The 5 fundamental laws of human stupidity, according to Cipolla

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Louise Hay
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“The stupid are more fearful than the mafia, the military-industrial complex or the Communist International. They are an unorganized group, without a leader or norms, but nevertheless they act in perfect harmony, as if guided by an invisible hand.

"With a smile on his face, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, the fool will suddenly appear to ruin your projects, destroy your peace, complicate your life and work, make you lose money, time, good humor, productivity, and everything. this without malice, without remorse and without reason. Stupidly. "



These are the words of the famous professor of economic history Carlo M. Cipolla, who taught at the universities of Pavia and Berkeley where he published some academic works in which he analyzed overpopulation throughout history, but went down in history thanks to his "Theory of Stupidity" , condensed in his book "Merry, but not too much", a treatise on human stupidity with satirical overtones.

The 5 fundamental laws of human stupidity

1. Always and inevitably, each of us underestimates the number of stupid individuals there are in the world

That there are stupid people is nothing new. But Cipolla was convinced that we underestimate their number and their influence in our lives and in society. He stated that "any numerical hypothesis would prove to be an underestimate".

Just think, for example, of those people we had judged to be intelligent but suddenly start behaving silly and dull. Or it is enough to go out on the street to see how many people insist on hindering us, for no apparent reason other than stupidity.

2. The likelihood of a particular person being stupid is independent of any other characteristics of that person


Cipolla was convinced that stupidity was an extra feature, like having blond hair or black eyes. Therefore, it is distributed in all circles of society in roughly similar proportions. He cites a study on the level of stupidity in the four great strata that make up universities: janitors, employees, students and teachers. In this analysis it was found that the distribution of stupidity was uniform, regardless of educational level.


"Whether one frequents elegant circles or takes refuge among Polynesian cannibals, closes himself in a monastery or decides to spend the rest of his life in the company of beautiful women, the fact remains that he will always have to deal with the same percentage of stupid people. ”, He concluded.

3. A stupid person is one who causes harm to another person or group without obtaining benefits for himself or even harming himself

Cipolla did not consider stupidity a question of intellectual quotient, but rather a lack of relational intelligence. It started from the idea that by relating we can obtain benefits and offer them to others or, on the contrary, harm ourselves and / or others. A stupid person is the one who harms others and often also harms himself.

His behavior is irrational and difficult to understand, but you are likely to remember more than one person who has hurt you, causing you hardship, frustration and suffering, even if he hasn't gained anything from it. According to his theory of human stupidity, “there are people who, by their inverse actions, not only cause harm to other people, but also to themselves. These people belong to the superstupid genre. "


4. Non-stupid people always underestimate the harmful potential of stupid people

According to Cipolla, we continually forget the danger posed by stupid people. He said that "stupid people are dangerous and fatal because it is difficult for reasonable people to imagine and understand stupid behavior".

Generally, their attack takes us by surprise and, when we suffer it, it is difficult for us to organize a rational defense because the attack itself lacks rationality. By underestimating their power, we are vulnerable and, therefore, at the mercy of their unpredictability.

We can also make the mistake of thinking that a stupid person can only harm himself, that we are immune to his actions, but with this thought we confuse candor with stupidity and, believing ourselves invulnerable, we lower our guard.


5. The stupid person is the most dangerous person there is

“All human beings are included in four basic categories: the naïve, the intelligent, the bad and the stupid […] The intelligent person knows he is intelligent. The bad guy is aware that he is bad. The unwary is painfully immersed in his own candor. Unlike all of these characters, the stupid doesn't know he's stupid. This contributes to giving greater strength, impact and effectiveness to its devastating action. The stupid is not inhibited by self-awareness, ”wrote Cipolla to outline the last fundamental law of human stupidity.

Cipolla represents in this graph the 4 types of people starting from who is benefited or harmed by their behavior:

He also warns us that “some fool normally causes only limited harm, but there are others who go so far as to cause terrible harm, not just to one or two individuals, but to entire communities or entire societies. The capacity to harm that the stupid person has depends on the […] position of power or authority he occupies in society ”.


How to protect yourself from human stupidity?

"Intelligence and stupidity are not the opposite of each other, nor is stupidity the lack of intelligence, rather intelligence is the product, more or less unsuccessful, of a continuous series of attempts to dominate, or escape from the stupidity that constitutes all that is human ”, wrote Matthijs Van Boxsel.

In addition to labeling people, it is important to understand the risks that stupidity poses. In reality, we can all behave stupidly, if we do not measure the extent of our actions or words. If we do not develop critical thinking and forget the necessary introspection, we can become victims of stupidity, suffering or exercising it.

A very interesting study conducted at Lorand Eotvos University offers us further clues to achieve self-awareness by determining the 3 causes of human stupidity:


1. Ignorance or overconfidence. It would be the highest degree of stupidity and appears in people who take risks of any kind, even if they lack the skills or knowledge needed to deal with them.

2. Lack of control. It is an average degree of stupidity that corresponds to impulsive people, who lack self-control and act by letting themselves be carried away by the first impulse.

3. Distraction. It would be the minimum degree of stupidity, which manifests itself in those who are unable to do something because they do not pay attention to it or do not allocate adequate resources to it, making an unnecessary effort.

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