One thing any Occupy squatter can tell you is that he hates the plutocrats. I can agree with that, I suppose. What's a plutocrat? I'm going to guess that a plutocrat is a crony capitalist who profits from lobbying Congress into granting him monopoly or oligopoly powers. In other words, he short-circuits free market competition by twisting the arm of government to grant him license and guarantee him business.
I've always hated that. Why? Because I learned at a very young age that I needed car insurance. I thought I just needed a driver's license and a car.Then I learned that the police can stop you and ask you to prove that you have bought insurance and give you a ticket if you didn't have it. And so I had to pay, living in a redlined neighborhood, the rate that somehow every insurer agreed on was the proper rate for me living in 90016 at the age of 19. So I grew up with an intense hatred of insurance companies - those government mandated entities that made it safe for people who had money for premiums to live their lives without risk along with those of us who had to deal with risk. In California, if you had 100,000 in liquid assets, you could self-insure. Pay up or avoid the cops.
The resentment lasted into my 30s, I guess. But I started to wonder why mothers of gangbangers didn't take out life insurance policies on their sons, and other ways to game the system. I paid close attention to the changes in the law with regard to the new coverage called 'uninsured motorist' and then realized something new. Not only do insurance companies know that some people won't buy insurance, but they insure against that - and who pays? You guessed it. The insured motorist.
But why is car insurance necessary anyway? When you think about it, it's because so many people buy cars on credit. If you wreck the car or even ding that rapidly depreciating object you possess but don't own, somebody wants to get their money back. That somebody, the finance company, doesn't really trust you not to wreck. Nowadays, some people even need payment insurance - you're not even trusted to pay the note. So it all gets back to trust, or I should say a lack of trust for the uninsured motorist. Or in my case, that realization, when some cholos rear-ended my Karmann Ghia on the Harbor Freeway, then fled the scene. There's all kinds of liability out there, and guess what? Shit happens.
What does any of this have to do with plutocrats and oligopolies? Somebody convinced the State Legislature in California that if it was going to have 15 million some odd drivers, and all the car dealers wanted to sell them cars on credit.. all of the dynamics I just explained. You can be sure the Automobile Insurers of California or whatever their name is, watchdogs that legislation.
There is something inherently difficult about the insurance industry. If I had a million bucks, I wouldn't try to come up with actuarial tables and register with the Insurance Commission to do business in California. But somebody does, like that annoying Flo chick in her white nursey uniform and that obnoxious smarmy little gecko with the New Zealand accent, and that snarky cartoon babe with purple hair, not to mention that 32 bit animated general with the hat over his eyeballs. Oh wait, those are just corporate logos for Progressive, Geico, E-Surance and General, not the oligarchs themselves. I'd imagine there are almost no youth in America today who go to college and say that someday they want to be the CEO of a better insurance company than State Farm. Who thinks Prudential or The Hartford are sexy? Even when Farmers is building Los Angeles a new football stadium, that ain't sexy.
But you can't think about car insurance or car dealing or car financing or hit & run driving without thinking about all of that, and you can't really do anything new in that business without having a lot of expertise because ultimately it's about regulating human behavior around models of risk. Non-trivial to be sure. And did I mention lawyers? Do you have any idea how much legal procedure happens around car accidents, drunk drivers, underage drivers, vehicular manslaughter, hit and run and plain old grand theft auto?
I wonder if Occupy doesn't mention anything about the insurance industry because they don't know, or they acknowledge it as a reasonable thing, or they don't have a cutesy epithet like 'bankster' for actuaries. The current administration said that health insurance for everyone ought to be the law of the land. As soon as he said that, I heard that angry voice of the 19 year old me being rejected at Mercury, the discount car insurance firm, just for being too young. Yeah, they have all the angles on car insurance figured out, and they have it figured out for every sort of insurance. Why? For the same reasons, we're all living on somebody else's credit and the system cannot afford the uninsured.
The thing is, of course, that everyone can game the insurance business, and the wealthy can game the game and hedge against those who don't play. But that's all about how much risk you can stand. The fundamental question remains. Can you play in a risky world without insurance, or do you need an industry to help you get through a life with some legal recourse? Don't want to lose your house because you get sick? There's an insurance policy for that. Don't want to get your car repossesed after an accident? There's an insurance policy for that. Don't want to miss a payment on your credit card? Don't want to die broke? Don't want to have a cavity unfilled? There's an insurance policy for every peasant situation you can get yourself into. Hell, I should sell pepper spray insurance to protesters.