HOW TO REDUCE FIRE INSURANCE RATES.
Opposition to the raising of fire insurance rates seems to recur at certain intervals of longer or shorter duration. Just at present it has reached the acute stage, and the cry is that many risks are today paying higher rates than they should for insurance. It is not improbable that such is the case in some instances; yet it must not be forgotten that the insurance companies have lost very heavily during the last two years, and that the four months of 1902 have been no exception to the rule. It is, therefore, only in accordance with business principles that there should be a rise all round, and that this should press so heavily in certain cases that some State legislatures are being called upon to pass laws regulating the rates of insurance. But, suppose such laws to be passed, their operation will simply react upon whatever property owners are policyholders, who, in that case, will either have to pay for the additional burdens laid upon the underwriters or else go uninsured altogether—unless, indeed, they form mutual systems of insurance among themselves, which is not always cither an easy or a safe course to adopt. In any case, they will not even then have struck at the root of the matter. The true remedy against high insurance rales is to lessen the fire loss. That can be done in several ways. One, and not the least difficult, is to take every fire department, paid or volunteer, entirely out of politics. By this means an efficient chief and efficient officers may not only be secured, but also kept in office, and not changed with every change of administration, or to gratify the fickle humors of this or that fire department or community. Another is to appoint fit men, experts, not mere politicians, as State or municipal fire marshals, and, having appointed them, to see that they themselves do their duty and compel their subordinates to do likewise. A third method is to have as heads of the bureau of combustibles men who know what combustibles are, who have a thorough knowledge of the nature of explosives, their storage, and the like, and at the same time show that they are determined to do their duty without fear or favor. A fourth method is to take due care that proper building laws are drawn up, passed, and thoroughly lived up to, especially in business, manufacturing, and congested districts. The last suggestion we would make is for those charged with the government of the community to see that all who are guilty of the crime of arson be vigorously prosecuted and. if convicted, punished with the utmost rigor of the law as offenders not against the insurance compa nies, but against society in general—as criminals to be ranked with wilful homicides, ravishers of women, and wholesale burglars and robbers. By following out such methods with the same exactness and faithfulness to duty as in other countries, the annual loss by fire on this side of the Atlantic would be so materially reduced as to bring about in a very short time an equally material and an endurable reduction in fire insurance rates.