Amongst our most influential citizens, especially those living in the Boston-New York-Washington corridor, there is one thing they have in common: a house in Florida, writes Holman Jenkins, Jr. in the WSJ. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and the now threatening Hurricane Maria, here is Mr. Jenkins on the lack of proper risk pricing through insurance.
This problem many of us once believed could be solved through sensible reform of the federal flood-insurance program plus the development of a global reinsurance industry, some of it based on promising so-called catastrophe bonds.
Now we wonder if it can even be ameliorated. Anyone whose labors take him among America’s distinguished elder statesmen, especially those in the Boston-New York-Washington corridor, discovers that our most influential citizens all have one thing in common: a house in Florida. An unfortunate truth is that the value of their Florida coastal property would plummet if they were made to bear the cost of their life-style choices. A lot of ritzy communities would shrink drastically.
Sun and fun would still attract visitors, but property owners and businesses would face a new set of incentives. Either build a lot sturdier and higher up. Or build cheap and disposable, and expect to shoulder the cost of totally rebuilding every decade or two. Faced with skyrocketing insurance rates, entire communities would have to dissolve themselves or tax their residents heavily to invest in damage-mitigation measures.
From law professors Omri Ben-Shahar and Kyle Logue, in the Stanford Law Review, last year: “We call weather-related catastrophes ‘natural disasters,’ but the losses due to severe weather are the result of a combination of natural forces and often imprudent, shortsighted human decisions induced . . . by questionable government policies.”
Read more from Holman Jenkins here.