The Odds and the Difference.

The Odds and the Difference.

The opinion promulgated by David A. Wells, says our friend the Commercial Bulletin, of Boston, that the excess of fire losses this year over last, about $25,000,000, is undoubtedly in large degree the result of incendiarism contingent on hard times, charmingly illustrates the difference between opinions of a man who, with no practical acquaintance or knowledge of the subject, sets himself up as an oracle, and those who have a business experience in that line. Against Mr. Wells’s ipse di.xii the intelligent reader will set the opinions of underwriters, who, it goes without saying, have a particular interest in the matter. These gentlemen do not wholly concur in Mr. Wells’s conclusion. For instance, Mr. Beddall, U nited States manager of the Royal Insurance Company, which company is among the great leaders in the line, has rather a favorable opinion of hard times than otherwise as a result of his experience, and one of the principal underwriters and company managers of this city expressed the belief that when people begin to fail the incentive to incendiarism largely diminishes. When firms are going down on every side failure ceases to be disgraceful (if it ever is nowadays), and it is much easier and more safe to compound with easy-going creditors than to run the risk of the penalties for arson.

Again, the insurance companies do not pay more than the market value, at the date of the lire, of the goods destroyed, so that a falling market does not present any special inducement to the storekeeper to sell out to the insurance companies. It is rather in kiting times, when everything is on an inflated basis and nominally prosperous, that the hazard of incendiarism attains its maximum.

As a matter of fact the abnormal increase of the fire loss is generally thought to be chargeable to electricity. So many destructive fires have occurred in large wholesale stores which were considered excellent risks, containing no hazardous stocks, but to the occupants of which a fire meant loss, that no conclusion is left but to ascribe the mysterious fires in these structures to the subtle fluid which man has learned to harness but not to drive.

In passing we may observe that Mr. Wells appears to be no more successful in formulating his theories regarding insurance than he is in tsriff matters, though unfortunately in the latter case he has so far impressed the country with the wisdom of his meditations that a terrible business and industrial depression has resulted from the attempt to put his vagaries in practice.

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