Gregory Sams
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29. A Working Example

I have made much of the ability of society to rise to the challenge of providing for its needs non-coercively when given a chance. I have also sought to convince overcome your fear of the void - to let go of your own inability as an individual to imagine the complex structures that would fill the holes left by the state's ineptitude and eventual decline.

It is not the remit of this book to conceive or predict the structures that will be necessary to replace the state's failing services, but let me take an example from the past which I have already mentioned once or twice. I refer to an industry that would be impossible to imagine if it did not already exist; which provides just the sort of service that we would expect our government to provide. It has done so and managed to usually make a profit at it, since it began some three hundred years ago. It is a different type of organisation from most and does not employ limited liability as a defence against mistakes or incompetence; and, just like the government, it doesn't sell you some easily identified product or service.

Have you guessed it yet or do you take the insurance business so much for granted that you never thought much about it? What insurance actually does is buy your risks, worries and fears from you. Since you view these things as being negative in value, you pay them instead of the other way around. So you can actually buy a product that provides for your family if you die, buys you a new car if the one you spent five years' savings on gets totalled, or supplies top-grade wigs and compensation for any customers going bald with your hair shampoo. You can get cover against it raining on your outdoor event or against a broken nose if you are a supermodel. Incredible service isn't it? And one you buy in the hope that you never have to use it.

This industry didn't develop as a result of any government initiative other than our own natural desire to create social and enterprise structures that help in the governing of our lives on all levels. The insurance industry started at a coffee-house in London called Lloyd's, which was frequented regularly by merchants and shipowners. At some point in the late 17th century one of them, or perhaps Edward Lloyd himself, had the idea that the individuals in the group could get rid of the ever-present risk of personal financial ruin if somehow the group shared the risk. Rather than ask everybody to put something in the pot to cover any eventualities, which might have caused some resistance, they jointly agreed to pay out whatever portion of a risk they shared, only if it came to pass. So that they would hopefully never need to dip into their pockets, a charge was made to each shipowner or merchant based on the value of what was insured and an estimate of the risk. It was a small cost of business since most ships and cargoes did come through.

I will avoid more detail on the wonderful mechanics that enable this industry to maintain enough money to cover the risks they promise to cover, without squandering it all on administration and overheads. I will not dwell on the exceptional cases we read of, when insurers have dishonoured the spirit of their contracts. Like you, I hope they go out of business, and avoid using any company suspected of operating that way. But the insurance industry, the worldwide industry that covers our risks in life, willingly pays out billions every year to enable the rebuilding of lives, homes, factories and farms that have been destroyed by the unpredictable. It is a governmental type of service that works, that evolves to cover new risks, and that manages to do so in a self-sustaining manner without the need to force our money from us. And when they pay a claim we are not made to feel like some supplicant receiving their blessing. The insurance industry is far from perfect - but it continues to survive and evolve by serving a purpose, as does everything else in the natural world. This industry is used as an example specifically because it does just the sort of thing that the state seeks to convince us only it can do.

Today, as we sit around in coffee houses, pubs, think-tanks or boardrooms, discussing the problems facing society, we are most often channelled into a fruitless, head-banging wander down a one-way street. When the discussion turns to subjects like crime, education, health, homelessness or pollution, we end up thinking within the framework of the state. The problem is addressed in terms of the proposed legislation, restrictions and subsidies that are put on the table by either the In Party or the Out party. We sort again and again through the "terminal toolbag" looking for a magic way to make these devices work. This is because we accept the monopoly the state exerts in these areas and somehow expect it to lead us forward rather than hold us back. We must now embrace the alternative option, which is to begin building more structures that are as simple and self-perpetuating as the insurance industry. We do not need to predict or determine exactly the highly developed form they will have assumed with twenty years evolution from the original idea. We can be sure though that as we recognise new needs the solutions will be sought.

I also freely admit that the incredible technological tools now available and the personal powers which they give us, make the self-management of our complex society a much more real and attainable concept today than it may have been a century ago. It is understandable that the existing states of the world fear, and seek to suppress, developments such as the Internet, since the technological freedom to communicate and create a community that is free of bureaucratic control poses a genuine threat to their continued grip upon our world society.
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From the book "Uncommon Sense - The State is Out of Date"
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