Is Karma Fair?

by: FireTag

March 31, 2012

“Liberals have difficulty understanding the Tea Party because they think it is a bunch of selfish racists. But I think the Tea Party is driven in large part by concerns about fairness. It’s not fairness as equality of outcome. It’s fairness as karma — the idea that good deeds lead to good outcomes, and bad deeds will lead to suffering. Many conservatives believe the Democratic party has been the anti-karma party since the 60’s. It’s the party that says, ‘You got pregnant? Don’t worry, have an abortion. You got addicted to drugs? Don’t worry, we’ll give you methadone.’  It’s the party that absolves you of moral irresponsibility.”  — Jonathan Haidt, moral psychologist, in response to New Scientist interview question, March 3, 2012, issue.

When I started to read Haidt’s answer to the interview question above, I was expecting the usual intellectual formulation of “fairness as equality of outcome” vs. “fairness as equality of opportunity”. When he instead suddenly brought up the spiritual/emotional notion of “fairness as karma”, I instinctively responded on a gut level: “That’s right! He gets me!”

I think humans are more rationalizing creatures than rational creatures. Our rational faculties operate in override mode in respect to our instincts, and sometimes rationality is confiscated to reinforce those instincts. Thus, exploring our emotional moral centers may reveal the true man or woman more fully. As I wrote in a post in a blog long ago and far away, there is scientific evidence correlating politically liberal or conservative beliefs with several critical personality axes. That suggests to me that our societal morality may be stronger when we acknowledge we need both perspectives on fairness to see our way forward.

However, I know what I feel fairness should mean, and the notion that good things should happen to good people, and bad things should happen to bad people is a deeply held feeling. The world seems profoundly unfair when the good suffer and the irresponsible prosper.

Mark D. Tooley expressed this notion recently; I’ve added the bolds for emphasis:

Traditional Christianity envisions a world of balance in which all persons are called to contribute towards the common good with their own God-given talents.  Traditional Christianity sees all persons as moral agents responsible for their own decisions.  And traditional Christianity sees all persons as sinners who often need rewards, punishments and incentives as well as ongoing challenge and accountability.”

Is “traditional” just a subconscious moral translation of “conservative”?

Now, intellectually, I also know that my gut feeling about fairness as karma can’t be the whole story. I know that bad things happen to good people and bad people. I began writing a blog in the first place because I thought modern cosmologies offered some new answers to the dilemma that God as Creator and God as Destroyer are one and the same God. My gravatar shows one galaxy sterilizing stellar systems in another galaxy by the thousands. What could anyone do that could be bad enough to bring down that kind of karma?

So, when I made the connection to the emotional core of conservative fairness, I started trying to translate liberal fairness from “equality of outcomes” into emotional terms as well. What I came up with was this: progressives regard things as fair when everyone gets their “happy endings”. Progressives feel the same sense of profound unfairness as I do, but it is triggered when there is NO happy ending for somebody.

Perhaps this is what is classically meant by “liberal guilt”. Not unrequited love, but unsuccessful love. I didn’t save Snow White, so there wasn’t a happy ending. (Obligatory “The Hunger Games” reference — I couldn’t save my little ally,  and so I will keep my promise to my little sister, no matter what it costs!)

And guilt as a failure of love can be a strong motivator to save others, to show mercy irrespective of cost.

I am old enough to remember the moral agony of America as we divided over the Vietnam War. While we were there, we were horrified at the destruction; when we withdrew, we were not looking back even as the “killing fields” of Cambodia bloomed behind us.  However, one of the dearest friends of our family found himself and his wife taking in a family of refugees from that horror.

The refugee wife had been widowed with her child when the Khmer Rouge killed her husband (a high official in the education ministry of Cambodia) upon seizing the Cambodian capital. One day she lived in safety and comfort, trying to help her country prosper; the next day everything was gone into barbarism.

Our friends became life-long friends with that family, and years later, after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, he felt compelled to go into Cambodia to take up the work of educational development in the devastated areas, even sacrificing his personal health to do so. That was the unhappy ending from which he couldn’t turn his eyes away.

