I mention this not with any great sense of joy, but because as old as I am, I still can't get used to bone-headed farce when I run into it.
Here's a noninsurance example to start. A recent remake of The Twilight Zone TV series has a woman going back in time to stop Adolf Hitler being born. She takes a job as a nurse at Adolf's mother's house. Adolf's mom is called Mrs. Hitler. Well, duh. Hitler's real name was Schickelgruber.
Now that I've set the bar about as low as it can go, I'm going to quote an editorial from a respected Cape Cod newspaper. It doesn't matter which one; what matters is that its views may be representative.
The editorial began: "You know how livid you get after giving your trusted home insurer a $1,000 annual premium for 20 years, never filing a claim, then suddenly being dropped with impunity by your insurer? Your first agonizing thought is that you've shelled out $20,000 for nothing."
Do I need to tell an insurance audience how unutterably dopey that view is?
The column goes on to mention that a state insurance organization "paid $75 million in reinsurance premiums last year--money that, like homeowners who have paid but will never collect, is also spent for nothing, lacking a devastating storm."
Dumb, eh? It's like saying, "I paid my dentist thousands to clean my teeth every six months, and I never needed a filling!" Or, "My auto mechanic charges me a fortune, which is a rip-off because my car never breaks down."
This means, the editorialist continued, "that $75 million or more a year goes to foreign and/or offshore corporations doing God knows what with all that money skimmed off the backs of people struggling to survive inflation and potential recession."
And then, inordinately proud of his own intelligence, the writer reached a crescendo: "One can see why corporations take advantage of a lethargic customer base. Most Cape people complain bitterly about their rising insurance costs but won't lift a finger to help correct what could turn out to be another Enron-like rip-off."
Where to start? Here, perhaps. Are the people in Cape Cod so thick that they swallow this bilge? Enron is now shorthand for fraud on the grandest possible scale.
Insurance and reinsurance are legitimate business practices that make it possible to live without fear, secure in the knowledge that when Mother Nature strikes, it will be possible to recreate a comfortable life once the dust has settled. Comparing Enron and insurance is like comparing Mark Twain and the guy who wrote this nonsense.
Insurance is a promise to pay, should circumstances and the contractual agreement mandate payment. If it ain't broke, insurance won't fix it. You'd think a 4-year-old child would understand that. Maybe someone should run out and find the Cape Cod newspaper a 4-year-old to write editorials.
ROGER CROMBIE is a Bermuda-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®.
March 1, 2008
Copyright 2008© LRP Publications