Tuesday, October 11, 2016

How the Basic Laws of Human Stupidity Explain Trump

In 1976, an Italian economic historian by the name of Carlo M. Cipolla produced an essay entitled The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity. It is academic in tone, if mostly facetious in intent, but it does serve to explain and illuminate the human condition and the curse of stupidity.*
It is also useful to understand how we got stuck with Trump as the Republican nominee. Before I go further, I should emphasize that I don’t think all Trump supporters are stupid, especially not the reluctant ones. What I want to address is less the arguments against Trump and more the question of how we got here, because conservatives are still getting over their surprise.
The first basic law of human stupidity is as follows: Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
Conservatives will nod their head in agreement, first and foremost because they couldn’t understand the cult of personality surrounding Barack Obama that made people want to elect a guy with barely a resume. America did.
So we get it now, right? Hardly. That would violate the law. As Cipolla explains, one cannot even put “a specific numerical value to the fraction of stupid people within the total population” because “any numerical estimate would turn out to be an underestimate.” Even when we adjusted our estimate at the prevalence of stupidity among the U.S. electorate, we were still coming up short.
This explains 1) why no matter what Trump does, it doesn’t sink him and 2) why the longer he’s around, more Republicans capitulate the pressure to back him: “people whom one had once judged rational and intelligent turn out to be unashamedly stupid.”
Read the rest of this op-ed HERE.

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