The Five Laws Of Universal Stupidity 

I ran across this article last week. While I almost couldn’t stop laughing, I also couldn’t help but to admit it was spot on.  

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.

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.

Cipolla called this one the Golden Law of stupidity. A stupid person, according to the economist, is one who causes problems for others without any clear benefit to himself.

The article delves much deeper into this aspect.

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.

We underestimate the stupid, and we do so at our own peril. This brings us to the fifth and final law:

Law 5: A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.

And its corollary:

A stupid person is more dangerous than a bandit.

We can do nothing about the stupid. The difference between societies that collapse under the weight of their stupid citizens and those who transcend them are the makeup of the non-stupid. Those progressing in spite of their stupid possess a high proportion of people acting intelligently, those who counterbalance the stupid’s losses by bringing about gains for themselves and their fellows.

I couldn’t help but share this article. It captures so much of what is happening in America today.

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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3 Responses to The Five Laws Of Universal Stupidity 

  1. A.D. says:

    Having just survived Iowa’s early voting process as newly redesigned by Iowa Republicans, the word “stupid” was practically coursing through my veins as I stomped out of the building. But I now realize, having calmed down, that what appears to be a stupid system is really a very clever system that, if my experience is anything to go by, really will effectively punish people for voting and make it more likely that in future, some voters will remember past voting experiences and decide not to vote. So, while I won’t argue that stupid people are the greatest existential threat, I’d say “cleverness in the service of power-hungry greed” is right up there in second place.


    • Dave Bradley says:

      Could not agree more. We voted Tuesday and it was not easy. As we are both handicapped to some degree, the shorter time for voting and the unreliability of the Post Office made going to our county auditor a necessity. The kicker was that there was a sign on the door that stated masks were required, yet no one in the auditor’s office ware a mask, nor did the other 2 voters who came in after me.

      All in all a discouraging experience.


      • A.D. says:


        I should have written “limped out of the building,” because I was forced to stand and wait so long that my back hurt, Yet only eight people were in line. The problem was that filling out every line on the forms with pens took forever. As the clerk pointed out, “we’re not allowed to print forms anymore.”

        I don’t even want to think about what early voting could be like next year with bigger turnouts, especially for Iowans who have bad backs or other health problems. Many of us will have to plan carefully in advance. But some of us will vote no matter what. I’m not going to let the Iowa Republican Party keep me from voting to throw them out of office.


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