Canadian Underwriter

Editorial: The morals of insurance

October 2, 2015   by Jeff Pearce

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I started my media career in radio, working back-to-back for a couple of country music stations. This was before so-called New Country, with lovely Shania Twaining and twanging, and my gawd, it would have been excruciating had I not found the hilarity in the songs. You had titles like “Timber, I’m Falling in Love” and “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses.” So as the whole Ashley Madison thing blows up, I can’t help but think of the Hank Williams classic “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” (The rest of the chorus line goes, “will tell on you.”)

The resulting class-action suit started an interesting conversation in our office. Few folks, after all, have no opinion on adultery, so it raises an intriguing issue: does a morally ambiguous operation like this deserve to have insurance coverage? (And boy, do they need it). You can’t help but detect a certain amount of spiteful glee over Ashley Madison and its customers. Insurance is a form of protection, so the logic of critics is that a policy aids and abets jerk behaviour.

But be careful strolling down that path, because we might have to give up our moral sanctimony in other contexts. Many liberal-minded people disapprove of those creeps—often down in the States—who won’t bake a cake at their patisserie for that nice lesbian couple. Gambling is considered a sin or an addiction by many, but casinos stay open, and in these pages, we learn the interesting risks involved in their coverage.

A legal expert I know has argued to me that K & R insurance, for example, breaks international law outright and is funding terrorism. I can’t agree (and yes, I did some soul-searching, since hey, look where my paycheque comes from). In a kidnapping scenario, families and even companies are victims just as much as the hostage; and yet that lawyer’s argument implies that they are in effect, de facto, accomplices. Only they’re not. Such a rationale might well earn you a slap in the face from anyone waiting for their loved one to return home. People think insurance is a mercenary business, but professionalism is about parking your personal opinions to get a job done.

In that spirit, we’ll stick our necks out and explore the landscape of covering less “respectable” hobbies, behavior and practices in our next issue. My brilliant associate editor Sara Tatelman is mostly responsible for dreaming up a slate of great features; all the more reason for her to occupy this space next time. As for me, I walk the line.

This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.