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Single-Minded Obsessions are Irrational and Lethal

Summary:
In my latest column for AIER I try my hand at writing fiction – yet fiction that is not very different from today’s reality. It’s a (very) short story of a woman who is single-mindedly obsessed with avoiding one particular danger. A slice: Vicky refused ever again to ride in automobiles. And she admonished everyone she knew and had the slightest interest in also to avoid ever getting into cars. “Don’t you see?!” Vicky impatiently asked others. “You can die – die – in a car crash! And even if you don’t die, you can suffer injuries that will long reduce the quality of your life, perhaps for the rest of your days! These are facts! You mustn’t ignore them!” One by one, Vicky’s friends stopped visiting and even calling and texting her. Although otherwise a charming and interesting woman,

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In my latest column for AIER I try my hand at writing fiction – yet fiction that is not very different from today’s reality. It’s a (very) short story of a woman who is single-mindedly obsessed with avoiding one particular danger. A slice:

Vicky refused ever again to ride in automobiles. And she admonished everyone she knew and had the slightest interest in also to avoid ever getting into cars. “Don’t you see?!” Vicky impatiently asked others. “You can die – die – in a car crash! And even if you don’t die, you can suffer injuries that will long reduce the quality of your life, perhaps for the rest of your days! These are facts! You mustn’t ignore them!”

One by one, Vicky’s friends stopped visiting and even calling and texting her. Although otherwise a charming and interesting woman, Vicky’s obsession with avoiding death or injury from automobiles became too much.

Even the great love of her life, her longtime boyfriend Will, in time broke up with her.

Will loved Vicky with the same fire that she loved him. And so at first he tolerated her insistence on walking or bicycling everywhere they went. But when Vicky would not let go of her insistence that he stop driving in a car to her place from his own – which was eight miles from Vicky’s apartment – he began to chafe. Still, he agreed to abide by her wish that, to visit her, he always ride his bicycle or take the bus.

But Vicky soon realized that buses are, like cars, motorized vehicles that can, and sometimes do, crash. “No more riding in buses, Will. I can’t bear the thought of you being killed or harmed in a bus crash. Please avoid buses, for me!”

Will was beside himself, torn between his love for Vicky and his need to live something close to a normal life. The last straw came when Vicky informed him that whenever he walks or rides his bike to her place, he must always stay at least six hundred feet away from any road on which cars drive. “That’s the minimum safe distance, my love. If you get within six hundred feet of a road, the chances are too high that you’ll be killed by an out-of-control car. And I can’t bear the thought of that tragedy.”

This latest demand from Vicky – combined with Will’s dawning recognition that Vicky’s mental health was severely compromised – prompted him, with a heavy heart, to break up with her. Yet as he drove his car back home from her place after he delivered the news, he felt strangely liberated, happy, and hopeful.

Vicky was devastated by the break-up, but her resolve to avoid ever again being affected by the horrors of automobile accidents was undiminished. Indeed, she soon comforted herself with the realization that Will didn’t deserve her. How, after all, could she possibly be happy with a man who was so unintelligent as to be indifferent to avoidable danger and death? She knew the facts, and one undeniable fact was that people are regularly killed or maimed by motorized vehicular traffic. In Vicky’s ideal world, there would be zero automobiles.

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Don Boudreaux
He is a professor of economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Previously, he was president of the Foundation for Economic Education.

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