This Thing of Theirs

  • June 22, 2023

The old school Italian mafia as portrayed in The Godfather movies had some admirable attributes, among them its rule of omerta – or silence. If you were in the mafia, you did not talk about the mafia with those who were not in the mafia. And if you were not in the mafia, you knew little about its doings, for precisely that reason.  It was la cosa nostra – “this thing of ours.” A code. It probably accounts in part for the popularity of movies like The Godfather. The don was a crook but in his own way, an honorable one.

The insurance mafia is less admirable.

For one thing, it pretends it isn’t a mafia. This is cowardly in addition to being dishonest. “Made men” knew they were gangsters; they were proud of it. It was an honor, among them, to be “made” – the mafia term for someone who was inducted into the organization, with all the rights and privileges, etc. People pretend they work for the insurance mafia; that they are earning an honest living. But this is effronterous on the face of it as no one who uses force to compel people to furnish funds earns what is taken. No self-respecting made man would have the gall – or the lack of stones – to pretend he was just earning a living, like a plumber or electrician. He became a made man precisely to avoid having to work for a living.

But the main point of difference, arguably, is that the old school mafia did its own work – so to speak. It did not rely, simp-like, on the government to do its work – as the insurance mafia does. The various families – e.g., Progressive, State Farm, GEICO – use the dreary bureaucratic apparatus of the state to compel, by law, the people they mulct to hand over money for services they do not want to pay for and which – by dint of being able to leverage the legal apparatus of the government – they are able to force people to pay more for.

How much would you pay to “cover” your vehicle if you knew you were not required to pay anything?

Some people would, of course, pay something.

For the same reason people pay for other things they consider valuable. But only up to a point, beyond which the value exceeds the cost. At which point – if we are not talking about a mafia – the person is free to say no, thanks to whatever the thing is. And the power of that no, thanks is precisely what keeps the cost of things in line with the value of things – as determined by those who buy them.

That is how the market – as opposed to the mafia – works.

Insurance does have value. But being able to say no, thanks is far more valuable. If you cannot say it, then you are dealing with a mafia. The insurance mafia is merely one that has made its activities legal. This is stupendously effronterous. The old school dons were never so brazen.

This is what makes the insurance mafia so despicable. Honest mobsters had to have some balls, for they ran the risk of being arrested and imprisoned – possibly for many years – if they were apprehended by the law. The insurance mafia has succeeded in using the law to persecute the people who attempt to evade its clutches.

The other day, I received in the mail a letter from the DMV – which serves as the enforcement apparatus acting on behalf of the insurance mafia. It concerned my decision to not renew the “coverage” the law says I must buy that I  decided not to, for one of my very old motorcycles, a 1975 Kawasaki (Little Stinker) that I look at more than I ride. I did renew the coverage for my other three bikes, all  “covered” by the same family – Markel American.

I explained to the Markel soldier that I don’t ride the old Kaw and for that reason did not want to pay for “coverage” this year (to save some money back, in order to make up some for the devaluation of the money I still have available to buy things I need, like food, as  opposed to things I do not, such as “coverage” for a bike that just sits).

The soldier – the family – did not practice omerta.

Within weeks, I received the DMV threat letter: “This notice,” it reads, “is to inform you that MARKEL AMERICAN INS. CO” -all raised voice caps and bold type ” has notified DMV of the termination of liability insurance for the registered vehicle described above.”

Italics added.

In plain language, the mafia immediately squealed – to the government – to let its proxy enforcer know that I had failed to buy what the law says I must. “Failure to comply,” the threat letter continues, ” will require DMV to suspend your driver’s license and vehicle license plates.”

In italics for the same reason I would italicize the line of dialogue in the movie, Deliverance spoken by John Voight. “What is it you require of us?” he asked the mountain man holding the shotgun on him.

Those who have seen the movie know what happens next.

But John Voight – and Ned Beatty – had the law on their side, at least in principle. The tables are turned when dealing with the insurance mafia, which hasn’t got the balls to actually hold a shotgun on anyone.

Instead, it notifies the government.

Which then threatens, on behalf of the mafia – like a simp “telling” teacher. No self-respecting mafiaso – old school – would ever do such a thing. Real mafiasos are men – who do their own dirty work – and do not pretend it isn’t.

Such is the difference between the old school mafia and its car insurance analog.

. . .

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