the crawler at the bottom of the buzz lightyear action figure commercial that tells us buzz doesn't really fly

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