Monthly Archives: May 2014

Karma isn’t for Atheists

My wife asked me the other day what’s the story with Karma. I guess there have been some memes on Facebook floating around on the subject. Got me to thinking.

So, I haven’t done any research on the origins of karma, but I’m pretty sure it’s rooted in Eastern philosophy like Buddhism – ie. “if you are a cruel to animals in this life, then in the next life, you’re going to end up as an animal” kind of thing.

More so than the historical context, I’m interested in the popular use of karma in our culture, especially on the internet. You may recognize dialogues like these:

  • A man was really rude to a clerk at the store. Later on that day, he gets hit by a drunk driver and is paralyzed for life.
  • A young girl waits on tables at a local diner, juggling school, a child, and a mountain of debt. She’s always cheerful and greets her customers with a smile. One day, she learns an elderly gentleman that she’s been serving for years turned out to be a multimillionaire who rewards her kindness with a scholarship to pay for all of her tuition.
  • A Hollywood celebrity has a reputation for being wholly self-centered, indulgent, and reckless. Years later, she’s broke, homeless, and addicted to drugs.

In each of these examples, some would say things like “you reap what you sow” or “instant karma’s gonna getcha”. The idea is that there’s some right (or wrong) that’s been done and the universe will somehow balance that out. It’s the moral equivalent of Newton’s 3rd Law – for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.

The problem with this idea of universal balance is that it assumes there is a right and wrong. In fact, in order for universal karma to play itself out, there has to exist an absolute standard of morality that predates man and will continue long after man. Otherwise, this cosmic force is ever changing which then leads one to think this force must be sentient – alive, conscious, and with a will, like that of a Creator.

If things had no moral value, if everything was relative, then why would the universe need to balance anything out? Why would karma repay bad for bad or reward good for good if neither existed?

Now, there are many atheists out there that will tell you that morality does exist. It’s not absolute, but each person can basically define his or her own morality based on his life experience, education, etc. And further, they might say karma isn’t necessarily a universal force at work. Rather, it’s people that react favorably to ‘good’ people and poorly to ‘bad’.

But good things happen to bad people and vice versa all the time.

As a Christian, I believe God is Good. His ways are Good. His Word is Good.

He is also just. Every thought and deed that we have, He sees them all. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

Thankfully, He is also full of Grace. Because of the sacrifice that was made for sinners like me by Jesus the Christ, I have been redeemed and freed from my sin. And because much has been forgiven, I can now learn to forgive.

It’s reassuring to me to know that God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and not some universal penny tray, keeps track of every good and evil that surrounds us each and every day.

Ridiculous Fines Against Victimless Criminals

When an individual or business entity is found guilty of violating one of the hundreds of thousands of laws on the books, and there is no victim, why does the government get to levy a fine against the accused?  And what do they do with all that extra revenue?

You’ve probably noticed (especially around holiday weekends) a ramp up in TV ads warning you that cops are out and about enforcing Seat Belt laws — the infamous Click-It-or-Ticket propaganda.  If I fail to put on my seat belt, who is the victim here?  What social justice is being carried out when I’m fined up to $200 in some states for failing to comply with this overbearing, Big Brother intrusion of personal liberty?

And there are hundreds of thousands of more laws like this.  Billions of dollars at stake.

Statists will tell you that it’s for my own good and that seat belts save lives.  Let’s forget for a moment that we’re arguing a central bureaucracy knows what’s better for me than I do.   Let’s also assume that huge, punitive fines are actually successful in getting the sheep to follow orders.

Where does the money go?  Who gets to spend it?  If safety was, in fact, the goal of our legislators, then wouldn’t it stand to reason that the money collected in fines should go back to the people — maybe a refund for always driving with your seat belt on?

The reality is that these laws for our own good are there to collect revenue from the masses.  It’s a secret tax.  It’s included in state and federal budgets.  They COUNT on you to violate the law / receive a tax bill fine.

