Regulation

The Rich Get Richer, The Poor Catch Fire

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wildfire

In California, private firefighters were out fighting blazes and spraying fire retardant around their ultra-insured clients' million-dollar homes:

It's available only to customers of AIG Private Client Group, which serves affluent individuals and their families. The average customer spends $19,000 a year on the insurance, which may also cover yachts, art collections and ransom demands.

At those rates, they'd better send a darned truck out to my house to fight my personal fire. But I don't mind if they catch my neighbor's fire while they're there.

While protecting the AIG client's home there Monday night, [Firefighter Sam] Crays was able to stop a blaze next door as well. "We love putting out fires," Crays said.

The article hints that this is a regression to the bad old days of private fire companies, a theme sounded elsewhere as well:

AIG's Wildfire Protection Unit is in some ways a throwback to the early days of firefighting.

Until 1865, when the Metropolitan Fire Bridge Act was passed in the U.K., insurance companies had their own firefighters and were responsible for protecting their customers' homes and other buildings. That was the case in other countries as well, including the U.S. Customers were given medallions to place on their homes, and firefighters would look for their insurance company's "firemark" before extinguishing a blaze.

Private fire companies, of course, were the only fire fighters available at the time. Now we're talking about service above and beyond basic fire coverage enjoyed by everyone in the Golden State. And if wildfires continue to be a major issue in California, the technologies used by the rich are bound to trickle down and put out the fires of the less well-to-do eventually.

Reihan Salam covers the story, and says he prefers the idea of "leveling up" and finds the notion of a ceiling on fire protection for the wealthy unsavory:

This represents a clash of two egalitarianisms, and it is a conflict that arises in many social democracies. If a wealthy person wants to pursue exotic medical treatments on her own dime, does she have a right to do so? Or should she be legally prevented from doing so on grounds of offense against equality?

reason on fire here.

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  1. Customers were given medallions to place on their homes, and firefighters would look for their insurance company’s “firemark” before extinguishing a blaze

    My wife and I rented an old house that still has one of these medallions. It’s a nice conversation piece, even if we do have to rely on the same fire protection that poor people use.

  2. I don’t understand people sometimes. The rich hire private security too. Is it unegalitarian that other people only have police?

  3. Reihan Salam is by a giant margin my favorite conservative, and he completely nails this one. I don’t understand anyone getting upset at this. The more people working to stop the fires, the quicker they get contained. I mean, it’s not like these guys were starting fires in poor neighborhoods for the hell of it. I’m a lot more open to egalitarian arguments than the stereotype Reasonoid, but this one just escapes me. Does this guy think it’s better to have the fires go on burning?

  4. Private firefighters for rich folks is not going to play in Peoria.

    And this is not going to be the argument that will convince the hoi polloi:

    And if wildfires continue to be a major issue in California, the technologies used by the rich are bound to trickle down and put out the fires of the less well-to-do eventually.

  5. Customers were given medallions to place on their homes

    You know the Nazis made the Jews wear medallions…

  6. My private fire company puts out grass fires on our estate with Dom Peringon. Suck it, poor people.

  7. Has anyone seen a map of the fire ignition points overlayed onto a map of the (overgrown) areas (mis)managed by state or local governments?

    I have a wild guess about what that would look like.

  8. So I can’t buy filet mignon because poor people can’t? What else?

    Even starting to go down that mental path is so fucked up and perverted, that you have to wonder about people who think this way.

  9. How dare they take extra measures to ensure that their house doesn’t burn down! Nobody else would do such a horrible thing!
    While we’re at it, we should be upset at them for having their house built from more expensive flame retardant materials! I can’t afford those, so they shouldn’t use them!

  10. From Katherine Mangu-Ward’s piece,
    If a wealthy person wants to pursue exotic medical treatments on her own dime, does she have a right to do so?

    From the comments,
    I don’t understand anyone getting upset at this.

    The rich hire private security too. Is it unegalitarian that other people only have police?

    Nuff said!

  11. Wait, what’s this bull shit about having nice things being an offense against equality?

  12. And this is not going to be the argument that will convince the hoi polloi:

    How ’bout: “The wealthy have the clout to make sure they are protected. If the rich have their own firefighters, the public ones are a lot more likely to show up at your place.”

