(Week 14 - Friday, Nov. 14)
The essence of insurance agency is the formation of a pool of money into which people make a contribution, and from which they can expect to receive compensation to cover the financial cost of a potentially catastrophic loss of life, limb or property. These funds are generally managed by corporations. This means, supposedly, that such businesses have been issued a corporate charter by the society they supposedly serve to perform this specific function for the benefit of that society. As long as what transpires stays within these bounds, everything is very upfront, straightforward and transparent. The function for which the agency was formed is perfectly legitimate, and the social order that chartered it is well served.
Over time, this has been less-and-less the case. The premium payments which people make have been dedicated less to protecting them from loss, and more to forming pools of capital out of which financial speculators gamble with their money. This is done in the name of "investing" their premiums to help defray their cost, but in reality it is a withholding of policyholders money under deceptive pretenses, which is then used to buy up the increased quantity of "debt" paper that the public (including the company's clientele) is obliged to take on due to the decreased consumer buying power that is caused by the very withholding of that money.
Understood in this way, this widespread mode of doing business by the insurance industry can be seen, not only as a matter of questionable business ethics, but also as a practice with monetary implications. To put it succinctly, insurance companies have become financial purveyors on behalf of their stockholders at the expense of their policyholders and the public at large.
The question then becomes, what can be done about it? The obvious answer may seem to be more regulation, but this does not get at the root of the problem, which is that within a monetary system in which money is borrowed into circulation at "interest" from private banks, there exists a virtual financial imperative for that "money" itself to earn "interest" to cover the "interest" cost of maintaining it in circulation. It is very difficult for a person in a position of fiduciary trust to justify doing otherwise.
If regulations governing the insurance industry were put into effect which mandated that they maintain the monies collected through premiums as idle (non-invested) pools of capital, then that in itself would constitute a diminishing of the money supply which would have to be made up for with more borrowing by the nation as a whole, whether privately or through government. This is a catch-22 that executives of the insurance industry are not realistically in a position to do anything about by themselves (whether they realize the nature of their dilemma, and would be inclined to do anything about it is another matter). For the most part they are playing the game the only way they can see to play it.
The solution for the problem needs to come from society as a whole through its political process. The key is for the People to direct their government to reclaim their rightful money creation franchise from the private banking system. The initial steps in that process would be to repeal the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, purchase the outstanding stock of the Fed from the member banks who are holding it, and convert its resources and employees to the task of facilitating issuance of public money under the direction of the U.S. Treasury.
The Treasury would thereby gain the ability to maintain a quantity of currency in circulation that is calculated with precision to meet the needs of commerce for the nation. If one of those needs is to maintain an extra margin of money in circulation so that a certain amount is available to lie "un-invested" in pools of capital required to underwrite insurance policies, that is not a problem, as the increment of funds so designated can be issued at virtually no cost simply by adjusting the level of money supply.
The amount of capital needed to underwrite insurance policies is in the national aggregate considerable, even under the strictest interpretation of the requirements of the business. As such, it represents a great sum of money upon which, within the current system, someone is obliged to make "interest" payments just to keep it available for that purpose. To "invest" such funds, then, can seem to be the responsible option, the fact that this is in the larger picture monetarily self-defeating notwithstanding.
The very existence of such an "investment" opportunity attracts financial players who are not necessarily concerned about the ethics or logic of the way insurance companies do business, but are simply looking for a way to make money with money. Through the ownership of insurance company stock, they can make their demands and reap their reward. Whatever the case, insurance executives are effectively pressed into being agents for "investors" seeking a "profit" through the control of their policyholders' excess premium payments.
With the establishment of a system in which money is issued publicly, this seeming fiscal imperative (in the case of good-faith insurance agency), or opportunity (to the financial speculator) is effectively removed. This is because whatever amount of money was needed to be tied up in pools of insurance capital could be made up for quite readily by letting the level of the money supply rise as a matter of public policy.
Insurance companies could then be limited to being compensation pool managers by restrictions written into their corporate charters. As businesses, this need not be experienced as an arbitrary limitation, because it would allow them to focus on the crux of their task; or as a competitive hardship, because other companies working in the field would be obliged to observe the same boundaries. Their operations would be simplified, their costs lowered, and, I can imagine, the burdens of management greatly relieved. The net contributions through premium payments, and payouts for claim satisfaction could be tracked through a transparent public accounting. The company's customers and the public at large would be well served, and, I suggest, there would never have arisen a need for any massive "bailout". I wonder if the executives at AIG would agree.
The complete set of columns from this series is posted at the following websites.