The Book of Mormon contains a lengthy discussion (Alma 42 in the LDS version; 21 in the CofChrist version) of the complexities involved in navigating between the twin moral requirements of justice (karma?) and mercy (happy endings?). I don’t want to recapitulate that discussion here due to length, but I do want to observe that the existence of the discussion itself demonstrates that this dilemma has been a central pillar of Mormon theological questioning from at least the early 19th Century. Somehow, an understanding of Christ’s atonement has to plot a course between the two seemingly opposed requirements — without negating either one.

On earth, we have to similarly plot a way that addresses those twin demands in real issues of the day. And that brings me to the example of fairness as happy ending vs. fairness as karma in the context of the debate over Obamacare being heard in the US Supreme Court this past week.

The gut feeling of fairness in health care as happy ending goes something like this:

“Society imposed a requirement that if you come for emergency treatment without insurance or personal means to pay – doctors and hospitals still have to pay to take care of them, because otherwise we will feel terribly guilty. We’ll allow providers to spread the costs of that care over all of us, and we’ll have our happy ending.

However, there will still be people without means to pay and insurance for them is becoming increasingly unaffordable, even if we spread the costs over all of us to the extent that society will voluntarily agree. We will still not have our happy ending, and we will still feel guilty. So we will compel everyone to contribute to the solution of this problem about which we will otherwise feel guilty. That will be fair and that will give everyone a happy ending.”

Notice that this solution is chosen as fairer than either sacrificing more of the advocate’s own resources to achieve the happy ending, or of letting the persons who did not contribute (the “free riders”) bear the consequences of their choices.

By contrast, I saw TV reports last year of the extraordinary financial stress some local governments were under in providing fire protection services. In response, fire departments restricted all services to within the boundaries of their taxable jurisdiction after offering contracts to provide fire protection outside for a fee in advance. Otherwise, they stood by and let homes burn if there was no one inside. They did not provide coverage for “pre-existing fires”. That was harsh, but it was a different solution to the “free rider” problem. It was a “fairness as karma” solution.

Or, as Justice Kennedy, considered the swing vote on the Supreme Court for the Obamacare decision, put it:

“The reason this is concerning, is because it requires the individual to do an affirmative act,” he said at one point. “In the law of torts, our tradition, our law, has been that you don’t have the duty to rescue someone if that person is in danger.”

As much as this harshness alarms those who view fairness as happy endings, conservatives are alarmed by something that Tooley also expressed in the piece I linked above (bolds again added for emphasis):

“But in the Religious Left’s surreal universe, all persons are intrinsically good but victimized by oppressive social systems, for which they are entitled to endless redress by a mammoth, centralized state, controlled of course by the enlightened Left.”

This is indeed anti-karma, but also not a genuine happy ending for anyone but the rulers who are in control.

Once we accept the notion that I can compel you to accept the duty to address problems about which I feel guilty, we simultaneously grant me the power to deny you the opportunity and resources to address problems about which you feel guilty. The “happy ending” I seek for one becomes the “unhappy ending” for someone else. I would help the sick, but deny you the opportunity to help the orphan.  I am touched by the present poverty of African villagers, but you lose the chance to protect the environment of Africa for future generations. You help the refugees; I help the wounded soldiers; or we both protect Americans and leave women in Afghanistan to the generosity of the Taliban. Or we switch roles on particular issues; the permutations are endless.

And there is no end to the potential pain about which we may choose to feel guilty. Some people will be burdened by poverty, physical unattractiveness, cruel parents, incurable diseases, accidents, bad political systems, ad infinitum. And so we will always choose to embrace guilt over some problems and avert our eyes over other horrors for reasons that are not obvious even to ourselves.

Indeed, there seems no reason to limit the resort to compulsion to problems that evoke guilt. Once the mechanism is in place that I may compel others, what limits the acceptable emotional basis for compulsion to becoming something darker than guilt? What about fear, or revenge, or greed, or lust? Who picks up the mechanism we’ve established, and for what end? Perhaps it will be even those who believe in fairness as karma instead of happy endings who pick up the mechanism – and decide to give karma a governmental helping-hand. Ann Coulter quipped on TV last night that she wanted to be appointed Health and Human Services Secretary in a Republican Administration. She said she’d issue so many mandates that even liberals would hate Obamacare.

