Joseph F. Zimmerman. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010. 196pp. Hardcover. $70.00. ISBN: 9781438433578. Paper. $23.95. ISBN: 9781438433585. eBook format. $70.00. ISBN: 9781438433592.

Reviewed by William Haltom, University of Puget Sound. Email: Haltom [at]


This quirky monograph may interest and profit a specialized, sophisticated readership. A sense of its quirkiness and specialization may be gathered from its third to last paragraph: “The evidence presented herein does not support the following hypothesis presented in chapter 1: An operational federal insurance charter system, similar to the dual charter banking system, provides policyholders and company shareholders greater protection than the current state charter system” (p.133). Although any reader would by that page anticipate that conclusion, I doubt that the reader would ever have imagined the exercise to involve hypothesis-testing. Rather, Joseph F. Zimmerman, in his first chapter, articulates a thesis; then, in succeeding chapters, he amasses evidence to “disconfirm” it. I found that mode of proceeding curious. The reader would by that page also be familiar with the systems of insurance and other terms of the hypothesis, but those terms and that hypothesis are so technical and esoteric that few readers will likely persevere to that page. The abstruse subject and specialized assay would seem amenable less to ersatz experimentation than to arguments about the stakes of this discussion for readers in sociolegal studies or social science. Moreover, inside the dust jacket the publisher reveals the outcome of the gathering and sifting of evidence and arguments.

The curious framing of the monograph does some disservice to the meticulousness with which Zimmerman builds his case against congressional proposals and fashions recommendations that seem superior to recently proposed bills. That case is logically ordered and succinctly rendered. After the first chapter proposes the thesis that will fail to be supported and defines some key terms, the second chapter characterizes states’ regulation of insurance in the second half of the 20th century. The third chapter reports the insurance industry’s perspectives on state insurance regulation as premises or pretexts for calls for congressional action, and the fourth chapter describes and to a degree assesses efforts to achieve greater uniformity of state insurance regulation. Chapter 5 narrows scrutiny further to Senate bill 40 (2007) and House bill 1880 (2009). In a concluding chapter, Zimmerman then arrays evidence and argument and draws conclusions that bear [*279] on the hypothesis in the first chapter.

For specialized scholars and perhaps other sophisticated readers, the monograph may be valuable. Lobbyists preparing for members of Congress and congressional aides would find insights and leads, as would legislators, insurance commissioners, or staff in states. Zimmerman reviews Supreme Court decisions and opinions that bear on federalism; some were not familiar to me. In addition to focused attention to national-state relations over decades, the book painstakingly examines uses of preemption in the context of insurance regulation. Copious notes and references might guide a scholar through some thickets that would otherwise be impassable. Such uses might justify purchase of this volume by law libraries or graduate libraries. For most libraries, however, this is a bound technical report more appropriate for occasional interlibrary loan.

For most students of federalism, legislatures, courts, or commerce, this book provides diversions that are few and likely idiosyncratic. I enjoyed the italicizing of “U.S. Constitution” as if the document were a volume and as if “the Constitution” would be ambiguous to most readers. I remain agnostic about that usage, yet I confess that I liked the federalist comity of treating state constitutions as important fundamental documents and basic laws not to be cast in lower case too blithely. Similar considerations led me to welcome Zimmerman’s styling of the first constitution of the thirteen erstwhile colonies as the “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union,” also italicized. The irony of that title amuses me after so many years. These amusements seem even to me peculiar, so I cannot recommend this monograph for any wider audience.

© Copyright 2011 by the author, William Haltom.