Alexis de Tocqueville, in his masterpiece Democracy in America, marveled at how the American people of the 1830s were the most fraternal he had ever encountered. In addition to their political, commercial and industrial associations, he noted that Americans of all ages, dispositions and stations in life would form bonds “of a thousand different types – religious, moral, serious, futile, very general and very limited, immensely large and very minute.”
“In every case, at the head of any new undertaking, where in France you would find the government or in England some territorial magnate, in the United States you are sure to find an association,” de Tocqueville wrote.
Much has changed in the past 175 years, but the modern-day successors to those associations — the fraternal benefit societies — continue to constitute an important part of the American landscape.
In this week’s edition of the FIRE Podcast, R.J. Lehmann, deputy director of The Heartland Institute’s Center on Finance, Insurance and Real Estate, speaks with Joseph Annotti, president and CEO of the American Fraternal Alliance, about the history of fraternal benefit societies as providers of insurance and the potential for an upswing of interest in fraternals given the recession and building resentment of large financial services companies.