The political economy of regulation: the case of insurance by Kenneth J. Meier

By Kenneth J. Meier

Booklet by way of Meier, Kenneth J.

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Americans routinely insure their lives, their homes, their automobiles, and their health. Without insurance, goods would not be transported, large construction projects would be impossible, and the overall quality of life would decline greatly. Despite the importance of insurance in the daily lives of individuals, people understand the insurance industry about as well as they understand their homeowners' insurance policy. If the industry is mysterious, it is no more so than the politics involving the insurance industry.

Again, such background is necessary to understand that regulatory policies are only a portion of the insurance issues that governments influence. Chapter 4 is a political economy treatment of the history of insurance regulation from colonial times until the late 1970s. Given the separate treatment of lines of insurance by government regulators, providing a smooth flow to this chapter was difficult, although I hope not unsuccessful. Chapter 5 discusses the liability insurance crisis of 1985-1986.

General liability insurance is insurance purchased by businesses or professionals to protect themselves from damage claims made by others. Liability insurance for defective products or facilities is a major part of general liability insurance. This line of insurance was the focus of the 1985-1986 liability insurance crisis (see Chapter 6). For many years, medical malpractice insurance was so insignificant that it was included as part of the general liability line. With the rise in litigation in this area (see Meier and Copeland, 1986), it grew to be a separate line comprising almost 2 percent of property and casualty premiums.

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