I think that the best way to introduce a blog dedicated to the study of stupidity is to briefly summarize the current state of knowledge regarding this complex subject.
In the immortal words of W. C. Fields, let us “take the bull by the tail and face the situation.”
Carlo Cippola’s Five Basic Laws of Stupidity
I. We always under-estimate the number of stupid people.
II. The probability of a person being stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
III. A stupid person is one who causes damage to another person, or group of people, without any advantage accruing to himself (or herself) – or even with some resultant self-damage.
IV. Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid people. They constantly forget that at any moment, and in any circumstance, associating with stupid people constitutes an expensive mistake.
V. A stupid person is the most dangerous person in existence.
Giancarlo Livraghi’s Three Additions to Cippola’s Laws of Stupidity
I. Within each human being, including ourselves, there is a quantity of stupidity which is invariably greater than we suppose.
II. When the innate stupidity of one person is combined with the innate stupidity of others, the product of that combined grows geometrically–by multiplication, rather than the addition of the individual stupidity factors.
III. Since the impact of combined intelligence can only grow arithmetically while stupidity grows geometrically; stupidity will, in the long term, always prevail.
H. L. Mencken’s Axioms of Political Stupidity
If x is the population of the United States and y is the degree of imbecility of the average American, then democracy is the theory that x times y is less than y.
A great nation is any mob of people which produces at least one honest man a century.
Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage.
McDonald’s Internet Corollary
The Internet is the act of running the circus from the clown tent.
McDonald’s Five Classes of Stupidity
Class I is the mildest (or certainly the least pathologic) form of stupidity and is usually indistinguishable from the routine actions of daily living.
Class II stupidity is an act of personal stupidity whose impact is felt no further than five kilometers distant, and quite often no further than fifty meters, from where the incident occurs. This type of stupidity is dangerous in that, if the act itself does not prove fatal, it induces a form of amnesia that removes all memory of the act itself and the ensuing consequences, leading to repetition of the act of stupidity for an indefinite and unpredictable number of times.
Class III stupidity is an act of stupidity that is due to stubbornness, religious fanaticism, patriotism, nationalism, or partisan political deal-making that in turn results in a witch hunt, religious persecution, a revolution, and/or an international or a civil war.
Class IV stupidity is an act of stupidity that leads to 1) a direct confrontation with an overwhelmingly superior foe, 2) a situation that can only be resolved by a temporary suspension of the laws of nature, or 3) a frontal assault on the will of God.
Class V stupidity is any act of stupidity that is of sufficient magnitude and posing such immediate, dire, and potentially catastrophic consequences that only the direct intervention of God Himself can avert the impending disaster.
McDonald’s Disease Theory of Stupidity
Stupidity is the only disease that is simultaneously endemic, epidemic, incurable, and practically always fatal. Furthermore, a non-fatal attack of stupidity does not confer immunity against subsequent attacks.
The Laws of Classic (Newtonian) Stupidity
I. Any stupid object at rest or moving in a straight line will remain a stupid object at rest, or moving in a straight line, until it is acted upon by some external force that may or may not be as stupid as the original object.
II. Any stupidity emanating from, and acting on, another object will cause that object to exert an equally stupid force on the original object.
III. Every object in the universe that has mass (and hence stupidity) will exert a gravitational attraction on very other object in the universe that also has mass (and stupidity). In the case of gravity, the magnitude of this attraction will vary inversely with the square of the distance separating the objects. However, the effect of stupidity involving both masses does not decrease over distance and, in certain instances, may actually increase.
The First Law of Thermodynamic Stupidity
Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed from one form of energy into another. Stupidity, however, can only be created and cannot be destroyed.
The Second Law of Thermodynamic Stupidity
You can never take more energy out of a system that was originally used in the creation of that system. You can always remove some, but not all, stupidity from a system because the supply of stupidity will invariably exceed the demand.
The Third Law of Thermodynamic Stupidity
Entropy, the spontaneous disorganization of matter, is universal and always proceeds from organization to disorganization. Stupidity will invariably progress from a disorganized state to larger and larger disorganized units that will eventually consume the entire universe.
The Heisenberg Unpredictability of Stupidity Principle
An observer may measure either the location of stupidity or the amount of stupidity present but may not measure both simultaneously because the mere act of measuring one component will alter the value of the other component.
McDonald’s Four Laws of Military Stupidity
I. The warring side that is the first to come up with the “unbeatable” or “perfect” strategy will inevitably lose the war.
II. The officer who is responsible for executing this brilliant plan will inevitably be court-martialed when it fails.
III. The one factor that no one considered when devising the perfect strategy will always arise at the worst possible moment.
IV. The government responsible for transgressions involving either/or Laws I & II will either be unelected (without prejudice), overthrown (with prejudice), or shot (with extreme prejudice).
The Principle of Co-Stupidity
An act of stupidity is rarely an isolated event and, in fact, any act of stupidity can be expected to produce an equally stupid reaction. This reaction may be of a Class of Stupidity that is greater than, less than, or equal to that of the initial act of stupidity.
The Expansion Principle of Stupidity
In any open or closed system stupidity will increase until it reaches, or exceeds, the level of stupidity that originally existed within that system, in accordance with Livraghi’s Second and Third Additions to Cippola’s Laws.
The Temporal Displacement of the Consequences of Stupidity Principle
The effects of a given act of stupidity do not decrease over time but may first become known at any point in the future. The individual acts of stupidity bear no relationship to their eventual consequences, but these consequences will almost certainly be of more extensive impact than one might expect if the original acts of stupidity had been identified and dealt with promptly.