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Friday, Mar. 22, 2002
This is one of those days when running a small business actually feels like you own a business and not an 18 hour a day free-for-all. Because (hold the noisemakers) the insurance man cometh. This afternoon.

This is an annual event, and those of you who run offices are well familiar with the scene. If you have Workers Comp insurance, you will see the stooped and gnarly visage of your insurance person once a year, oh yes. They seep in like rodents, peer over your payroll, and determine how far to put the hot fork in you next time around. It sickens and depresses me, the entire charade that is insurance.

Here's what two guys in a small corporation pay for insurance in a year:

Workers Comp: $3,600
Two commercial vehicles: $2,400
Warehouse and Liability: $1,300
the spring WC adjustment: $600

Yup, nearly eight grand. Have we had any claims? Are you kidding? We can't afford to.

Here's how insurance came into being. Two Greeks were haggling over the shipment of some cows from Greece to Rome. One Greek says, "Well, suppose the boat sinks and all the cows drown. How do I ever get my cows back, seeing as how it wasn't my fault that Horatio steered the boat into that rock after he'd been up all night dipping into the wine coolers?"

The second Greek, being a shifty and enterprising sort of lad, says, "Okay. Let's suppose that happens. Tell you what. You give me 50 drachmas now, and if the cows drown I'll give you 500 to buy new ones. But if they make it all the way to Rome I get to keep the 50."

The first Greek, nervous about Horatio's steering and sobriety, figures it's a pretty good deal, but negotiates the fee down to 30 drachmas. Both Greeks walk away figuring they've done pretty well (until, of course, the second Greek tries to get his lawyer to write up the whole deal but that's another story).

Think for a minute about where we are. The insurance industry gets your 30 drachmas and the cows arrive safely. Before the ship ever leaves port they've got the 30 in an investment account of some hot tech stock. By the time the cows arrive safely, the account is up to 40. They then turn around and hit you with an additional fee of 10 drachmas because you didn't have a safety bell around each cows neck, as was approved as law by Congress last year (didn't we tell you? Hell yes we did, in that 900 page manuscript that you neglected to have your lawyer read). So now after selling each cow and realizing a profit of 160, they are set to collect a quarter of it from you.

For doing nothing at all.

Or I could go to Vegas and drop my forty drachmas and I might get a free drink out of it. I might even win money if the moons are aligned properly.

Scams, schemes and hands-down-the-pants looting. Pilferage. Gambling. Insurance. All the same thing.

Now I know that some of you might be employed by the insurance industry and you're hauling yourself up on some OSHA approved soapbox right about now, but think about it. How is insurance any different than outright legalized theft?

If it were a moral industry, my insurance company would give me back some of my money after a year in which I had no claims. Sure, they can keep a little taste to pay for their monolithic buildings and the bloated salaries of their administrators. I'm not altogether opposed to that. But why not sock it to the bums that run up huge expenses in loss due to their own Horatio's who run ships into rocks? You think they do that? They don't, and therein lie's the crime. It definitely smacks of communism, this sharing of deficits across the board.

Somebody dropped the ball on this a long time ago.

What really gets my giggling fit going is when they tell me I'm in good hands. Or that they're on my side.

I must be. Otherwise, why would they send somebody over to service the account this afternoon?

Awfully nice of them to feel so anxious over our welfare.

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