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Thursday, 3 March 2011

EU Directives

Today, something happened that I found ferociously unsettling.

As I have mentioned before, I read a lot of newspapers. I mostly read papers I am likely to become enraged by, although even with that as my intention, I still have to avoid The Guardian - I am looking for material for this blog, not a fucking social conscience or an aneurysm (both of which are near the top of my "do not want" pile, along with a Prius, a job as a social worker in the Liverpool slums and an anthology of poetry by the homeless that has appeared in the Big Issue - this is why I can't read The Guardian).

The trouble is, if you read newspapers that you hate, very occasionally you will read something there that you agree with. And that makes you question everything. It happened to me today with The Daily Express, and I have been a babbling, confused mess ever since.

The Daily Express has forged a campaign to try and petition David Cameron to hold a referendum in May on whether or not Britain should stay in the EU - tying it in with a referendum on alternative voting (which I don't think anyone much understands about). They believe that this would encourage a far greater voter turn out. I agree. Undoubtedly - tag a whopper of an issue like that on to a minnow that nobody knows or cares a great deal about? You don't have to be a master of political forecasting to predict that that will have a positive effect on voter turn out.

So I agreed with that bit, fine, but that bit is a no brainer.

What I also agreed with, was their reasoning on why this referendum would be such a good idea, and, crucially, why the decision the public should make is to back out of the EU.

This is a huge topic, and I'm not going to get into the myriad reasons why I don't like my country being part of what The Express rather sensationally call the European "Superstate". Not right now, anyway, because it's Thursday, and I have to go to a pub quiz down my local, so I don't have time. That beer money isn't going to win itself, kids. So, slightly nerdy social commitments notwithstanding, the focus of today's rant is on one particular directive from Brussels, which was brought in last week and which is a steaming pile of chemically pure bullshit.

Basically, they have decreed, as is their wont, that insurance companies are not allowed to discriminate between men and women when calculating premiums. OK, so that sounds like quite a boring thing to get all spleeny about, but stick with me.

Insurance, as an industry, has at its core the concept of risk. Essentially, the more risk there is of them having to pay out, the more they will charge for a policy. It has ever been thus.

It's a simple concept, but the models and software (yeah, I know, risk management, software, this is all as riveting as fuck) that are used to calculate this stuff are complex and worth millions. Massive amounts of data are used to profile where risk is higher, and this process, by its very nature, is discriminatory. You can analyse whether a young person is more likely to claim on their car insurance than an older person, or whether a woman is likely to live longer than a man, and you can put a person's details up against this data to work out how much risk insuring them with a given insurance product represents. What you can't do, is predict how much of a risk insuring a person represents if you aren't allowed to consider anything about them that makes them different from any other person.

Some companies specialised in discriminatory insurance, which enabled them to offer better premiums to say, female drivers, or the over 50's. This allowed the market to be competitive and products to be tailored to clients' specific needs - commercially, this was a better deal for everybody.

But no. The EU is not happy to admit that anybody is different from anybody else. You can't have a product tailored to your specific needs, because your needs must be the same as every other human being's needs, because everybody is the same and equal and that's how the world will become a better place.

Bullshit. If an insurer cannot analyse whether you are a man or a woman, they will have to charge you the premium for the group most statistically risky, just to be on the safe side, or they will be royally fucking themselves. So theoretically, just about everybody would see their premiums go up. Good news for the insurers? No, because they can't innovate in their products and can essentially only offer the exact same thing as their competitors.

This effectively means that by way of some meddling by a council of people from other countries into something that nobody was particularly offended by, everything is just a little bit more fucked than it was before, and it's very hard for me to see who exactly is benefiting. This is the worst thing about the stuff the EU imposes, it's not like there is even any fucking point to it for anyone on any side. It's just anal, PC bossiness for the sake of anal, PC bossiness.

And so, for the first time ever, I am on the side of the paper that still prints at least one story per day about Lady Di. Strange times call for strange alliances, people.

As mentioned yesterday, you can now follow me on the dreaded Twitter if that floats your metaphorical boat, at Now I'm going to the pub.


  1. There is no reason I should have to pay more for my insurance than a woman of the same age/situation.

    Grow up and learn to love our new found freedom to not be discriminated against.


  2. I'm not saying you should have to pay more than a woman, I am saying that under the new rules NOBODY will be paying less, male or female, young or old.

    I don't see that we have any new found freedom, as I said I can't see how this benefits anyone, which is why I wrote this piece in the first place, but I would be interested to hear why you think that we do - please let me know.

  3. You can't read the economist and support withdrawal from the EU. They don't go hand in hand. To support withdrawal from the EU it is recognized by pretty much everyone in the world of academics and political science, that you are to put it simply, a moron. Hence why the Daily Conspiracy Express is supporting the campaign.

  4. I can read whatever I like, and actually, the reason I linked to this article from the Economist was because I thought people who read it might be interested in the whole gender directive from a financial and business perspective.

    I'm not in the world of academics or political science (although I wish I was, what with how rock 'n' roll it sounds...), but I don't agree that everyone who wants to back out of Europe is a moron. In any case, I assume from your spelling of "recognized" that you are American, so it is probably easier for you to look at this whole issue dispassionately than it is for an English person.

  5. I have very little interest in how much women pay for insurance.

    I am just happy now they are not getting a better deal than their male equivalents.

    It is a freedom, just because it does not affect you directly does not mean it should not be welcomed.

    It is my opinion that women have been put first, above men in many ways for the last 13 years. You still see today news articles with sentences such as "not enough women in managerial roles" so women are employed in these roles not for their skills or intellect, but out of a sense of obligation or fear of breaking employment laws. This must stop.

    You also say there is no way in which we will benefit, however if insurance companies are now to charge women on average £100 more. Then that money collectively will go to slightly lower the insurance for everyone's insurance.

    Because insurance works like that don't they? they pass on increased profits to their customers? lol. no.. insurance companies charge whatever they damn well want.

    The fact is I know I will never see deceased insurance for any reason so women should share the same burden.

  6. Anonymous, I agree with you, essentially (see my article on quotas for female politicians), and I am not saying women should necessarily pay less, what I am saying is that a business that insures people should be able to make its own decisions about risk, based on the models and data it has access to, without the EU waving its hand and for no obvious reason affecting the way they are allowed to operate and therefore there ability to profit and to offer better products to their clients.

    Because of this directive men won't pay any less, make no mistake. Maybe women will pay more, which I guess is on paper fairer, but it isn't actually any better for any individual person, male or female.

  7. I understand your argument and I realise (especially with insurance) that it might make no different. However I still believe age and sex are a big no no.

    I could come to agreement with you if the statistics were done independently and not bias in favour of the insurance companies.

    I wonder how this ruling will affect the government, as there is clear age discrimination in pension payouts for example.

  8. This was purely about insurance though. Sure, when it comes to things like employment, discrimination is a bad thing, but it is ridiculous to remove it from insurance risk calculations - obviously a 95 year old should have to pay more for life insurance than a 25 year old, just like a smoker will have to pay more than a non smoker.

    I'm not actually sure if or how it affects government pay outs such as the state pension, that's an interesting point.