The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity. — Shaw
In his essay “The vice of gambling and the virtue of insurance,” author George Bernard Shaw discusses insurance from the perspective of his day. After explaining the virtue of insurance he goes on to show that public financing of insurance is a good thing. He writes:
And when the business of insurance is taken on by the state and lumped into the general taxation account, every citizen will be born with an unwritten policy of insurance against all the common risks, and be spared the painful virtues of providence, prudence, and self-denial that are now so oppressive and demoralizing, thus greatly lightening the burden of middle-class morality. The citizens will be protected, whether they like it or not, just as their children are now educated and their houses now guarded by the police whether they like it or not, even when they have no children to be educated nor houses to be guarded. The gain in freedom from petty cares will be immense. Our minds will no longer be crammed and our time wasted by uncertainty as to whether there will be any dinners for the family next week or any money left to pay for our funerals when we die.
Shaw then continues with a discussion of the British politics of his time:
Yet, as I write, a modest and well thought-out plan of national insurance by Sir William Beveridge (1879-1963), whose eminence as an authority on political science nobody questions, is being fiercely opposed, not only by the private insurance companies which it would supersede, but by people whom it would benefit; and its advocates mostly do not understand it and do not know how to defend it. If the schooling of our legislators had included a grounding in the principles of insurance, the Beveridge scheme would pass into law and be set in operation within a month. As it is, if some mutilated remains of it survive after years of ignorant squabbling we shall be lucky …
Shaw’s observations ring true today.
© William Hungerford – April 2014
The vice of gambling and the virtue of insurance” was published in Shaw’s “Everybody’s Political What’s What,” London, Constable & Co. 1944
It was reprinted in James R. Newman “The World of Mathematics, Vol III,” New York, Simon and Schuter, 1956
You can read Shaw’s essay on-line here: