the basic laws of human stupidity

THE BASIC LAWS OF HUMAN STUPIDITY

by Carlo M. Cipolla
illustrations by James Donnelly

THE FIRST BASIC LAW of human stupidity asserts without ambiguity that:

Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.

Stupid Person No. 1
At first, the statement sounds trivial, vague and horribly ungenerous. Closer scrutiny will however reveal its realistic veracity. No matter how high are one’s estimates of human stupidity, one is repeatedly and recurrently startled by the fact that:

a) people whom one had once judged rational and intelligent turn out to be unashamedly stupid.

b) day after day, with unceasing monotony, one is harassed in one’s activities by stupid individuals who appear suddenly and unexpectedly in the most inconvenient places and at the most improbable moments.

The First Basic Law prevents me from attributing a specific numerical value to the fraction of stupid people within the total population: any numerical estimate would turn out to be an underestimate. Thus in the following pages I will denote the fraction of stupid people within a population by the symbol å.

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lo zio indegno

Your family has assembled around a festive table. All are in full feather. Most are slightly ruffled. One geezer stands out. They say he is somebody’s uncle. He came alone. No one knows his name. The tablecloth is bouncing above his lap. The putative uncle is jerking off. More like, just jerking.
    The adults are averting their eyes. They are chatting about current events. Their voices are strained. No one wants to be caught staring. Only a little child breaks rank, transfixed by this public display of affection. When the child grows up, he is going to be somebody’s sleazy uncle.
    Note for our visitors: The uncle is Los Angeles. The child is you.