Random Quote #85 topic: bierce-devil, The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce

INSURANCE, n. An ingenious modern game of chance in which the player
is permitted to enjoy the comfortable conviction that he is beating
the man who keeps the table.

INSURANCE AGENT: My dear sir, that is a fine house -- pray let me
insure it.
HOUSE OWNER: With pleasure. Please make the annual premium so
low that by the time when, according to the tables of your
actuary, it will probably be destroyed by fire I will have
paid you considerably less than the face of the policy.
INSURANCE AGENT: O dear, no -- we could not afford to do that.
We must fix the premium so that you will have paid more.
HOUSE OWNER: How, then, can _I_ afford _that_?
INSURANCE AGENT: Why, your house may burn down at any time.
There was Smith's house, for example, which --
HOUSE OWNER: Spare me -- there were Brown's house, on the
contrary, and Jones's house, and Robinson's house, which --
HOUSE OWNER: Let us understand each other. You want me to pay
you money on the supposition that something will occur
previously to the time set by yourself for its occurrence. In
other words, you expect me to bet that my house will not last
so long as you say that it will probably last.
INSURANCE AGENT: But if your house burns without insurance it
will be a total loss.
HOUSE OWNER: Beg your pardon -- by your own actuary's tables I
shall probably have saved, when it burns, all the premiums I
would otherwise have paid to you -- amounting to more than the
face of the policy they would have bought. But suppose it to
burn, uninsured, before the time upon which your figures are
based. If I could not afford that, how could you if it were
INSURANCE AGENT: O, we should make ourselves whole from our
luckier ventures with other clients. Virtually, they pay your
HOUSE OWNER: And virtually, then, don't I help to pay their
losses? Are not their houses as likely as mine to burn before
they have paid you as much as you must pay them? The case
stands this way: you expect to take more money from your
clients than you pay to them, do you not?
INSURANCE AGENT: Certainly; if we did not --
HOUSE OWNER: I would not trust you with my money. Very well
then. If it is _certain_, with reference to the whole body of
your clients, that they lose money on you it is _probable_,
with reference to any one of them, that _he_ will. It is
these individual probabilities that make the aggregate
INSURANCE AGENT: I will not deny it -- but look at the figures in
this pamph --
HOUSE OWNER: Heaven forbid!
INSURANCE AGENT: You spoke of saving the premiums which you would
otherwise pay to me. Will you not be more likely to squander
them? We offer you an incentive to thrift.
HOUSE OWNER: The willingness of A to take care of B's money is
not peculiar to insurance, but as a charitable institution you
command esteem. Deign to accept its expression from a
Deserving Object.


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