Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Liberty Means Responsibility

Liberty Mutual, the insurance company previously best known for selling insurance and not making a big deal out of it, has launched a website. Of course, Liberty Mutual already had a website, one of those sedate corporate pages with an "investor relations" button, and a list of industry awards and a photo montage of happy, multiracial people who, presumably, are insured.

Insurance being a boring business, you might think that would be an appropriate website. But as any marketer will tell you, you need to reach out to all your key demographics. Boring people buy a lot of insurance, it's true, but what does have to offer the sanctimonious?

And so The Responsibility Project was born. Featuring the kind of cheesy moralizing that can normally only be found on anti-drug websites, The Responsibility Project provides a space for incredible goody-goodies to meet and swap tips for responsible living. What do we learn, browsing the archives?
  • We learn about a woman who halted a runaway shopping cart before it dented somebody's chrome. Nobody thanked her.
  • We learn about a woman who hand-delivered a dead letter. The door was "slammed" in her face.
  • We learn about a woman who snitched on a timecard cheat. She was "given the cold shoulder."
  • And we learn about a woman who was "fired for telling the truth."
A disgusting combination of self-pity and pride pervades these stories. "Did I do the right thing," they ask?
"Of course you did the right thing," the commenters respond. "We all do the right thing."

Far be it from me to say that people should let their co-workers get away with timecard fraud. But when Liberty Mutual gives them a forum to get together, preen their moral feathers, and egg each other on to ever greater acts of responsibility, they've gone too far. These little insurance companies incarnate might seem like good customers. I'm sure they always lock the gates to their swimming pools, get their chimneys swept yearly, and have more radon detectors than radon atoms in their basements.

But this thing is getting out of control. Do you really want to insure someone who would never leave the scene of an accident? If somebody is "fired for telling the truth," will she pay her premiums on time? It's the timecard cheat, after all, who gets the money; all the snitch gets is a cold shoulder. If The Responsibility Project is right, and virtue is its own reward, whose reward is cash? Not the responsible people, and not Liberty Mutual.


Blogger pjkobulnicky said...

You should read, if you have not already done so, Nick Hornsby's Being Good.

9:47 AM  
Blogger martha m said...

Say it loud!
I'm boring and proud!

10:12 AM  

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