Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Insuring European Equality

They say never start with an apology, and you probably think an apology unlikely in general from someone who appears so confident in his own views' veracity. However, I must start by apologising for not blogging for a little bit. Clearly still in the grips of some slight post traumatic stress over my screaming baby flight, I have been a little unattentive of my blog. My newspaper cuttings, stored hyperlinks and notebook are overflowing with things that vex me, but I have been somewhat lax in putting pen to paper. I shall blame work, which is easy (blaming it, not doing it), and indeed is going to take me away for another couple of days now, so you may have to wait until Friday or Saturday for an update on what Law Abiding Citizen thinks of the world. Oh dear, talking about oneself in the third person; I must have let the recent 50% increase in followership go to my head. Oh, and I'm not apologising for the title; it's not a typo, it's a crap pun, but it's late and nothing rhymes with union ... you'll see.

So, pseudo-apology over, onto the important news of the day. More important than Libyan unrest, or gay cricketers, today a medium length one on the wonderful bilge currently being spewed forth from the courts. I am not refering to the ruling that a couple who hold faith-based opinions that homosexuality is wrong cannot foster children. I like to steer clear of religion in general, not just because I don't profess to know a huge amount about most faiths but also because it appears more trouble to get into it all than it is worth. A devil's advocate might be inclined to ask, though, whether this ruling refers to Christian views on homosexuality only (they're getting a bit of a public shallacking for their views in this particular area it seems - gay weddings in churches etc). It's just that the High Court judges decreed that homosexual rights "should take precedence over the rights of Christians in fostering cases", which seems a bit narrow considering there are a couple of other mainstream faiths who don't have the most liberal views on the gay community; public stonings and the like come to mind as slightly more severe than not being willing "to tell a young child that the practice of homosexuality was a good thing" as the couple in the case stated. Are the same standards to be applied within other faith fostering too? Now everyone has their right to be as gay as Mardi Gras or as straight as an arrow, but perhaps the ruling would be more comforting to Christians who feel the country largely built around Christianity is rather turning on it, and not even on just religion in general. So I didn't really steer clear of that one, but you get the point - whichever way the ruling went, shouldn't the judges have referenced the rights of all religions taking or giving precedence to homosexual rights, not just those of Christians?

Anyway, as I said, I'm not talking about that, I am talking about the decree from that fine bastion of nonsense that is the European Court of Justice. I speak, of course, of the ruling that insurers cannot consider gender when deciding premiums. The news item that caught my eye yesterday was about male pensioners losing out as their yearly pension will have to decline to meet women's. The previous difference can be explained by clever people called actuaries who work out the risk of pretty much everything, and therefore the price of insuring it. In short, men die first, so they get fewer bigger payments than their wives who spead their equal pension pot over their longer retirement. Of course, predictions (no doubt accurately) suggest men's pots will go down to meet the women's rather than vice versa.

I cunningly though I would blog today on other ramifications like those for car insurance but it would appear it wasn't that hard a link to make so I shall regurgitate today's news rather than pre-empt it. In short, by re-reading Europe's gender directive which had previously allowed such sensible actuarial work, we have now outlawed gender as any type of base for discrimination. Unfortunately, this is as mad as a box of frogs. This was surely never the idea behind the Charter for Fundamental Human Rights? That is the problem with absolving our own Parliament of any real control over UK law, shifting everything to Europe where a bunch of apparently well-meaning bureaucrats make up poorly-drafted, poorly-worded and poorly-thought out laws which then members of the European judiciary decide to take in the daftest way possible presumably to make a name for themselves.

So, even though young boys crash eleventy million times more than young girls, we shall be seeing the last of Sheilas' Wheels and Diamond for a start. Naturally, as with pensions, I assume all rebalancing will be upwards, so everyone will now pay more. Why stop there? I assume the same Charter is breached by allowing Saga to offer cheap insurance to old people, or probably Odeon for letting them see films on the cheap. While we're at it, let's start training 60 year olds to fly the few remaining aircraft the military have. They may be old and frail and we'll never get the return for investment in training out of them before they retire (non-compulsorily), but it would be unfair to say they couldn't give it a bash. Let's also get children working from age 5 - it gives them great discipline in life and can cut down on families' trainers bill as the children can sew their own. Or perhaps we should enter Lewis Moody and his England rugby pals into the Under-15 Girls' World Cup - they'll almost definitely win.

Now I might have taken that a bit far, but the point is obvious - there are reasons we make decisions related entirely or partly on age or gender. These decisions allow some people to do things, disallow others, create benefits, and deny them. The point, as ever, is that discrimination is just choosing. Unfair discrimination is not choosing on the basis of some characteristic that cannot be helped (age, height, sex, sexuality etc) or even can be helped. Perfectly fair and sensible decisions can easily come this way. It is choosing maliciously because of it, not sensibly - I blogged at length about it here. So here we are again beating the discrimination drum, when really we need to take a step back and use common sense. The problem is, as with so many of these things, it is completely out of our hands. We are at the mercy of the European Union - the next thing you know they'll be giving prisoners the vote... Then again, one presumes they are trying to get onside with a couple of dodgy auditors who might finally sign off the EU's accounts once they get released...

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