How many of the nearly 200 nations in today’s world are governed by “good karma for the rulers; bad karma for the opponents of the rulers”? The fairness as karma crowd wonders if that might be the road we are actually being diverted to follow in our pursuit of fairness as happy ending. What do you think?

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44 Responses to Is Karma Fair?

  1. Bob on March 31, 2012 at 9:15 AM

    Opening Post: FireTag,
    I loved having a career where I dished out Karma everyday! 25 of my 30 years in insurance claims were spent in Judges chambers. I was there to make the call if the case was going to be settled or tried. At the end of the day, I would make the call in the room based MY sense of Karma, justice, mercy, law, cost/benefit. But ‘fair’ was not a card often played.

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  2. prometheus on March 31, 2012 at 9:17 AM

    Great post. I think that it is interesting to consider repentance in light of these ideas.

    When one changes from doing bad things to doing good things, can that good karma over-write the bad karma accrued, thus allowing for a happy ending?

    As far as the idea of “good karma for the rulers; bad karma for the opponents of the rulers” goes, I think that there is definitely going to be some difference of opinion over what qualifies as a good deed – which is a long, messy and complicated argument that has been going on for thousands of years….

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  3. Howard on March 31, 2012 at 9:52 AM

    Karma is a complex long term view that assumes multiple prior lifetimes and only explains part of the picture. The Buddhist law of Karma also takes into consideration variables like seasonal changes and events, genetics, good and bad acts producing corresponding good and bad results, natural laws, consciousness and power of the mind including “supernatural” abilities.

    I do not support a growing welfare state. An opportunity exists within one lifetime to change the otherwise offspring-repeating dysfunctional bottom-rung early death experienced by those born into situations of malnutrition, thrust and disease and point them toward productivity. It isn’t expensive it could be funded with a small fraction of what the church spends on buildings and supported by service missions. Once early death is avoided basic education (teach them to fish) is needed to allow them to become self sustaining. Beyond this psychotherapy can remove other blocks to life success. Once someone has the ability to be self sustaining in a market that reasonably allows it, they personally benefit more from supporting themselves than being supported and so does society.

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  4. Bob on March 31, 2012 at 10:41 AM

    #3: Howard,
    I think studies show what low-level Cutures need is not education__but electricity. That gives them clear water, jobs, the power to make/sell things, etc. Two days of training can show some young girl how to build her part of an iPad.

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  5. Howard on March 31, 2012 at 11:05 AM

    Yes of course Bob I didn’t mean college and you’re right electricity would be productive if there is business to support it. But is the world ready to do eletronic gadget assembly in rural Africa right after drilling them a well? I suspect building some kind of basic local economy would come first and since malnutrition requires multiple generations to correct I think there will be plenty of time to put electricity in place.

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  6. Bob on March 31, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    #5: Howard,
    “TVA was envisioned not only as a provider, but also as a regional economic development agency that would use federal experts and electricity to rapidly modernize the region’s economy and society”. 1933__look what that did for the South.
    Look at India in the last 30 years.
    What was China’s first big ticket project? The world’s biggest power dam.

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  7. Mike S on March 31, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    Karma is very complex – but I think it is a real law. Regarding whether it is “fair” involves a view past this life, much like we do in the LDS Church.

    A leader who is “bad” might experience riches and power and ease in this life on the backs of others, but karma is ultimately paid. In that leader’s next life, he will ultimately reap the results of karma. He may have to pass through a time prior to the next life known as “hungry ghost”, with a stomach the size of a mountain and a mouth the size of the eye of a needle – always ravenously hungry yet never able to satisfy it. If reborn as a human, he may come back as a slave under a ruler as despotic as he was. So, ultimately, karma is paid.

    As to whether it is “fair”, in many ways it seems more “fair” than traditional Christianity. We believe in an ultimate judgement based upon this one time through mortality. While most won’t end up in “outer darkness”, there are still going to be plenty in the lower two kingdoms, who ultimately won’t receive the “highest” reward.

    Associated with the law of karma is reincarnation – or another go at it. If you didn’t achieve the “highest” reward at the end of life (nirvana, etc), you aren’t eternally doomed. You may have to “pay” for the negative karma you accumulated through suffering. You will ultimately have to get it right. It may take thousands and millions of lives. But, ultimately, there is the chance for EVERYONE to make it. There are no ultimate losers.

