If you have a benefits package that includes any kind of insurance at all, or if you drive a car or have a boat and boat insurance, you owe your protection, and the need to pay for it, to the Chinese. Believe it or not, that’s where the insurance industry, in all of its insanely large glory, got its start.
It all started with rice farmers and merchants who would travel down the often perilous river rapids of mainland China to deliver their goods to market. Because the loss of a boat and its cargo could spell disaster for anyone, the travelers came up with an idea of devising a system where the risk would be shared by everyone.
It was virtually guaranteed that some boats were going to capsize and lose their cargo on the trip, but by banding together and sharing the risks and profits, each of the merchants minimized their potential losses. If a particular merchant’s boat capsized, the remaining merchants would give him a share of their profits, and sometimes even cover the expense of a new boat. This revolutionary idea came about in the 3rd Century BC. That’s about 2,300 years ago. And you thought boat insurance was a new thing.
The idea took root, and appears to have spread west through Babylonia and into the Greek and Roman Empires. Life and health insurance came into being in the Graeco-Roman period.
Of course, when most of us think about boat insurance, Chinese merchants are the farthest thing from our minds, unless you happen to be in the Chinese boat trade. What we want to know is that if someone steals our boat, or if we hit a rock and sink it while we’re out bass fishing, we’re going to be able to replace it.
Next time you visit your agent, break out the old Chinese abacus and make sure that the amount of coverage you have is going to be enough to do what you want it to do, if you should have an accident. All too many boat owners are unpleasantly surprised to find out that their coverage was not what they thought it was. Unfortunately, whether you’re a Chinese merchant or a bass fisherman from the Louisiana bayou, when your boat is lying at the bottom with a hole in it, it’s too late to make sure you have the coverage you thought you had.
Photo via ansik