"These are the times that try men's souls," wrote Thomas Paine back in 1776. Two centuries later, men's souls are still being tried, but now, at least, we can protect our assets with good insurance policies. Over the past 10 years, the insurance industry has come up with a whole battery of new policies designed to help us through a troubled era. And lest you doubt that we do live in trying times, consider, for a moment, that there are people and companies spending millions of dollars on the following types of coverage:

Kidnap and ransom insurance came into vogue in the 1970s, when revolutionary groups of various stripes discovered that hostage-taking could be a very effective fund-raising technique. Thousands of corporations still carry the insurance to cover employees, their families, and any outsiders who might have the misfortune to be kidnapped while they are on company premises.

Extortion insurance is a variation on the same theme. It pays the extortion bill in the event of bomb threats, product poisoning threats, and other such schemes.

Political-risk insurance protects a company against the possibility of, say, expropriation. It has been available for almost 10 years but did not really catch on until the Iranian revolution. Now it is de rigeur for any company doing business in an "unstable environment."

Pollution insurance is suddenly quite popular as well, due to recent antipollution laws requiring companies to pay for the cleanup of any toxic wastes they may release into the environment. The American International Group, based in New York has a whole department for pollution insurance alone -- and offers two policies.

Product protection insurance is new this year. Heavily influenced by the Tylenol scare, it insures companies -- especially smaller ones -- against such things as product tampering. "Johnson & Johnson can afford to absorb losses incurred by product tampering," notes an executive of Chubb & Son Inc. of Warren, N.J., which offers a wide variety of corporate disaster insurance. "Without insurance, a smaller company would be looking at bankruptcy."

Satellite insurance is the space age answer to automobile insurance. Mainly, it covers possible damages to the commercial satellite itself, which may cost as much as $60 million. Any satellite going up in the U.S. Space Shuttle, however, will also have to carry at least $500 million in liability insurance -- in case it should happen to fall out of the sky.

Tax audit insurance has been around since May -- long enough to have drawn the ire of the Internal Revenue Service and others, who fear it will encourage tax cheating. Offered by a Marsh & McLennan subsidiary, Victor O. Schinnerer & Co. of Washington, D.C., it covers the cost of a CPA or tax attorney, plus any additional taxes that might be owed should the IRS win its point. It does not cover fraud. At the moment, it is only available to individuals, but Schinnerer hopes to extend coverage to businesses in early 1984 -- provided, of course, that it is not outlawed by then.

Sexual harassment insurance protects you against lawsuits alleging same, not against the harassment itself. You can buy a policy from Complete Equity Markets Inc., of Wheeling, Ill., which came up with the idea and got Lloyd's of London to underwrite it. The same company offers sexual discrimination insurance as well, should that be your bag.

Finally, in case all else fails, you can get insurance on your insurance from Professional Indemnity Agency of Pleasantville, N.Y. The policy, also backed by Lloyd's of London, pays your legal expenses when you sue your insurance company over a claim that has been denied. And what, pray tell, if professional Indemnity disputes the claim on your insurance insurance? Would you then need insurance on your insurance on your insurance? "That sort of thing wouldn't happen," assures company president Marshall Rattner. Right.