The Three Taps

Chapter 1. The Euthanasia Policy

In a sense, though, insurance was but an empirical science until the Indescribable Company made its appearance. The man who is insured with the Indescribable walks the world in armour of proof; those contrary accidents and mortifications which are a source of spiritual profit to the saint, are a source of material advantage to him. No East wind but flatters him with the prospect of a lucrative cold; no dropped banana-skin but may suddenly hurl him into affluence. The chicken-farmer whose hen-houses are fitted with the Company’s patent automatic egg-register can never make a failure of his business. The egg is no sooner laid than it falls gently through a slot, which marks its passage on a kind of taximeter; and if the total of eggs at the end of the month is below the average, the Company pays—I had almost said, the Company lays—an exact monetary equivalent for the shortage. The Company, which thus takes upon itself the office of a hen, is equally ready, when occasion arises, to masquerade as a bee; if your hives are opened in the presence of its representative, you can distend every empty cell with sweet nectar at the Company’s expense. Doctors can guarantee themselves against an excess of panel patients, barristers against an absence of briefs. You can insure every step you take on this side of the grave, but no one of them on such handsome terms as the step which takes you into the grave; and it is confidently believed that, if certain practical difficulties could be got over, the Indescribable would somehow contrive to frank your passage into the world beyond. Wags have made merry at the Company’s expense, alleging that a burglar can insure himself against a haul of sham jewels, and a clergyman against insufficient attendance at evensong. They tell stories of a client who murmured “Thank God!” as he fell down a liftshaft, and a shipwrecked passenger who manifested the liveliest annoyance at the promptness of his rescuers when he was being paid for floating in a life-belt at the rate of ten pounds a minute. So thoroughly has the Indescribable reversed our scale of values here below.