Bartlett Appears Exclusively in the Texas Observer EGGHEADS SINGLED OUT Let those flatter who fear, it is not an American art. JEFFERSON It’s That Time of Year AGAIN The principle that a man should pay the fair cost of his insurance is beyond any challenge. Leaning heavily on this principle for moral justification, the State Insurance Board has administratively proclaimed into law a “safe driving” insurance plan which will not even approach fair play. The manner in which the \\yell meaning insurance commissioners have reasoned themselves into this corner, from which they propose to shake up insurance rates for 85 percent of the state’s automobiles without any responsibility for injustice to individuals, is a study of the abuse of administrative authority which should concern liberals much more than it will, as a matter ff of course, concern conservatives. We have long resented, as many have resented, the sneaky way in which the legislature coerces people into buying automobile insurance without actually requiring them to do so. Of course it would be unconstitutional to require the insurance; to effect the unconstitutional purpose, the law uses the police power to deprive people of their drivers’ licensesoften, therefore, of their livelihoodsif they have an accident and cannot then measure up to unreasonably strict financial requirements. Technically, this insurance is not mandatory; actually, it is coerced insurance, and for all ethical considerations it is mandatory. The coerced aspect of automobile insurance is the bug under the chip of the commission’s new schedule of rates. In essence, the commission is granting a one-fifth premium reduction to people without moving traffic violations or accidents on their driving records for the last three years. On the other hand, 27 percent of the state’s cars will be more expensive to insureanywhere from 20 to 100 percent more expensive because their drivers have had moving traffic violations or accidents in the last three years. Is this ex post factoa retroactive law, penalizing drivers for offenses committed before the law became effective Friday? Is it double jeopardy, fining drivers a second time, in the guise of increased insurance premiums, for traffic offenses for which they have already paid their debt to society? Where does the Insurance Commission suddenly get the authority to enact penalties for traffic violations? These are reasonable questions. And the commissioners thought of them, too. They reasoned it out very neatly. Insurance, you see, \(they exsons in a “class” with the same kinds of characteristics affecting the probabilities of insurance losses. These persons agree to pay enough into a plan to guarantee then!, all against loss. The new rating-schedule is not ex post facto, it is not double jeopardy, because insurance premiums are not fines, not penalties ; they are payment for a service the drivers are buying. They forgot that automobile insurance in Texas is, for all practical purposes, mandatory, a n d that therefore, from the point of view of equity instead of the technicalities, they are, by requiring the insurance and then hiking the price because of traffic violations, passing an ex post facto law and placing citizens in double jeopardy. Another serious objection must be urged. We know a lady who has had her car seven years, has paid almost $1,000 insurance on it, and has never gotten a traffic ticket, but one night backed into a parked car, and paid the $30 damages. This is all she has gotten for her $1,000 insurance in seven years. But she had an accident involving more than $25, so she is charged two points, which means, roughly, an extra penalty, in her insurance premiums, of $60 to $75 over the next three years. Under the plan’s rules, another person can be involved in a wreck totally demolishing two cars and killing four of five peopleand fall under exactly the same two-point penalty! When we asked the chairman of the Insurance Commission, Penn Jackson, what about this problem of individual unfairness, he replied : “If you take an individual and say it’s not just to him, why, that would apply to any classification system …. That would violate every principle of insurance.” Commissioner Harrison observed that statistically, people with such and such records are likely to have so many accidents in such and-such a time, and the rate is set by classes, not by individual cases. But people are not statistics. When the state in effect requires car insurance and varies its cost according to “safe driving,” it has a responsibility for fairness to individuals and cannot hide behind “the principles of insurance.” The state either has undertaken to vary rates on the basis of individual fairness, or a program has been launched under which the people, good drivers and careless ones, will chafe and rebel for many, many years. We recommend : 1.That the Board hold their horses, and give up the retroactive idea, proposing, instead, to put a program into effect on the basis of driving experience in the next three years. This would be just as good in stimulating careful driving, and the sound tradition against penalizing people for offenses which were not offenses when they were committed would not be offended. 