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Publisher's Summary

"A masterly book." (Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan)

"A classic." (Simon Kuper, Financial Times)

An economist explores the 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.

The 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. 

This audiobook includes a downloadable PDF that contains the gain and loss graphs from the book.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.  

©2020 Carlo M. Cipolla (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"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 percent of the people seriously believe that they are far less stupid than the average." (Carlo Rovelli, author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics)

"Subtly lacerating." (Publishers Weekly)

“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.” (Commentary Magazine)

What listeners say about The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity

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What do you have to loose?

So, if I understand this book and its nuances correctly, if I gained nothing and lost something (ie. time and money) from listening to his somewhat humorous explanations, then that makes me a 'helpless' person but only if, from my perspective, I feel swindled by the author, whom by his own reasoning, is himself a 'bandit.' However, were I to look at it from his point-of-view, if he wrote this book with the intention of enlightening his reader as to provide a gain, and I were to grasp the knowledge he so professes, then, by use of the principles of snubbishness, we can conclude that he and the reader are both intelligent persons in this delusion of having both gained something. I see. In that case, it would behoove me to agree with him if I want to seem intelligent.

The only part I agree with is that in every strata (class or caste) there is a percentage of stupid people and by similar observations, a percentage of snubs. It would be nice to learn where on the X-Y axis an elitist would lie. I'm going to wager somewhere on the Z plane. X and Y are just too, well, "plaine."

7 people found this helpful

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  • Al
  • 04-10-21

Brilliant book

very useful and will make one much better aware of things in life, he uses detailed analysis of defining what is a stupid, bandit, helpless and intelligent people and their effect on societies

2 people found this helpful

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Funny yes, science, I don't think so

What is the scientific evidence that there are the same number of stupid people in every population. granted it's high in all populations, but equal in all? quite a leap.

As a hilarious book, well worth the short listen.

2 people found this helpful

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An absolute must read

This has to be a textbook in all undergraduate maybe high schools. Pls do yourselves a favor read this

1 person found this helpful

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This will help you understand 2020

It all makes sense now. If you were confused by people’s behavior in 2020 and 2021, this explains everything.

1 person found this helpful

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  • KC
  • 06-23-22

Please don't waste your time

The words are mildly amusing, but the narration brings it down a notch. It's under an hour, still not worth the time.

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A must read .

A must read that is very useful in the current political atmosphere.
Real short though.

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Don't bother with this one

This is probably the worst book I've listened to in the last 5 years. Do yourself a favor and don't waste time on it.

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A must read

It's hilarious, scary, and sobering wrapped in a tight little package that forces you to look at people and groups of people in a new light.

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Knowledge is power, and protection.

Very informative and interesting. Sad knowing this is our true station in life. We have to find a way.