Wednesday, March 20, 2013

GKC, The Fence, and NARAB

Gilbert Keith (G. K.) Chesterton, the philospher and author, once sagely observed:

"In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."

Which is a rather more elegant way of saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." And if it's not clear whether or not it's "broke," then it behooves us to step back, take a deep breath, and make darned sure before we start "fixing" things.

Case in point: NARAB (National Association of Registered Agents & Brokers).

As we discussed the other day, this is a case of one proposed organization supplanting an existing, fully functional one, with no obvious answer to the question "cui bono?" [literally: "where's Sonny's key?"] The answer isn't immediately apparent, but there are clues:

"Strong support for legislation that would [create NARAB] was voiced today at a Senate hearing by officials representing the insurance industry’s primary agent and broker trade associations ...  the Insurance Retirement Institute, which represents life insurers who sell tax-advantaged products, released a study  ... indicating that maintaining state insurance licenses across multiple jurisdictions is a regulatory obstacle that may impede the sale of retirement income products."

Ah-hah! So the point of this little excercise becomes more clear: to facilitate sales of insurance products. In general, of course, I'm all for that - after all, it's how I make a living (well, apart from the mad, mad blog money). But here's what gives me pause: where's the opposition to this? Surely there must be, else why is it NARAB II? Why was it turned down the first time?

In cases like this, I think it's wise to admonish: Don't just do something, stand there!
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