You'll Be Happy to Hear the Revolutionary State Has Seized Everything Except the Insurance Industry


Talk about markets in everything:

I became intrigued by an oddity that I came to think of as the end-of-the-world trade. The trade is the purchase of insurance against what would in effect be the failure of the modern capitalist system. It would take a cataclysm—around a third of the leading investment-grade corporations in Europe or half those in North America going bankrupt and defaulting on their debt—for the insurance to be paid out.

I asked one investment banker what might cause half of North America's top corporations to default. No ordinary economic recession or natural disaster short of an asteroid strike could do it: no hurricane, for example, and not even 'the big one', a catastrophic earthquake devastating California. All he could think of was 'a revolutionary Marxist government in Washington'. That's not a likely scenario, yet the cost of insuring against it had shot up ten-fold. Normally one can buy $10 million of end-of-the-world insurance for between two and three thousand dollars a year. By early last November, the prices quoted were between twenty and thirty thousand, and even then it was difficult to buy in quantity—at least, said the banker, 'not from anyone you trusted'.

Via Ken MacLeod, who comments: "You can insure against the revolution? Who knew?"