Home > Current Events > An anecdote and a question

An anecdote and a question

A friend of a friend works for a legal aid organization in a non-marquee position. Let’s say for the sake of argument that he works for a group that offers something like a legal insurance product in the form of a subscription, but only for a narrow range of services related to a potentially politically charged parenting decision, like say home-schooling. Let’s just say.

I am a big fan of home-schooling as a concept. I believe parents have certain educational obligations to their children; that American public schooling is at best a mixed bag; and I’ve met some stellar products of home-schooling experiences. In practice there are problems with home-schooling, and I don’t always feel I have well-informed opinions pro or con; I know I’m tempted to compare the best elements of great home-schooling with the worst elements of bad public schooling. Etc. Let’s just say I think home-schooling at bare minimum serves its role in the American primary and secondary schooling ecology.

But the concept of offering legal insurance to home-schoolers has always struck me as odd: the people who offer the product are lawyers, businessmen, and activists; the buyers of the product tend to be a mix of the earnest, the pure at heart, the backward, the paranoid, and the control freaks. This looks like a relationship ripe for exploitation of the amateurs by the professionals.

Recently our friend was visiting his friend and asked how the legal aid society made money; in particular, how they could offer legal services, which tend to be expensive and bespoke, when their premiums are relatively low and their product line fairly simple.

“Well,” he said, “it’s mostly a matter of marketing, and most of what we’re selling is fear.” The key to any insurance product, after all, is estimating risk, distributing that risk, and setting the price high enough to cover cost of production, including salaries.

The obvious question of course is whether it is ethical to behave this way. And not in the usual sense of whether the legal profession would consider it disbarmentworthy, but rather whether a Christian should treat another Christian this way. I’m going to leave mostly unexamined questions of whether Christians should buy insurance products, or whether they’re necessarily some modern post-Christian abomination, and overlook the questions that arise regarding the particular home-schoolers involved.

I think I would put it most plainly as follows: should a Christian systematically frighten another Christian for profit?


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