A guy called Carlo Cipolla wrote five laws of human stupidity and I have a feeling some of you might agree with his conclusions:
- define a stupid person as 'a person who causes losses to others while himself deriving no gain'
- everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals
- ... and the damaging power of stupid individuals
- the probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person
... the implications are frightening: the Law implies that whether you move in distinguished circles or you take refuge among the head-hunters of Polynesia, whether you lock yourself into a monastery or decide to spend the rest of your life in the company of beautiful and lascivious women, you always have to face the same percentage of stupid people - which percentage (in accordance with the First Law) will always surpass your expectations.
- a stupid person is the most dangerous type of person
If you follow the link he discusses his laws at length; it's an amusing read.
Do I agree with him? In a sense. One comes across people who act stupidly, at all levels of society. I don't mean the innocent, or ignorant, or unintelligent (to some extent all of us are these). I mean those who spoil things, make things go wrong, fail to engage with the requirements of a given situation to no obvious gain to themselves.
But do I think they are genetically 'stupid'? No. I think this stupidity is a product of authoritarian social dynamics. Yes, it's the Marxist in me coming out I suppose. This failure to engage is a type of authoritarian/submissive behaviour, which is why it is often found among bullying and aggressive individuals. Gripping hold of a situation - whether a corporate project, a family crisis, a war, a room that needs tidying - is a dominant and assertive act. Failing to get a grip, making a mess of it, is a socially submissive act. In other words I think some people don't even try, they think it is safe and even (strangely) virtuous to fail, to their own detriment, and that of others. It's quite different from making a stupid mistake, which god knows I have done often enough, and no doubt will again.