Many years ago, and a long time before I became interested in mediation, a friend gave me the fine essay “The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity” by the Italian economic historian Carlo Maria Cipolla (1922-2000). I warmly recommend it: witty, short, to the point and very true. Cipolla divides humanity into four categories, according a cartesian system with “benefits to oneself” on the abscissa and “benefits to others” on the axis of ordinates.

According to the quadrant that any person belongs to, they are intelligent (benefits to themselves and to others), helpless (damage to themselves while benefits to others), bandits (benefits to themselves while damage to others) or stupid (damage to themselves and to others). He then develops five theorems around this system. I will not expand on these but  please do read the essay!

Of late, I often hear people refuse to talk to each other on the grounds that “the counterpart is stupid, and we will win this case at any rate”? Who is stupid, and who will win?

In a court case, most of the time a party will “win” and the other one will lose (unless both parties lose). You already see where this all leads to: according to Cipolla, when we go to court, we will either end up with the helpless, the bandits or the stupid. Of course, basically the bandits will be happy and consider themselves “finally winning”, and the helpless will be frustrated. Most often however, all parties will belong to the category of the stupid, because they will have damaged themselves as well as the other (all will feel they lost somehow). The only way to make everybody a winner is … yes, exactly.

Mediation helps to reach win-win situations and it certainly is intelligent. We might even conclude that it is the way for everybody in a conflict to end up intelligent – and a winner.

The #AlbertSquareMediation Civil and Commercial team comprises: Matthias, Paul Sandford, Francesco Albertelli, Ben Beaumont, Joanne Byrne, Russell Foster, David King, David Santiago and Anthony Wooding. Between us we specialise in all aspects of civil and commercial mediation, arbitration and adjudication. We come from a variety of accomplished  professional backgrounds including law, the judiciary, surveying, accountancy, engineering, academia, management, public sector management/facilitation and medicine. We are multilingual and with contacts and expertise in many different parts of the world we are international in outlook, very cost effective and are very much geared to the needs of the business community.

Please direct enquiries or expressions of interest to or, for an initial, no obligation discussion, please telephone Paul Sandford on 07476 279 307