The Power of Stupidity

by Giancarlo Livraghi


by Andrea Monti

As publisher of the first English edition of this book (as I was when the first Italian edition came to life) I’m very proud of it. And not for purely “commercial” reasons – always important, indeed – since I have the strong feeling that also the English version will be a very successful book in its genre, as Il potere della stupidità is in Italy.

Why do I call it an English “version” instead of “translation”? Because The Power of Stupidity is not a mere translation of the Italian edition.

The Author, taking advantage of the flexibility of the English language (that, by the way, he speaks and writes as a native) completely re-shaped the topic, the wording and – most important – the ideas behind the book.

Then, to some extent, the book is five years old (if you look at its first Italian edition.) Or just a few months old, thinking of the English version. Or thirteen years old, counting from the author’s original English articles on this subject. Or, maybe, “the power of stupidity” has no age – it’s as old as humankind.

I met Giancarlo Livraghi, the author, fifteen years ago during a civil liberties convention in Italy and “Stupidity” was one of the topics we spent a lot of time discussing, not only then and there, but in the following years.

As a civil rights advocate – and, in another life, as one of the most influential players in the international advertising business – Giancarlo Livraghi met Stupidity (his own, first of all, as he says in his book’s “opening statement”) countless times. Bureaucracy, politics, mass-media, law, science... The plague seems to be affecting every mind and human behavior.

Thus comes the point: is there anything we can do to “fix the machine?” And if so, what could we – or should we – do?

“The Answer” this book provides is – at the same time – simple and daunting: “use our brain” or, to put it shorter, “think.”

The answer is simple, because it’s evident that by using our critical thinking we become less prone to the oddities of ignorance, wrongdoing an manipulation.

The answer is daunting, because by accepting that stupidity is everywhere we should first be available to give ourselves a strong “stupidity-check.” Only then it will be possible to understand what’s happening “in the wild.”

And here comes the book.

The Power of Stupidity is not a “how-to” or a mere collection of anecdotes about idiots or mind-impaired representatives of power, business or politics. Should I summarize in one sentence the content of this book, I would say: “food for thought, and call for action.”

A remarkable fact is that The Power of Stupidity has been engineered to be read. The language is plain while rigorous, the stream of (often biting) irony always “in context.” Chapter topics are “self-contained” so the reader has the option of going through the book from page one to the end, or choosing the parts he feels more akin with. Giancarlo Livraghi has a unique ability to deliver his message in a very neat and enjoyable way.

I’m sure you – the reader – will be magnetized by the beauty of this unusual contribution to the understanding of Human Nature.

Andrea Monti – April 2009