Stray thoughts re: insurance

I’ve had the following bouncing around in my head for a bit, figured I’d let it out and see what response it got…

It’s happened throughout human history: sometimes people have unexpected problems come up. Sure, if an individual has the resources they can stock up in preparation, but then that would mean by definition they weren’t unexpected. Realizing this, some decided over time to pool small amounts, basically as a hedge on the possibility of some among the group facing a hardship they couldn’t address alone.

Historically, these kinds of groups started out based solely on cultural & immediate geographical ties. From crude tribal ties, to things like mutual aid associations, to the modern concept of insurance, the idea has remained simple, that you regularly pool some resources with the assumption that should the worst occur you can get enough to help.

Or, to put it another way, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”. Sound familiar?

Now, when Marx said it he envisioned people with unequal abilities only getting what was absolutely necessary, so it’s not the exact same thing. However, the concept is related in that with insurance you pay what you can and take out what you need, just with an emergency-centric definition of “needs”. If I understand the basics right, then the departure from direct administration of such pooling of resources to the current system is that people are paying a 3rd party to operate the pool for them. To reattach with the latest debate, the argument towards health insurance companies is that the administrators are abusing their position, defeating the purpose of the pools they run for their own gain.

That charge is an understandable one. Keep in mind though, we don’t just pool resources to pay for health care. Ostensibly, collective responsibility for defense against force is the most basic purpose of the modern state, and they haven’t exactly been faithful humble servants either. In fact many people, myself included, think the administrators of this “insurance policy” are a living contradiction, and would like to see them put out of business.  Where’s my option?

A couple of thoughts I’ve reached based on this:

-If collective provision for things is somehow evil, as the Right insinuates, then I’m not sure how they even explain insurance itself as a concept. As if the convenient nudging aside of the military wasn’t dissonance enough…
-I can understand why mainstream liberals question the insurance companies, and I’m no fan of them either. But at the same time, and for similar reasons, I question government as well. Why is it seen as so awkward to question both?



About b-psycho

Left-libertarian blogger & occasional musician.
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3 Responses to Stray thoughts re: insurance

  1. Scott says:

    There’s a natural hedge against too much profit-taking – competition. Especially in an industry like insurance, where there is (in the theoretical) not a large barrier to entry (unlike, say, starting your own oil company). Of course, that requires there not to be an intrusive monopoly agency of force which is used by the established players to keep out competition and ensure cartelization (through lobbying) and above-market profits.

    So my beef with all the talk of health care reform, is that the reform is framed (if it is defined at all) with the axiom that government should do more. The question (not the evidence, just the question) of whether it’s already done too much, is not seen in mainstream coverage, and unfortunately is only raised by reactionary right-wing windbags who hate Obama more than they dislike big government (and who would never turn their sudden embracing of limited government principles to the military and foreign policy).

    And yes, you are right – at essence it’s just people joining together and pooling resources to help prepare for relatively rare but costly unfortunate situations. So how many laws and pages of regulations would have to be taken off the books to allow people to do just that, without being crushed by bureaucrats and lawyers?

  2. b psycho says:

    One part that particularly gets me is the “co-ops” idea. Co-ops were how health care used to be handled, but the government & the AMA had them shut down. Add in the corporation-favoring loophole in the “new deal” wage controls & fast forward several years, and now co-ops are considered a “moderate” alternative (as long as they’re created by the government) to address a problem created by having screwed over co-ops in the first place. A common example used in mainstream Left complaints against the co-op idea is that Blue Cross could qualify as one under the proposed rules. Well, what’s that say about the ones making the rules?

    The total lack of public criticism by people who know what they’re talking about pisses me off. At one point I actually suggested to Sheldon Richman half-jokingly that if the MSM is going to give attention to anyone with a gun outside an event then he should strap up his favorite firearm & go protestin’…

  3. Pingback: Psychopolitik 2.0 » While we’re on the subject…

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