The Laws of Stupidity
The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
Carlo Cipolla, The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity
There are many voices calling for equity today.
Unfortunately, there is one realm where perfect equity reigns: human stupidity.
No matter how you divide the general population, each section will have an equal proportion of stupid people. This is Mr. Cipolla’s Second Law of Human Stupidity.
If you segregate people by their educational achievement, the PhDs will have the same percentage of stupid people as the high school dropouts (also true of the beauty school dropouts).
He defines stupid people as those who harm others while obtaining no benefits for themselves. Often, they harm themselves as well as others.
Cipolla defines three other types: the bandits, the helpless, and the intelligent:
· The bandits benefit themselves at the expense of others.
· The helpless benefit others without benefitting themselves.
· The intelligent benefit others while helping themselves.
In his opinion, the stupid people are the most dangerous, much more dangerous than the three other types can imagine.
The bandits exploit others for their own benefit, but they are predictable, and we can reason with them — or threaten them.
The helpless are often “useful idiots.”
The intelligent are the true win-win individuals.
However, stupid people are unpredictable and are uninfluenced by self-interest. Because stupidity is not correlated with education, they cannot be trained out of their stupidity.
Contact with stupid people is infallibly costly.
Chances are you are not among the stupid; otherwise, you wouldn’t take the time to read something that would presumably benefit you.
Most likely, you are one of the intelligent types. If so, you’ve been minding the bandits and trying to protect yourself from them. All the while, you’ve been vulnerable to the destructive force of stupidity.
A wise strategy is to identify stupid people and avoid them.
If you find yourself trying to reform a stupid person, you may be a stupid person yourself.
Now, no one is quite sure whether Mr. Cipolla is joking or is expressing profound truths. I suspect he is doing both.
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