Definitions: Stupidity (Cipolla)… Astounding Stupidity (Landes)

I’m finally writing a book now, whose subtitle is set: A Medievalist’s Guide to the 21st Century.

The tentative title is: They’re So Smart Cause We’re So Stupid.

I have, at long last, started to write up this ten-year promise by compiling a list of what I call,

Astoundingly Stupid Statements of the 21st Century 


(tentative list to appear at this blog, with requests for other examples from readers).

Up until now, I limited the list to statements that fulfilled two criteria:

  • morally and/or empirically ludicrous
  • people nod in agreement when they hear it

Now, I’d like to add a formal definition to “stupid.” I just came across an essay by an economic historian, Carlo Cipolla on “The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity.” In it, he gives a formal definition (based on game theory).

Definition of Stupid, Carlo Cipolla (Economic Historian):

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.

In other words people who plays zero-sum games so badly, they unnecessarily create enemies and shoot themselves in the foot… losers.

Definition of Astoundingly Stupid People (ASP): RL:

Astoundingly Stupid People are individuals who play into the hard, zero-sum, strategy of a declared enemy… repeatedly, with no apparent inkling of what they’re doing.

In other words, ASP are people who play zero-sum games by own-goal strategies, so badly, they strengthen their worst enemies and shoot themselves in the head… suiciders.

Often ASP are convinced they are beyond all zero-sum games, and can bring everyone else along with them.

I welcome any examples readers would like to propose.

10 Responses to Definitions: Stupidity (Cipolla)… Astounding Stupidity (Landes)

  1. The “An” is your Astoundingly Stupid is superfluous?

    Examples? About 45% of what Beinart writes.

    • Richard Landes says:

      thanks. changed the pronoun without changing the article.
      please offer some Beinart quotes. I think 45% may be a low estimate, esp if one focuses on his writings about the Middle East.

  2. L. King says:

    “entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.” – Barack Obama.

    “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. We don’t have that in our country. In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I do not know who has told you that we have it.”

    • Richard Landes says:

      included first one (Obama quote). second one i think aroused great amusement and scorn even among progressives in US, so doesn’t meet both criteria.

  3. Sissy Willis says:

    I love the concept, Richard!

    In my view, educated people today are “so stupid” because, in Santayana’s timeless phrase, they “cannot remember the past.” Or, more precisely, in the wake of Gramsci’s Long March through the institutions, they remember a past that never happened.

    Here’s my contribution to your list of statements (twittered to you earlier):

    Hillary’s classic “Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism” comes to mind…

    Virtue-signaling “progressives” nod in agreement. Is that enough to satisfy your second criterion? :)

    Another thought: Is HRC signaling to her Saudi benefactors with a wink and a nod? Not really believing but thinking she’ll be spared?


  4. Richard Landes says:

  5. […] here replicates the folly of the Jenny Tonge and Cherie Bler, both of whom have made the list of #ASSO21C (Astoundingly Stupid Statements of the 21 Century), namely the projection of Western positive-sum […]

  6. […] So Stupid: A Medievalist’s Guide to the 21st Century. Each chapter begins with a list of Astoundingly Stupid Statements of the 21st Century that appear in therein. The footnotes are not complete. In particular, Clemens […]

  7. […] a bit late on this one, but it’s such a good example of, and going into the list of Astoundingly Stupid Statements of the 21st Century, that I have to fisk it. Earlier this month at the Saban Forum, John Kerry denounced the […]

  8. […] balance of forces, consider the coming winner/strong horse (even regardless of morality). If the stupidity of the West, its inability to stand up for its own values, its repeated appeasement of triumphalist Muslim […]

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