I am not an insurance expert and realize my views on the subject may be naïve. I do however have a good many years of experience so these are my observations for what they’re worth, and like the Fox says, “You Decide”.
I always imagined initial insurances formed when a group of people who had a similar risk, pooled their money and hired a business manager to increase the fund. Each insured person owned a percentage of the fund and should he/she quit, could sell his/her interest back. Mutual ownership makes a lot of sense it seems to me.
The history of insurance is rather dim. From what I could gleam from a cursory search, merchant shipping was the initial application of the insurance idea. I do recall reading a rather dark English History that mentioned life insurance for children in the 1500s when the mortality rate was high and according the text, higher than it should have been because of insurance. Dark indeed.
My first experience with insurance was in the U.S. Army. Everyone advised me to buy the GI Life Insurance the Army had on offer, so that’s what I did. The payoff was $10,000 dollars, a sum beyond my wildest dreams at the time. Among my acquaintances back then was a man who made $75 a week and I thought he was super rich. He was the only person I knew who had enough income to have to pay Federal Income Tax. He lived in a fine brick house with mullioned windows that had some sort of family crest worked into the design. They looked like something out of the middle ages and I thought they were the cat’s meow. Anyway, the risk for Army personnel during the 40s was rather high, if you’ll recall, and the monthly insurance rate was low, so at age 17 I figured “What the hell, why not?” Initially my mother was my beneficiary, and later my wife. The Army nicked my 21 dollar monthly pay a small amount to cover the premium cost. (Remember when they paid us in cash?) They also nicked it a dime each month for the Old Soldiers Home. (Do they still do that?) Now, the money the Army collected from our pay went to private insurance companies. (We weren’t godless socialist, for Christ sake!) So I paid the premiums for a little over 25 years and when I retired, decided not to keep the insurance. BTW. I didn’t die so there was never a payoff.
In 1948 I bought my first car and the State required me to buy insurance. I paid auto insurance premiums for the next 60 years and never filed a claim. So, if you do the math, you can see the Insurance Companies collected premiums from me for 1,000 & 20 months and the only expense they had was processing them. Where did the money go?
In the early 70’s, along with a retired Navy Chief, we started a business chartering sail boats. My wife, who is quite sure I have the cogitative ability of a clever 5 year old, surprisingly enough went along with the idea even though she is very prone to mal de mer, “You deserve some play time.” she said. (Ouch!) (But she still thinks I’m cute.) She later presented me with a wooden sword and a black eye patch as her contribution to the business. She has a wicked cruel sense of humor.
We eventually had several boats in service but that business is extreamly labor intensive and we worked 12 hour days on average, seven days a week. We seldom made over the minimum wage for that period, and often a little less but we had a hell of a good time and met some fantastic people. We charted both bare boat and crewed. We sent boats as far south as Kingman’s Reef; we ran inter Island charters and offered 4 hour day sails off Waikiki. We were required by law to carry insurance and the premiums were hefty, but that’s understandable. After all it’s a risky business. We had a great time for a little over 10 years and then the insurance company tripled our premium rate. I ask the agent why, he said the Company had made some bad investments and “needed to enhance their revenue stream”. (I really dislike people who say shit like that.) I did the math and figured we could survive only if we took absolutely no income from the partnership. To continue the business seemed rather pointless to me, so I sold out to my partner.
Insurance companies do not contribute anything tangible to the economy. They are simply gamblers with odds in their favor. Unless they are nonprofit, and I believe those have pretty much gone the way of the dodo, I don’t know how you could call them anything but legal Ponzi Schemes. If we truly have a global free trade market, why then can’t I buy insurance from India or China?
Remember Burney Madoff, and weep.