Now, someone will undoubtedly say something like “as long as we (the state) have to pay money to clean up your mess, then there is the case to levy fines for violations.”  So, for example, if NYC has to pay for all the additional health care costs due to overweight people drinking gallons of soda at a time, the city has the right to levy fines for behavior that will directly lead to NYC’s increased risk / exposure.  (I won’t go into how ridiculous limiting cup size is in this battle of the diabetic bulge.)

My point is that the problem lies with NYC having to pay for the health carenot that it’s doing a poor job of managing health.

Again with Full Employment

jobs are a means, not the ends in themselves
people work to live better, to put food on the shelves
real growth means production of what people demand
That’s entrepreneurship not your central plan

— Hayek’s character in the “Fight of the Century: Keynes vs. Hayek Round Two

——–

Listening to the Fight of the Century again, and also in light of stories like this where contractors are being paid under Obamacare to do nothing, I had a follow up thought to my previous post on Government Job Creation.

If you spend any time on the internet reading about economics, you’ve probably seen something that’s been attributed to Milton Friedman about building a canal with spoons. The meme may go something like this:

At one of our dinners, Milton recalled traveling to an Asian country in the 1960s and visiting a worksite where a new canal was being built. He was shocked to see that, instead of modern tractors and earth movers, the workers had shovels. He asked why there were so few machines. The government bureaucrat explained: “You don’t understand. This is a jobs program.” To which Milton replied: “Oh, I thought you were trying to build a canal. If it’s jobs you want, then you should give these workers spoons, not shovels.”

I’ve said this before, but one of the many differences between private business and government agencies is their end goal. Government “Jobs Programs” are designed to employ people. Doesn’t matter if those jobs are needed or if there are alternatives that are more efficient (ie. closing one of the countless Federal Agencies which the US Government admits doesn’t even know how many exist).

Entrepreneurs, for the most part, are not in the business of employing people because, as Hayek points out, jobs are a means to an end. Entrepreneurs are in business to stay profitable. Their product or service is what will attract buyers. Growth and market demand for more will stimulate true job creation.  Yes, there are non-profit organizations out there.  But the ones that are privately funded still have to balance incomes vs. outflows.  This may include having to add or eliminate employees to fit their budgets.

One more closing quote from Hayek’s character

Creating employment’s a straightforward craft
When the nation’s at war, and there’s a draft
If every worker was staffed in the army and fleet
We’d have full employment and nothing to eat

Fellowship 3.0

Been seeing this clip trending on Facebook recently and it got me thinking. I understand what the author is trying to convey, that we should try to make connections with people. His premise is that by staring into a little phone display or your computer screen, you’re not really engaged with people. (The irony is that my friends are using Facebook to promote the notion to stop using Facebook so much. But I’m guilty of doing the same on other topics.)

What’s interesting to me is that the cover photo for the “Look Up” video clip shows 2 ladies at a bus stop using their phones and one woman without. The imagery is supposed to make us feel like we’re all isolated because of technology. What you don’t see (and yes, I’m bringing in Bastiat’s / Hazlitt’s “Seen and Unseen” into a post about relationships) is what the 2 ladies on their phones are doing.

Maybe they’re texting their spouses or their children.

One of them might have just found out about a loved one’s serious illness.

Maybe there’s breaking news about a controversial vote.

Who knows?

As I had shared in a previous post, the issue isn’t the mode
of communication we choose to use.

I know of at least 2 friends that found their spouses through playing games on the internet. Both couples have been happily married now for almost 15 years and they have lovely children.

The internet is responsible for my family getting to know, and eventually meet, some dear friends of ours. We’re going down to the Houston area this weekend to celebrate Jami’s high school graduation (I’m still coming to grips with the idea that little Jami is now an adult and transitioning into the next chapter of her life.)

Focus on fellowship, by whatever means available to you.

Fight of the Century: Keynes vs. Hayek Round Two