Karma and freedom

In this interesting article, Jonathan Haidt suggests that the Tea Party is not about freedom, but about karma. His these is that Tea Partiers object to the fact that the Federal Government has been:

protecting people from the punitive side of karma. Premarital sex was separated from its consequences (by birth control, abortion and more permissive norms); bearing children out of wedlock was made affordable (by passing costs on to taxpayers); even violent crime was partially shielded from punishment (by liberal reforms that aimed to protect defendants and limit the powers of the police). Now jump ahead to today’s ongoing financial and economic crisis. Again, those guilty of corruption and irresponsibility have escaped the consequences of their wrongdoing, rescued first by President Bush and then by President Obama. Bailouts and bonuses sent unimaginable sums of the taxpayers’ money to the very people who brought calamity upon the rest of us. Where is punishment for the wicked?

As the tea partiers see it, the positive side of karma has been weakened, too. The Protestant work ethic (karma’s Christian cousin) holds that hard work is a duty and will bring commensurate rewards. Yet here, too, liberals have long been uncomfortable with karma, because even when you create equal opportunity, differences in talent and effort result in unequal outcomes. These inequalities must then be reduced by progressive taxation, affirmative action and other heavy-handed government intervention.

I don’t think I understand the distinction between freedom and karma.

What is freedom if one is protected from the negative consequences of one’s actions? Freedom without responsibility is the freedom of an unsupervised child. Such a child may do whatever he wants, but when things go poorly, the child will run to his parents for assistance. I thus don’t see how freedom and karma can be separated. Either one is free to fail or succeed (i.e. karma is allowed to operate) or one is not free.

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One Response to Karma and freedom

  1. Matt says:

    “I thus don’t see how freedom and karma can be separated. Either one is free to fail or succeed (i.e. karma is allowed to operate) or one is not free.”

    You’re absolutely right.

    However, like “gay”, “liberal”, “justice”, “charity”, and many other formerly good words that have been polluted into uselessness, “freedom” doesn’t mean that anymore, in the language most Americans speak. It has come to mean, essentially, “I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, whyever I want, nobody can stop me, and anybody who tries to make me pay a price for it (even by just passively sitting back and letting nature take its course) is a bloody oppressor! Nyah! F*ck you!”

    Sic transit gloria mundi, dude.

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