    Seen that way, karma is perhaps one of the MOST fair laws of the universe.

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  8. FireTag on March 31, 2012 at 3:01 PM

    Back from a wedding, which makes the graphic pleasantly ironic.

    These are good comments, and I see that people are thinking about this in international terms.

    Electricity requires energy to convert to electrical form and distribution systems to get it to the people. How do our consumption and production patterns in the first world contribute to the energy and economy development costs of developing nations?

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  9. FireTag on March 31, 2012 at 3:15 PM

    Mike S.:

    I think Haidt used karma in a more emotional, this-life sense than in a mystical sense, as I’m not even sure Haidt believes in a next life. I’m somewhere in the middle here, since I picture all of these lives occurring in “parallel” rather than in “series”, with the individual spirit developing by processing all of these good and bad experiences to bring out its own individual potential.

    But where does karma leave a place for grace and mercy to give people BETTER than they deserve — which is what the fairness-as-happy-ending ideal would desire?

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  10. Chris on March 31, 2012 at 7:20 PM

    Scriptures share some interesting insights into the law of Karma. Pauls says “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”

    However, Jesus said that God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” and reminds us that wheat will grow amid the tares.

    Additionally, King Benjamin explains that God” he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?”

    When we consider Karma, whether from a Buddhist or LDS perspective, we find it is better understood with an eternal perspective and yet offers hope to those who suffer the tribulations of mortality.

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  11. Mike S on March 31, 2012 at 9:43 PM

    #9 FireTag But where does karma leave a place for grace and mercy to give people BETTER than they deserve — which is what the fairness-as-happy-ending ideal would desire?

    Karma itself doesn’t allow a place for grace and mercy. It is a “blind” law of the universe.

    However, much like in Christianity, there is a “way out” in some forms of Buddhism. One form practices in the Far East is Pure Land Buddhism. In this case, the practitioner calls on the name of Amitābha Buddha. At the end of life, karma will still need to be paid, but the person is reborn in the Pure Land – which sounds a lot like Paradise. In the Pure Land, one has the help of various other Bodhisattvas until full enlightenment is reached.

    In Mahayana Buddhism, some people volunteer to put off attaining their “reward” so they can stay here any help others also attain this – sacrificing for others. We see this type in Christ, the Three Nephites, etc.

    So, while karma must “be served”, just like we teach that justice’s demands must be met, there are aspects where grace and mercy are interwoven into the practical aspect of it.

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  12. Mike S on March 31, 2012 at 9:52 PM

    Regarding the post and how this fits with Obamacare – it is more of a societal problem than a healthcare problem, as we want something that is NOT possible given our current culture. The simple fact is that there is NOT enough money to pay for everything possible in medicine. Medical care MUST be rationed.

    In Europe, people are more accepting of the “good of the society” philosophy. People pay high taxes, but they get free higher education, free healthcare, more benefits, etc. There are very few poor in a country such as Norway, yet there are very few rich either. Doctors might make 2-3 times as much as a school teacher. CEOs might make just a few multiples of their employees. EVERYONE’S tax returns are published online for ANYONE else to see. In this type of a society, it is is easy to ration healthcare. Certain things aren’t treated. If someone is over a certain age and has kidney failure, they don’t get dialysis, they pass on. Unproven and expensive treatments are simply not done. Waiting lists for hip replacements stretch on into 12-24 months. Etc. Their society accepts rationing in healthcare, because they have already accepted the idea of “good of the society” for the other aspects of society as well.

    In our country, we are stuck in the difficult situation of wanting the universality of that type of healthcare, yet have the access and the benefits that we currently enjoy. We don’t want the rationing that occurs in other countries. Yet we don’t want to pay for it either. We want the government to pay for it yet don’t want higher taxes. We want someone else to pay for it. It won’t work.

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  13. Bob on March 31, 2012 at 10:09 PM

    #10: Chris,
    For the American Culture, “Karma” had it’s peak in the dialogue of the 1960s. You reach it through Pot and Bong-drums.

