Flu parties: stupidity or externality problem?

Apparently there have been people who have deliberately exposed themselves and their families to things like swine flu on the theory that “the virus is relatively mild now, but maybe it’ll get worse later, and this might build immunity.”

On first pass, this seems merely incredibly stupid: the virus mutates sufficiently fast that how much guarantee is there that taking the risk of exposure now will immunize you from the later versions? Plus there’s a big risk of serious complications now, and it’s hard to weigh that vs. the probability of getting a nastier strain later.

But even if it’s not idiotic, it’s totally irresponsible — it risks infecting others, driving the mutations as well as exposing vulnerable populations. This is the sort of externality that begs for government regulation. Ban flu parties.


3 Responses to “Flu parties: stupidity or externality problem?”

  1. Steve M. Says:

    Resisting mandatory inoculation is one thing, but actively spreading a pathogen is another. I believe the most appropriate word is “sociopath,” not “externality.” Medieval barbers at least believed that bleeding was an effective treatment for illness, and so their actions can be understood. These people, on the other hand, clearly understand the germ theory of disease.

  2. Daniel S. Goldberg Says:

    It wasn’t just barbers, Steve. Physicians, peasants, and monarchs alike believed as such.

  3. Steve M. Says:

    Medieval medical trivia hour: Did one need to be a member of the surgeons’ guild to cut fingernails? I am under the impression that when the split came, barbers retained the right to cut hair, but nothing else.

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