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"A masterly book" —Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan
"A classic" —Simon Kuper, Financial Times
An economist explains five laws that confirm our worst fears: stupid people can and do rule the world
Throughout history, a powerful force has hindered the growth of human welfare and happiness. It is more powerful than the Mafia or the military. It has global catastrophic effects and can be found anywhere from the world's most powerful boardrooms to your local bar.
It is human stupidity.
Carlo M. Cipolla, noted professor of economic history at the UC Berkeley, created this vitally important book in order to detect and neutralize its threat. Both hilarious and dead serious, it will leave you better equipped to confront political realities, unreasonable colleagues, or your next dinner with your in-laws.
1. Everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals among us.
2. The probability that a certain person is stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person while deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses themselves.
4. Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals.
5. A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.
About the Author
CARLO M. CIPOLLA (1922-2000) was an Italian economic historian, Fulbright Fellow and professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Cipolla was awarded the International Balzan Prize for Economic History in 1995 and held honorary degrees in Italy and Switzerland. His classic treatise The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity was first published in 1988 and has been published in more than ten languages. Originally written in English, this is the first time it's being published in the US.
"Cipolla's subtle tongue-in-cheek humor made this book an underground classic in Italy. Today, under current worldwide political trends, it reads more like black humor. Keep in mind: reliable statistical data shows that 98% of the people seriously believe that they are far less stupid than the average."
—Carlo Rovelli, author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
“The more you confront actual stupidity in everyday life, the more infuriating it is, whereas the more you contemplate it in the abstract, the more amusing it becomes. Cipolla finds the perfect tone to handle this paradox. On the page, he is arch and slightly annoyed, with a good deal of mock scholarly gravity thrown in…. Cipolla is very droll, and his theories—however deeply he has implanted his tongue in his cheek—have a helpful, clarifying quality.”