Why do bad things happen to stupid people?

I just read a news story about a guy who got $14 million in 1998 from the sale of his family’s business. Then through a series of accidents, he lost most of it during the current recession – his riches disappeared in under 12 years.

First, the government took $4 million in taxes. Who knew the government was going to tax income? When did they start doing that? Then he accidentally bought $7 million worth of houses in England, Vermont and one in an exclusive upstate New York vacation spot into which he poured about $5 million worth of improvements, including a three-story boathouse. You know, the necessities. Then he accidentally bought a few horses – one that cost $173,000 – and a few cars, like a $400,000 Aston Martin to get to the horse-food store. Then he accidentally borrowed money to play the stock market.

When the recession hit, he had to sell his houses, which were worth much less than he paid for them. Long story short ... he accidentally went broke. Now he actually has to work for a living at a job that will never pay him enough to buy a new car or an old horse. He says he accidentally got some bad financial advice.

When I first heard this story I said, “Wow, what bad luck, maybe I should send him some money. These kinds of accidents could happen to almost anyone.”

Like a lot of people, this guy was just unlucky. Like those American hikers who accidentally strayed into Iran and got arrested and have been in jail there for over a year and are about to go on trial. What a tragic accident. After all, there’s no place to hike in North America, excluding the Rockies, the Sierra Nevada, the Appalachians, the Grand Canyon and a few thousand other places. You almost have to go to a hostile, war-torn region to get in any good hiking. The Alps and the Andes just won’t do. So they accidentally wandered across the border to Iran? That could happen to anybody. They thought they were still in the tourist- and hiking paradise of Iraq.

Almost every day I read about an accident-prone person who has wrapped himself around a tree on the way home from bar or someone who accidentally overdoses on heroin or accidentally marries someone they don’t really get along with. Why do these accidents keep happening to good people? Why do rock climbers fall? Why do people die at the top of Mount Everest? Why do racecar drivers crash? Why do some skydiver’s parachutes fail to open? Why do most donor hearts come from motorcyclists? Why does bad luck follow some people around like a Justin Bieber groupie? If only there was something they could do to improve their luck. Some people are just born accident-prone I guess. There’s just nothing that can be done about it.

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at jim_mullen@myway.com

Copyright 2010, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.

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