    My private fire company puts out grass fires on our estate with Dom Peringon. Suck it, poor people.

    Alcohol burns. Perrier would work better.

    Has anyone seen a map of the fire ignition points overlayed onto a map of the (overgrown) areas (mis)managed by state or local governments?

    You mean the “Don’t cut the brush, you’ll displace the field mice!” folks? Yup.

    So I can’t buy filet mignon because poor people can’t? What else?

    Makes more sense than the “We can’t allow mechanically deboned meat, ’cause the poor people will buy it!” argument.

    While we’re at it, we should be upset at them for having their house built from more expensive flame retardant materials! I can’t afford those, so they shouldn’t use them!

    Can’t afford concrete? The problem with flame retardant homes isn’t cost, it’s esthetics.

  13. Even starting to go down that mental path is so fucked up and perverted, that you have to wonder about people who think this way.

    The only way I can think of starting to justify this is if somehow, the system afforded this special care. That is, if there was some special department set up for the aristocracy.

    But no, anyone can get it, provided they pay the $19,000 per year for it. If you, can’t sucks for you.

    Sadly, this is the same argument for socialized medicine.

  14. Alcohol burns. Perrier would work better.

    Sorta true. You really have to be at the 120+ proof range to get flammable consumption-alcohol.

    Personally, I find the Dom works just fine for putting out fires, as it does for washing little FuFu’s feet when comes in from his walk…

  15. If a wealthy person wants to pursue exotic medical treatments on her own dime, does she have a right to do so? Or should she be legally prevented from doing so on grounds of offense against equality?

    Too many years of hearing crap like this has convinced me that the concept of “equality” has no legitimate place in political discourse, whatsoever.

    This is what happens when you get a population that has the phrase “all men are created equal” rattling around in their skulls like a BB in the bottom of Dixie cup, and absolutely no sense of context associated with it…..

  16. I bet they send their kids to better schools than the less monied too. Let’s not even get started on the Beemers and the nannies.

    It’s really sad that this is news.

  17. Right, it should have read…

    All men are created equal. How you screw your life up after that is totally on you!

  18. What about when the rich people start to vote down fire department bonds? They know their house is protected, why pay to put out fires on the poor houses?

    I know I would try and buy a house that was surrounded by AIG fire retardant houses. Free rider firebreak.

  19. “The average customer spends $19,000 a year on the insurance, which may also cover yachts, art collections and ransom demands.”

    This servs as the penultimate example of why this is the greatest nation on earth.

  20. Kath, great piece.

    Despite Arnie’s smiling bullshit, his lips were moving and, like the last time, the public fire fighting was lagging in many places. The firefighters and their battalion chiefs were and still are stand up hard working good guys. The administration and organization and response sucks.

    CDF called for choppers Sunday. They gave the pilots 24 hours to report for duty. WTF? Then when the guys showed up for work. No spotters to ride with them. Then when the spotters got there it was too damn windy to fly. The C-130’s couldn’t fly because there’s no tanks to put the fire retardant in. Forest Service has been dicking around for four years trying to decide on the right one.

    My fave though is from the wildfires a few years ago that burned the part of San Diego County that isn’t burning now. The chopper pilot was on his way to put out what became one of the worst fire in history when he was told to return to base because the magic hour had passed, after which no helo pilot was legally allowed to fly. He was 10 minutes from the tiny little fire with a full bucket of water. That didn’t get much media play but you can google it.

  21. Just trying to get the ? symbol by my name.

  22. As usual Mangu-Ward misses the point. Since Mangu-Ward is explicitly pro-surveillance society, there will be in just a few years time, almost no house fire that doesn’t go unreported within 60 seconds of its occurrence.

    In the meantime, I await the lobbyists for the rich that will placard the counties to prevent property tax increases to pay for paying firefighters better.

    It’s not a question of going above some minimum. It’s a question of whether the minimum is an acceptable standard at all.

    Apparently, many people in San Diego feel the rich not voting for property tax increases were much of the reason fire response was so poor.

    Perhaps if there was no private firefighting companies, the interests of the rich and the poor would have been better aligned for all of society.

