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Editorial: Barricades and Premiums

And now a few quiet words about riots. First, I don’t understand ’em.

Years ago, I sat in a convention centre lecture hall while a certain business figure said openly words along the lines of “We’ve got to find a way to circumvent the governments of Europe so that we can reduce transaction times!” Seriously. Meanwhile, mobs of people were downtown, trashing Starbucks, McDonalds and other major monikers of the supposed Capitalist Overlords, with the result that capital went into the pockets of window repairers, while capital went out of the pocket of the poor shmuck who depended on that McJob to feed his kids. I sat thinking, “Jeez, if the idiots only knew they’re not even in the right postal code for their enemy.”

This was the first riot I saw that was about nothing. Fast-forward to the Stanley Cup Riots in Vancouver in 2011 (still about nothing), and more recently, we’ve seen Ferguson burn (but mostly out of rage, rather than spiteful intent for destruction). Personally, I don’t get it, because even the French of 1789 knew you don’t burn your own house, you go burn the house of the rich so-and-so who won’t raise wages and who has more brie than you. Anyway, someone posed an interesting question to me: At what point do insurers say,

“Enough of this crap,” and refuse to cover urban centres where all hell breaks loose after a sporting event or where anarchist-types use the downtown as their personal funhouse?

The reflexive answer is to say that of course, retail chains as private corporations have their own coverage. Okay, what about the cop cars that get set on fire? They’re municipal property. What about the damage done to lampposts (it happens) or transit lines (it happens) or when a mob tears through a public park?

Earlier this year, I noted how insurers now have to treat active shooters the way they consider weather catastrophes. The Occupy Movement accomplished absolutely nothing tangible (besides a massive networking class for Che Guevara hipsters), but it did show the world that downtown centres can be venues for violent political spectacle. Since these actions usually get launched to protest major political or economic summits, this means that top-name insurance companies may now have it in their power to dictate a “Not here, you won’t” policy. And what could that financial clout mean politically? Hmmm…

Don’t kid yourself. We can easily have a Ferguson up here, so maybe it’s time to ask these questions before we hear the chants and watch the bricks fly.

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Copyright 2014 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the November 2014 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine

Transcontinental Media G.P.