I’ve been thinking I’d like to teach a class this fall in writing interactive fiction. The public library doesn’t seem to be interested, so my next thought was to rent classroom space at the local arts center.
This center is in a building owned by the recreation and parks district. The building is leased by the local performing arts organization, a non-profit. Seems like an ideal venue — but there’s a wrinkle. They want me to have $2,000,000 in liability coverage. They have to see a copy of the policy before they’ll rent me the space.
I checked with a local insurance broker. Their business policies are set up for storekeepers and such — people whose businesses run 10 or 12 hours a day, 52 weeks a year. I don’t have that kind of cash flow.
I also don’t have that kind of exposure to risk. A 2-hour class, once a week for three months, is not a very risky proposition. But insurance companies aren’t set up to calibrate their rates for that kind of activity. They’ve got the insurance products they’ve got, and if you want the product, that’s what it costs. $1,500 a year for an entry-level policy. I would gross about $1,500 teaching the class. So I’d be turning over all the proceeds to the stockholders and highly paid executive workforce of the insurance company, while contributing my own time for free.
I’m bummed out about this. As a self-employed person, it’s not bad enough that I have to pay twice as much social security tax as people who have jobs. It’s not bad enough that I have to carry my own health insurance, that I have no retirement plan, or that I get no paid vacation or sick leave. No, I also have to pay exhorbitant insurance rates in order to earn a mere pittance teaching.
There’s something almost creepy about insurance. No, make that “creepy.” Nothing “almost” about it. You buy insurance because you’re betting something awful will happen. The company sells you insurance because they’re betting nothing awful will happen. And of course they have actuaries and statisticians, so they’re making the safe bet. By definition, then, only an idiot would buy insurance. The deck is stacked against you. Except … well, if something bad happens, and you don’t have insurance, then you made a mistake. Your life will be ruined.
And then the government gets into the act. You’re not allowed to drive a car unless you buy insurance. Why is that? I haven’t made a single claim on my auto insurance for 25 years. The only claim I’ve ever made was when a guy rear-ended me in a parking lot, while my car was stationary. So why exactly is it the government’s position that I need car insurance?
But it’s not just cars. Lately there have been rumblings about forcing everyone to buy health insurance. What kind of concrete-pylon-brain thought that one up? Gee, guys, if we could all afford health insurance, we’d go out and buy it! It’s not like we’re sitting around going, “Nah, I don’t feel sick today. I don’t think I need any stinkin’ health insurance.”
I have health insurance, a personal policy with Kaiser. I totally lucked into it — long story, but it would be utterly impossible for me to get coverage as an individual, from Kaiser or anybody else, in the free market. So if you think paying Kaiser $650 every month for almost no services of any kind is a sweet deal, then I’ve got a sweet deal. If I ever have a heart attack, I’ll be glad I’ve been paying them.
They’re betting I’ll stay healthy. They’re betting, in other words, that they’re screwing me. And they have actuaries and statisticians, so it’s a lock. They are screwing me. And I’m smiling, because I have health insurance.
But no place to teach.