  23. I don’t see the issue here, unless said rich people are running around trying to pay less taxes (since THEY don’t need governmental fire protection any more).

  24. Has anyone seen a map of the fire ignition points overlayed onto a map of the (overgrown) areas (mis)managed by state or local governments?

    I have a wild guess about what that would look like.

    A gigantic Pentagram containing an All-Seeing Eye?

    Apparently, many people in San Diego feel the rich not voting for property tax increases were much of the reason fire response was so poor.

    Yeah, lets not let the rich vote. They just fuck it up for all us losers.

  25. Wow, the fire was the rich peoples’ fault because they didn’t vote the right way.

    Those rich people… huge voting block.

  26. I love the contradiction that the rich are an elite few that are oppressing the masses, yet somehow there are enough of them to vote down ballot measures.

  27. Let’s back up a bit. Most of the areas (with some exceptions, of course) affected by fires were not exactly poor. This isn’t the inequality between a poor person and a rich person. This is the inequality between the wealthy and the upper middle class.

    Hardly something worth shedding crocodile tears over.

  28. Let’s back up a bit. Most of the areas (with some exceptions, of course) affected by fires were not exactly poor.

    And amazingly enough the government response was inadequate and riddled with incompetence. Just like those poor people in New Orleans. I’m not discounting the tragedies that all of these people face, I’m just suggesting that incompetent government explains both the gulf coast hurricane response and the San Diego county wildfire response. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s the nature of the beast, government.

  29. In the meantime, I await the lobbyists for the rich that will placard the counties to prevent property tax increases to pay for paying firefighters better.

    See that’s just an observation borne of not living in reality.

    1. Firefighters are paid better than most people.

    2. The firefighters aren’t the problem, they were doing a heroic job. The problem is the resources, asset management, and decision making at the highest levels.

    Tee, excellent point,

  30. “Hardly something worth shedding crocodile tears over”

    Not worth shedding fake tears? What are you, some physical sciency type guy?

  31. Can’t afford concrete? The problem with flame retardant homes isn’t cost, it’s esthetics.

    Actually, Hearst got around that when he built Hearst Castle out of steel reinforced concrete for the very reason that it is, well, fire proof.

    Interesting (well, to me anyway)

  32. Did anyone see this in the NY Times yesterday?

    They estimate they are five to 10 years from effecting any significant policy changes related to wildfires.

    I was stunned by this admission from the California state fire marshal, Kate Dargan: “In the meantime,” Ms. Dargan said, “we’ll have more people living out there, and if averages hold, we’ll have two more catastrophic incidents like this before the decisions get made.”

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see more private insurance and more private firefighting.

    As for the statist a$$hole who wants to condemn all to the level of healthcare that only the poorest can afford because one person having better care is an affront to equality, I wonder what level of care he seeks out when he’s ill.

  33. My cut-rate private fire company puts out grass fires with Miller Lite. 🙁

  34. Funny how this situation parallels that of healtcare…
    You’re rich? Good for you.
    You’re poor? Please die.

  35. FIRE BAD

  36. Rich Mormons put fires out with caffeine-free Pepsi.

  37. 1. Lew Rockwell made a great point on this the other day:

    According to this story, the “rich” can afford private fire protection. Let’s not forget that only the “rich” could once afford cell phones, televisions, cars, and electricity. Free the market for fire protection, and many things would change

    2. ABCNews.com has message forums attached to their story on this subject. The comments make me wince, and not just because of all the grammatical errors. They’re full of people ranting about how unfair it is that the rich should receive any sort of special treatment, whether or not they paid for it. I really don’t think most of them even understand the difference between public and private. Apparently the only thing they comprehend is that extra firefighters with special equipment showed up at the rich peoples’ houses. How does one even begin to educate and persuade in cases like these?

  38. Foofighter,

    Why would anybody go through all the effort it takes to be rich if being rich didn’t allow them to buy better stuff?

  39. Here’s another point… I know this is crazy-ass anarcho-capitalist talk, but it really does seem to me that insurance companies are light years beyond governments when it comes to assessing and mitigating risk. I mean, that is what insurance companies do, and they seem to do it with extreme expertise and efficiency.

