Life’s Not Fair, But We Can Still Strive for Fairness: The Idea of Good-Luck Insurance

The fact that life isn’t fair is usually offered to victims as an alternative to despair (or maybe revenge), but I think this is short-sighted. A much better way to use it, in my opinion, is to let it inspire us toward behaving fairly. The fundamental unfairness of Life is — or could be — a principle axiom of personal ethics.

“Why should we strive for ethical excellence?”, some unscrupulous cynic may ask. Because Life is unfair, I say! To the extent that Life is not fair, we should do what we can to make it as fair as we can make it.

Now, when we think of examples of Life’s unfairness, we often think of unhappy examples — being born with a crack addiction, or with your intestine’s on the outside of your body, or with cancer (can you tell that the mother of my children is a NICU nurse?). But that is just half of the story, really. Life is every bit as full of happy examples: being born to wealthy parents, or surviving a cancerous tumor, or guessing the winning numbers in a large-payout lottery (arguably an unhappy example, since many such winners lack the financial expertise for managing the prize, wind up blowing the whole jackpot within a year or two, and many even accumulate an overwhelming mountain of debt in the process).

And in the same way that we have invented insurance to mitigate the risks of unhappy examples, I’m thinking it might be good to invent a different kind of insurance to mitigate the risks of the happy examples too. We might call it something like Good-Luck Insurance.

The basic idea here is that a subscriber or customer would receive a regular stream of payments — we might call them anti-premiums, because they flow toward the customer instead of toward the insurer — and in exchange, whenever he or she got especially lucky in some way (as defined by the policy), then he or she would have to give back to the insurer some portion of the “prize”.

So, for example, let’s say I “bought” a surgery policy. Once “purchased”, I would immediately begin receiving monthly anti-premiums, which I could then spend on anything I wanted (food, clothing, shelter, leisure, etc.) But if I ever survived any kind of surgery, I would have to pay back to the insurer some portion of the premiums I had received over the years. On the other hand, if I never even had surgery, I would just keep all those premiums!

Now, you might think this is basically what Communism is all about (or is it Socialism, I know there’s supposed to be a difference, but I’m not at all clear on what it is — feel free to explain it to me in a comment below!), but there’s really a huge and critical difference, which is that Communism (Socialism?) is imposed on all citizens, whereas good-luck insurance is strictly voluntary. Nobody would be obliged to purchase a policy, and you would only purchase the particular coverage you wanted.

I think one great benefit of such an insurance product is that it would be yet another means by which we could all choose to strive for fairness in the context of an unfair Life. Given that Life is as unfair as it is, I’m thinking we need all the help we can get.

That’s the basic idea of Good-Luck insurance. Please let me know what you think in the comments!