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How Our Days Became NumberedRisk and the Rise of the Statistical Individual$
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Dan Bouk

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226259178

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226259208.001.0001

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Valuing Lives, in Four Movements

Valuing Lives, in Four Movements

Chapter:
(p.147) Six Valuing Lives, in Four Movements
Source:
How Our Days Became Numbered
Author(s):

Dan Bouk

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226259208.003.0006

This chapter structures its narrative around a sales pitch written by the composer and insurance agent Charles Ives. Ives’ pitch used the science of traditional life insurance prediction to win over possible applicants and also tried to convince applicants that their financial and biological lives could be understood through probability. Most importantly, Ives explained his method in terms of offering a scientific method for valuing a life. In counterpoint to Ives’ pitch, the chapter offers two variations on the theme of valuing lives in 1920s America. One centers on Oscar Rogers and New-York Life’s championing of the numerical method for valuing individual lives in terms of risk factors. It explains the system, but also the doubts that actuaries and medical directors fostered about it, were it ever used outside of life insurance (as eventually occurred through the efforts of the Life Extension Institute). The second variation follows Louis Dublin and Alfred J. Lotka as they construct a means for valuing lives in dollars and debate the possibility of using those values to justify public health interventions. Eventually as their values became popular, the two men backed away from using them outside the context of valuing a man to his family.

Keywords:   Alfred J. Lotka, Charles Ives, Louis Dublin, Oscar Rogers, numerical method, valuing, risk factors, Life Extension Institute, New York Life

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