    There is also a growing and fiercely competitive industry of residential alarm companies, who monitor home burglar and fire alarms 24/7, and will instantly report any problems to emergency personnel. There is no reason they couldn’t report a problem to a private fire company instead of a public one.

    Meanwhile, back in the real world… I just don’t see that being allowed to happen.

  40. The only thing that bothers me about this. What if some of these people with private fire services got rich by building these developments in fire zones ?

  41. I don’t see why people have a problem with this, its not like the State is giving these firefighters no-bid contracts ala Blackwater (and something I feel is worse than socialism) These private firefighters are taking away from regular firefighters, but are helping regular fire fighters who don’t have to put out the fires the private ones do. God people get angry for such stupid reasons.

  42. I don’t see the issue here, unless said rich people are running around trying to pay less taxes

    Of course the rich people don’t want to pay taxes for a service they don’t need. The hidden assumption the statists make here is that somehow private insurance company firefighters doing the exact same thing as unionized government employees will cost more and do a worse job. Perhaps said statists can point out some service where private and public organizations compete on a level playing field, and the government price and service level is better. Anyone?

    Do away with the taxes for firefighters and let the insurance companies fold fighting fires into their fire insurance premiums.

    I own a rental house in an unincorporated area of the Bay Area. The area has its own police department. They are the most courteous, helpful police I’ve ever met, because they know if they don’t take care of the residents, they’re out of a job.

  43. You know these guys aren’t really “firefighters”. The articles says they just go by a house and spray chemical fire-retardant on the brush if a fire gets close. They are not even competing with regular firefighters. They are more like a landscaping service.

  44. If a wealthy person wants to pursue exotic medical treatments on her own dime, does she have a right to do so? Or should she be legally prevented from doing so on grounds of offense against equality?

    I would like a wealthy person to be as free to spend her money on exotic medical treatments as she is to spend it on polo horses. The former would have a greater potential benefit to me.

  45. Apparently, many people in San Diego feel the rich not voting for property tax increases were much of the reason fire response was so poor.

    No, there are not many such people in San Diego. There are however a lot of people that aren’t too keen on the CalFire bureaucrat(s) that were slow to accept the offer of military aircraft assistance.

    Not to mention the lunatic innumeracy of the proposition that the rich are a large voting block.

  46. It isn’t as if the rich are buying a supernatural fire shield that is a 100% guarantee that their house will not burn down, they are just taking additional steps to reduce their risk in case of a fire. People take all sorts of efforts to reduce their risk to random/semi-random events like fire… all the time. Should you not be allowed to get a private alarm system on your home? And so on.

    And the insinuation above that rich people in California of all places are somehow successfully suppressing tax rates to keep services from the poor is just silly. If that is their goal, then they need to try a lot harder.

  47. Antone at 5:27:
    What’s the ultimate example?

  48. After rethinking this I DO, understand why people get upset about this. It’s ENVY! We’ll cover the other six of the deadly sins later in the week.

  49. “After rethinking this I DO, understand why people get upset about this. It’s ENVY! We’ll cover the other six of the deadly sins later in the week.”
    Well, in some way I guess you are right, but it is quite natural for many folks, when they see that some people have very differential access to many things in life, some of them seen as basic to living a decent life (like disaster relief, or health care, or police protection).

    I mean, if you’re the one with the filet mignon, then the fact that other people can only afford pork rinds seems pretty reasonable. In fact, you may also want to convince yourself that your ability to buy that filet is derived from your virtues and the many stuck with the rinds have gotten the just deserts of their vices. But why you think the rind eater is gonna back that ideology, I dunno…

  50. From the article linked by Stephen Macklin:

    state’s war against such disasters

    Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! There’s a fucking War on Disasters now? What are we not at war with?

    And what other negative aspects of life shall we arbitrarily go to “war” with?

    War on Ex-Girlfriends?

    War on Rainy Days?

    War on Toe Stubbing?