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  14. Bob on March 31, 2012 at 10:11 PM


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  15. FireTag on March 31, 2012 at 11:07 PM

    Mike S.:

    Certainly medical care will be rationed because of the economic limits that exist. I am curious as to who actually decides the rationing scheme in Norway, since the great concern expressed by Tooley in the quote I cited is really about that issue. Who gets to decide, who is enlightened enough to make the decision, and who guards the integrity of the process (since in a system as large as America’s would be, citizens can not monitor the entire bureaucracy)?

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  16. Mike S on April 1, 2012 at 12:34 AM


    In other countries, medical care is rationed by what makes sense. Some simple examples:

    – If you are above a certain age in some countries and you have kidney failure, you don’t get dialysis, as it’s not “cost-effective”. If you tried that here in the United States, you would get sued.

    – In Australia, for example, if an elderly person with multiple other medical problems falls and breaks their hip, they get palliative care but generally pass on in 2-4 weeks. If an insurance company proposed doing that here, they would get sued. If a politician proposed doing that here, you could already see the ad with grandma in bed and the crying family around and an ominous voice-over – “Senator So-and-so just wants grandma to die…”

    – A number of cancer treatments cost tens of thousands of dollars. Occasionally someone gets “lucky” and it “cures” the cancer, but in many cases it doesn’t. For some cancers, for example, the average increase in life expectancy is 2 months – for an extremely expensive treatment. In other countries, they just don’t pay for this. In our country, if it’s a 40 y.o. mother of 4, you bet they’re going to pay for it, or else they would get sued.

    The list goes on and on. The fundamental issue – we want health care costs lower AS A SOCIETY, but we want everything possible done AS INDIVIDUALS. Those are not compatible. And no one will put their neck on the line to try to truly fix the problem, because it is a societal problem.

    We are a country that doesn’t step up to truly protect the good of the country. It is absolutely obscene that money managers made amounts in the BILLIONS in 2011 alone, for fixing a problem that they created in the first place. It is obscene that banks are buying foreclosed houses to turn them into rental properties to rent to the people who were kicked out of their house, with the bailout picking up slack, paid for with taxes from the people kicked out of their houses. We don’t truly want to fix the problem as a society. We just want it all, but not to pay for it.

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  17. Mike S on April 1, 2012 at 12:38 AM


    Sorry – I didn’t actually answer your question. Like the federal deficit and the entitlement programs that are bankrupting our country – we will simply window dress things until they fail. No one will fix healthcare. No one will ration healthcare. Until it is completely broken.

    Then someone will swoop in with a “new system” – likely the federal government – and will set up socialized medicine. It will cost a lot of money. People will be pissed off because their taxes will inevitably go up to pay for it. And they will be pissed off because some bureaucrat somewhere will decide what things will and will not get paid for – and there will be something they want that is not covered.

    But that’s what will happen.

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  18. Bob on April 1, 2012 at 1:37 AM

    #16: FireTag,
    It’s not that hard to get people to ration their own health care. All you have to do is sell insurance with coverage limits rated to price of coverage.. The lower the price, the lower limits, the higher the co-payments, the higher the deductibles.
    Fair__No! But no law suits, and costs drop.

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  19. Bob on April 1, 2012 at 8:39 AM

    #18: FireTag:
    And then, if your society starts to ration, and 50% of health costs (???) happen in the last 6 months of life (???), you start to face the “Duty To Die” for your family.

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  20. FireTag on April 1, 2012 at 9:16 AM

    Mike S. and Bob:

    The points you raise really are getting to the depth of the issue. You used two examples, Mike, that are applicable to my family already. I have a sister in law younger than I am with a very low survival rate cancer; I’ve already been an insulin-dependent diabetic for almost a half-century, so I know I’ll probably need dialysis before I’m seventy years old, which isn’t that far away.

    So issues of “duty to die” have been things I’ve thought about, both in contrast to issues like the cost of non-emergency coverage or health care spending in contrast to other societal spending.

    There are not enough societal resources for all the happy endings we’d like to have — absent drawing such resources directly from the miraculous — and so we again come back to who decides and on what basis that decision is made.