2.That the program, itself, be refined much more than it is, with the principle of individual fair play replacing the indefensible “classifica WASHINGTON The notion has somehow gotten abroad’ that there is something suspect about American college students. It’s not that they cheat on their exams or grow maudlin about Charles Van Doren or have lost interest in babysitting for the professor’s wife. The general idea is that their loyalty to this country is in doubt. And they must say. under oath that they are “loyal” or they will not be permitted to receive any federal scholarship funds. If the idea were not so insulting it would be laughable. When I was a youngster in college we did have a Wide variety of radicals ; some were noisy “revolutionaries” who said they were communists and some were sensitive souls who called themselves socialists. We also had a number of other rebels who belonged to no particular group but were pretty fierce in their criticism of our “decadent” society. Compared to those days, the present generation of rock-and-rollers, beatniks, and young Republicans are a tame bunch, indeed. It’s hard to find a full-fledged radical on any campus. The communists wiped themselves out and the socialists are rather quiet. Under the National Defense Education Act, which went into effect when the Soviet “sputniks” persuaded us that American education was lagging, no student may accept a government “loan” or “payment” until he : tr … has executed and filed with the Commissioner an affidavit that he does not believe in, and is not a member of and does not support any organization that believes in or teaches, the overthrow of the United States Government by force or violence or by any illegal or unconstitutional methods …” \(This provision was supported by Sen. Johnson and opposed by Sen. Some professional patriots ask, “What’s wrong with taking such an oath ?” Others say “it’s no worse” than the oath you take on a passport application form. Or is it? Let. President A. Whitney Griswold of Yale answer the questioners : “A natural reason for the position of the colleges and universities is that no one enjoys being doubted when everyone else is ‘trusted. Yet this is the way the colleges and universities are made to feel by the disclaimer affidavit. The affidavit originated in the Taft-Hartley Act. … In 1959 it . was-dropped out of the Taft-Hartley Act. This/means that the only recipients of federal benefits to whom .it now applies are students and teachers in colleges and universities.” This makes them feel as if they were receiving “the short end of the stick.” I doubt that the “egghead,” socalled, desires special treatment. It’s simply that he does not feel he deserves worse treatment than, let us say, the oilman who gets that 27 and a half percent depletion allowance, or the farmer who is paid not to raise crops, or the manufacturer who enjoys the benefits of a protective tariff. But, Griswold points out, there is some irony in the oath. The idea was to beat the Russians in the field of science by stimulating federal school aid. The government vas saying to the scholars, “We need youdesperately.” Then it turns around and gives them what, in effect, is a vote of “no confidence.” That’s what passes for statesmanship these days. ROBERT G. SPIVACK Safe 21riving //3 Kateo THE TEXAS OBSERVER e1 47 Published by Texas Observer Co., Ltd. Entered as second-class matter, April 26, 1937, at the Post Office at Austin, Texas, under the Act of March 3, 1879. JANUARY 1, 1960 Ronnie Dugger Editor and General Manager Sarah Payne, Office Manager Published once a week from Austin, Texas. Delivered postage prepaid $4 per annum. Advertising rates available on request. Extra copies 10c each. Quantity prices available on orders, EDITORIAL and BUSINESS OFFICE: 504 West 24th St., Austin, Texas. Phone GReenwood 7-0746. HOUSTON OFFICE: 1010 Dennis, Mrs. R. D. Randolph. We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of man as the foundation of democracy; we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. tion” idea, and that, to this end, the Insurance Board establish an appeals division to which citizens who believe their rates are not fair tinder their circumstances can apply for relief ; and thence, if necessary, to the courts. 3.That the coerced insurance law be reviewed by the legislature when it next meets. 4.That the legislature also assert its rightful authority over an area so vital, to. all the people of the state and, if it sees fit, enact a merit rating program for which the people can then hold someone politically responsible. As a general matter we believe it is a fair idea to charge people more for insurance if they have careless driving records, but if the state is going to require car insurance, it must accept the responsibility for individual fair play in the rates. If the task is too greatthe -state should not have undertaken it.
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