Book review The basic law of human stupidity on

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

Why I Picked This Book?

“The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity” , the title of the book was an instant attention grabber. More so, because of the stupidity that we see around us now a days. I was curious to know what the laws say about stupidity and stupid people around us. And do I qualify as one as per the laws mentioned in the book 😊. Thankfully not! The book falls under the genre of behavioral economics so it was not a satirical take on stupidity for sure but some serious analysis of what is stupidity and who are called stupid. To know more about what the author has to say about stupidity, I picked this one up.

The Book

The Basic Laws of Stupidity talks about five laws that one would associate with stupid people or what describes stupid people. The author gives a simple definition of who qualifies as stupid per the golden rules of stupidity. The author defines it in terms of behavioral economics but the definition can be extended to general stupidity as well.

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.

Does it ring any bell? Do you have such people around you? If yes, then they can be safely assumed as stupid. The author provides a definition of what makes someone an idiot, why he does what he does is a matter of another study. Based on the above definition, the author lays down certain laws pertaining to stupid people and stupidity. And when you read them, you think, analyze, and concur with the author.

We have seen people around us for giving a boycott call for a movie or a show just to cause loss to someone We may assume that people like them are miniscule or aberration, but the first law laid down by the author breaks this myth. As per the first law-

The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.

One need to read it diligently and may be re-read to understand the metaphor and have our own understanding and interpretation. It is like we are running after insane development at the cost of our environment, convincing everyone that the development is good for all but at the end realizing that it did not Of course, this is also self-evident. We see many examples around us, like retired (and serving as well) people with years of experience in diverse fields such as armed forces, education, science, economy, legal profession mouthing cuss words and war mongering almost every day on one of the news channels (Though it would be technically wrong to call them news channels). People expect maturity and intelligence from retired individuals from high and dignified positions when they speak in a debate, but all they find is offensive language. It has lowered the discourse of public debate and discussion in the process damaging the collective intelligence of the society.

The book falls under the genre of behavioural economics and while reading it you will find the laws it mentioned are true and does gives us a study of human behaviour. It does not tell us why stupid people do what they do, but it surely let us know there are lot of them out there are they are a danger to the society. They are not driven by any logic or rationality so one cannot contemplate or foresee their actions and thus cannot prepare themselves for it.

After reading the book you would certainly realise that their human stupidity has no limit and as the book says they are always more than what you estimate them to be. I have seen people around me celebrating higher taxes, people being okay by the price rise and some even justifying it, though it impacts them and their budgets. All of them do qualify as stupid and as the author rightly says there are too many of them.

There is one more interesting fact with respect to human behaviour specific to stupidity that the author brings forth. He puts people in four different quadrants and based on the cost-benefit analysis to any specific event and call them helpless, bandit, intelligent and stupid on how they react in that situation.  

An interesting and insightful read. As per author’s own words, “The book is the result of constructive effort to detect, know and thus possibly neutralize one of the most powerful, dark forces which hinder the growth of human welfare and happiness.”

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 elected as a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy in 1989 and awarded the International Balzan Prize for Economic History in 1995. He also held honorary degrees in Italy and Switzerland.

His classic treatise The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity  has sold more than half a million copies worldwide in over ten languages.

Our Verdict

The Basic Laws of Stupidity is a book that everyone should read.

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