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  21. FireTag on April 1, 2012 at 9:48 AM

    Mike S.:

    “Then someone will swoop in with a “new system” – likely the federal government – and will set up socialized medicine. It will cost a lot of money. People will be pissed off because their taxes will inevitably go up to pay for it. And they will be pissed off because some bureaucrat somewhere will decide what things will and will not get paid for – and there will be something they want that is not covered.”

    I thought the following link gave an interesting alternative approach to minimizing the inevitability of rationing as an alternative to the “inevitability” of a single-payer European health system (which doesn’t seem sustainable in Europe either).

    A possible principle to better balance fairness as karma and fairness as happy endings?

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  22. Howard on April 1, 2012 at 10:16 AM

    I think there is a lot that could be done to make healthcare more affordable and available but politically it is very difficult to accomplish. I’m not a doc so maybe Mike S. will weigh in on these issues. My next door neighbor is a family practitioner in private practice she is a very caring and conscientious person but repeatedly complains that she is forced to practice defensive medicine due to fear of unreasonable malpractice suits. Another neighbor doc stopped practicing for the same reason. My wife sold digital x-ray machines and says that a high percentage of images are ordered for this reason. This is driving up the cost of medicine. Medicine was historically poorly managed from a cost efficiency standpoint because profit was simply a cost plus calculation. Few businesses can be run this way due to competition. This opened the door to managed care which now seems to vacuum up the excess in fancy overhead and profit while forcing docs to work longer and longer hours to maintain a fixed standard of living. Can’t a computer and a few consults take the place of managed care?

    Mike perhaps you’ll defend this one but I had an employee with a wood sliver in the palm of his hand the size of a toothpick it wasn’t deep but it was firmly in place and he was seen by three othopods before they finally removed it with a tweezer like mom would have done. All three billed of course.

    A lot of doctoring can be done with a bag, a blood or urine test, a script pad, generic drugs, trauma images and sutures. Maybe something like this could be called basic healthcare be offered at low cost to all as part of their practice by docs with good malpractice histories but legally shielded from malpractice suits for providing this basic service.

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  23. Bob on April 1, 2012 at 11:00 AM

    #22: Howard,
    My office in ‘Home Office Legal’ (in a large insurance co.) was down the hall from our malpractice defense department. I SAW the lawsuits: even You (grin), would have paid most of Claims.
    #21: FireTag,
    I read your link. I see Obamacare and the cost of Obamacare as two different issues. But clearly, it’s hard to cut this baby in half.

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  24. FireTag on April 1, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    Chris: Re #10

    I appreciated the point I think you were making that the scriptures seem to provide support to both fairness-as-karma and fairness-as-happy-ending.


    I think that lawyer removal might be something the health system ought to cover. :D

    I have seen a proliferation of ads targeting new “bad drugs” and encouraging people to call a lawyer to sue recently. (“If you took drug X and now have symptoms Y or Z, call…”) What has become truly bizarre to me is that I’ve seen two drugs targeted in which “symptom Y” was precisely the effect the drug was SUPPOSED to produce, and “symptom Z” was one of the effects of the disease the drug was supposed to TREAT.

    Go tell your doctor and get the dosage adjusted people! Don’t make the rest of us pay higher fees so lawyers can join the 1%. If you can read a Mormon blog, you can do enough research on the web to know when to talk to your doctor. (But don’t stop reading Mormon blogs; we’d miss you. :D )

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  25. Howard on April 1, 2012 at 3:12 PM

    Lawyerectomy! Lol.

    Malpractice has both direct and indirect costs, including “defensive medicine.”

    Physician advocacy groups say 60% of liability claims against doctors are dropped, withdrawn, or dismissed without payment but those cases cost $22,000 to defend in 2008 ($18,000 in 2007). Physicians are found not negligent in over 90% of cases that go to trial – yet more than $110,000 (2008 estimate, $100,000 in 2007) per case is spent defending those claims.

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  26. Bob on April 1, 2012 at 3:57 PM

    #25: Howard,
    YOU BET! That’s what I did for a living. My company insured only hospitals. UCLA was our biggest insured for Malpractice.
    When a claim came in, I would call the attorney: “UCLA pays us more than two million a year to defend them. I have to advise UCLA how much was I used for defence cost and/or how much I setted for. If I only sent a copy of a settlment check, they would go elsewhere. I am told to defend! So Counselor, if you want to sue UCLA, be very sure you have a good case, and be ready to pony up $20-30 thousand of your money to put it on, because I am”. Case dropped.
    If it was a big case that was tried, yes, I would spend up to #100,000 or more in defense costs.

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  27. Howard on April 1, 2012 at 5:46 PM

    Bob wrote: “So Counselor, if you want to sue UCLA, be very sure you have a good case, and be ready to pony up $20-30 thousand of your money to put it on, because I am”.

    I agree this is a great strategy but as you point out it still cost UCLA $2 Million a year! There ought to be a more efficient less expensive way to sort and funnel legitimate cases to arbitration or trial.

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  28. FireTag on April 1, 2012 at 5:59 PM

    Loser pays legal costs?

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  29. prometheus on April 1, 2012 at 6:57 PM

    “Loser pays legal costs?”

    If winning and losing had a direct correlation with justice being served maybe.

    Perhaps your lawyer didn’t prepare well and now you have not only medical fees, but legal fees on top of it, even though your claim was in the right.

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  30. Bob on April 1, 2012 at 7:07 PM

    #28: FireTag,
    No, loser only eats his costs, which are high in “Expert”(doctors) bills. Usually, a doctor charges $5,000 per half day for a court apperance. I had one case: AM,doctor sat in hall=$5,000, Afternoon=doctor sat in hall=$5,000. Next AM,doctor finally got on stand=$5,000. 10AM, my attorney calls, may need doctor in afternoon, wants another $5,000. I said NO!. ” Tell him to talk faster”! Doctor calls me “OK, no more money, but I am talking as fast as I can”.

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  31. hawkgrrrl on April 1, 2012 at 7:30 PM

    A few quick thoughts on the OP. First, the quotation uses Karma incorrectly. Karma refers to the things you did in previous lives causing your situation in your current life. In fact, it’s a lot like the idea that blacks were less valiant in the pre-existence and therefore were denied blessings in this life. It’s a way to justify the inherent inequities people are born into. However, the way it was used in the quote (and that most Westerners use it) was to mean that our actions and choices in this life have consequences, and we shouldn’t rescue people from the consequences of their own bad actions (at least not at the expense of those who made better choices).

    The real crux, IMO, isn’t whether people should be allowed to avoid the consequences of their behaviour in this life, but whether we should try to address (in any coerced and organizational manner) the inherent inequities people have at birth – the inequities of opportunity. Even those who believe in actual Karma would say you should address suffering. To be greedy in this life might mean you regress in the next one, and since it takes 52 million reincarnations to get to be human, nobody wants to go back down the food chain.

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  32. Bob on April 1, 2012 at 7:41 PM

    #29: Prometheus,
    You are right. Most attorneys are smart enough to turn their big case over to a large Malpractice firm who can risk $50,000. The first attoney will get a cut of any settlement.
    But I liked to sleep at night. So i would tell a young to get the case out of his hands, or let have a conference in front of a Judge.
    But about 50% of the cases were just dumb stuff, like letting a guy roll off his gurney to or from surgery. Not much to talk about there.

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  33. Bradley on April 1, 2012 at 8:44 PM

    Karma is more the domain of our higher selves. Our lower everyday selves are unqualified to dispense it.

    Consider Christ saving the adultress with “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. If the crowd had been a bunch of conservatives, that chick’s skull would be a red spot on the ground.

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  34. FireTag on April 1, 2012 at 10:25 PM

    Bradley and Hawkgrrrl:

    The crowd WAS a bunch of conservatives to hear the association of “judgmental” we have as a stereotype. Yet, the “chick’s skull” was NOT a red spot on the ground. Perhaps conservatives are quite capable of mercy toward those who do things they regard as wrong. I think Hawkgrrrl is on to something in her comment 31:

    “…we shouldn’t rescue people from the consequences of their own bad actions (at least not at the expense of those who made better choices).”

    It takes that INVERSION of moral order to trigger the strong justice over mercy reaction.

    If I think back to the Great Depression, the iconic images I remember being passed down as cultural folklore are things like bread lines, factories closing — and stock brokers committing suicide. There was a perception then (true or not) that those who had made good choices did not suffer while those who had made bad choices were bailed out. Politicians lost power. Banks failed, and were not bailed out (again, true or not). That could make all the difference in maintaining social stability — and in the support for mercy.

    Since the Depression did not really end until after WW2, maybe by that time people did feel like they’d made enough sacrifice, and stopped without continuing to address for awhile the lack of happy endings that were still present.

    Oh, and I will not vouch for Haidt’s correct understanding of karma in a religious sense. I do think he was using it in a typical Western shorthand.

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  35. FireTag on April 1, 2012 at 10:30 PM


    Only asking whether that would reduce the costs of defensive medicine being imposed on other patients. Didn’t suggest it would increase the likelihood of happy endings for someone who had been harmed through malpractice.

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  36. Howard on April 2, 2012 at 7:15 AM

    I have a strong distrust of both sides of the aisle because greed and lust for power greatly overshadow both ideologies. Both sides manipulate voters by exaggerating their fears of either terrorism or global warming and both sides lie and spin. However the world’s great experiment with socialism clearly ended in failure proving that at humankind’s current low level of enlightenment greed motivated materialism is king. But don’t delude yourself into thinking that because Capitalism is efficient it is somehow fair or ideal, there is no level playing field there because those who seize power tilt the field in favor of themselves and their cronies. For example the cost of war is socialized the profits of war are privatized and the life of war is extended well beyond what is necessary in order to prolong those profits. There are exceptions but generally who has what is as strongly related to the multi generational materialistic greed of your family and who you or they know as it is what you have personally contibuted. Even in a theoretically perfect Capitalistic system there will be those who do not do well for reasons other than being lazy some will be “defective” mentally or physically and others will simply march to a different drummer than greed motivated materialism. Shall we allow them to suffer or die? No. It’s important to remember that God commanded the Law of Concentration and I think this and many Biblical verses demonstrate that He is concerned for the welfare of all. For these reasons I favor compassionate conservatism meaning conservatism that is motivated by compassion, not by protecting the status quo.

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  37. FireTag on April 2, 2012 at 9:51 AM


    I thought you stated your point well, but as a RLDS, I want to make sure I’m not missing some LDS teaching about the Gathering with which I’m unfamiliar.

    You meant “Law of Consecration”, not “Law of Concentration”, right?

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  38. Howard on April 2, 2012 at 10:00 AM

    Thanks FireTag Law of Consecration is correct.

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  39. charity on April 3, 2012 at 12:37 PM

    Guidance from our Source, music and the arts, excellent nutrition, exercise, passion for our work/purpose in life, and the healing arts (including Western medicine) will bring compelling answers to our very confusing and complex questions. Our lives are so blessed by you all who listen to Spirit and move out in faith. Thank you all for the excellent discussion on “karma.”
    Well-written topic and thoughtful responses.

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  40. prometheus on April 3, 2012 at 8:25 PM

    Firetag (35):

    Apologies if I came across as curt there – it’s a pretty tangled mess – how to reduce costs without causing undue harm. As much as I am opposed to the pharmaceutical industry as currently constituted, I do get that they need to make a buck off of the product as well. To cut costs, you have to take money out of the system, and that money has to come from somewhere.

    Bob (32):

    Again another difficulty – how to deal with silly suits that cause unnecessary costs, and the misuse of scarce resources.

    If I only had the magic answer. :)

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  41. FireTag on April 3, 2012 at 10:14 PM


    No problem. I was the one who was curt, because I had a kitty jumping on my back insisting I shut down the computer for the night and give him his bedtime ritual.


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  42. prometheus on April 4, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    lol, cats.

    (pun intended :D)

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  43. bnielson on April 5, 2012 at 10:08 PM

    @Hawk in #31,

    When I listened to one of the Dali Lama’s books, he defined Karma as being either from this life or a past life. Both were a possibility.

    Sorry, if someone else already pointed this out. I didn’t read every comment.

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  44. hawkgrrrl on April 5, 2012 at 11:09 PM

    bnielson – actually there are two caveats to that statement. What we do in this life IS karma fodder for the next. But also, different sects view Karma slightly differently.

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