    Americans are not sleeping, they’ve conveniently slipped into a coma…

  51. My cut-rate private fire company puts out grass fires with Miller Lite. 🙁

    Only viable use for Miller Lite…

  52. Try this one on, for those of you bewildered by this reaction: Your kid and your neighbor’s (who makes more money) kid have a joint birthday party. They each take turns opening their presents. After a while your kid runs out of presents, but the rich kid keeps on going, with each getting better than before. Do you lean over, see the upset look in your kids face (a most natural response, especially since that kid has not drank the Libertarian Kool-Aid), and say “it’s OK son, Daddy is just not as good of a contributor to other people’s happiness as Mark’s daddy is, but at least he did nothing to PREVENT you from getting what you got!”

  53. Mr. Nice Guy,

    I drank the Libertarian Kool-Aid (part of the acid test), and would still have intervened to spare my child the feelings of inadequacy. Then I’d spend the rest of his upbringing trying to instill the proper libertarian attitude, which is, “people are free to be jerks, and you are free not to like them.”

    Tingy Wah

  54. Who was a jerk Tingy? The rich guy just contributed more to the world than you did, and he certainly is free to leave as much of it to his son in the form of presents or what not. Why would you not have your son celebrate this beautiful exercise of freedom and private property? Do you suspect he may not get it?

  55. Just to have some fun with the more right wing versions of libertarians, let’s say the rich guy is Michael Moore, who, by giving the public a commodity they want more so than anyone else on this site can ever hope to do, can give his son about a thousand more presents than your kid gets. Right there in your face.

    So what’s a libertarian to do? Rightly they should tell their kid “sorry son, but Daddy just can’t contribute to the world like Mike can so his son gets more than you. Way, way more. And that is an excellent thing, because Mike deserves more than I do and by extension his son deserves more than you do. But you see son, the beauty here is that noone has limited anyone elses freedom. We are like so totally free to not buy a copy of Bowling For Columbine tonight! Now let’s go home and wait for the Magic Market to show up in that Pumpkin Patch.”

  56. Why would you not have your son celebrate this beautiful exercise of freedom and private property? Do you suspect he may not get it?

    Uhh, he’s 5 years old. No, he won’t be able to “get it,” because he’s 5 years old.

    I will agree that it is a 5-year-old mentality to envy what other people have. An adult should look at the situation and say, “I will work to attain this.” A 5-year-old would say, “I want it! Gimme gimme gimme!”

  57. Why would anybody go through all the effort it takes to be rich if being rich didn’t allow them to buy better stuff?

    Oh, I don’t know – maybe so one can serve God by giving it all away to the poor? Or to anyone who happens to have a dollar less? Sure, everyone wants to live for the sake of everyone else; if they don’t, they’re just selfish. Right? Yuck!

  58. I was rueing the conspicuous absence of Dan T to serve as avocado diaboli. Thank God Mr Nice Guy came along to fill that role.

  59. “An adult should look at the situation and say, “I will work to attain this.”” Funny tictac. You can work until the cows and chickens come home and you will never make what Moore made this year alone. He contributes far more to the world than you do, so rejoice in that fact, and have your kid rejoice in the fact that his kids will probably always have more than yours will.

    What the five year old gets and you do not is not “gimme” but that there is little good reason for someone to have way more stuff than another person, especially in those areas where having the stuff amount to the basis for living a decent life. And so when most people see that someone else has much better health care, police protection, or educational opportunities they rightly see it as unfair. And when it applies to kids its very, very unfair.

  60. Mr Nice Guy,

    OK, put yourself in the position of the rich guy. Say a bunch of kids who don’t have as many presents as your kid come along and take some of his presents away because they think he has too many toys already. Are you going to tell him, “That’s OK, there are more of them, so them getting your presents increases their liberty, even if it decreases yours a little bit.”

    The point is, the harsh realities of life are not going to seem fair to a five-year-old.

  61. You can work until the cows and chickens come home and you will never make what Moore made this year alone. He contributes far more to the world than you do, so rejoice in that fact, and have your kid rejoice in the fact that his kids will probably always have more than yours will.

    I wouldn’t say Moore contributes more to the world than I do; rather, I’d say people are willing to pay more for what he produces than they’re willing to pay for what I produce. The two are not the same thing.

    You seem to have this charicature of libertarians in your head as people who assign value to nothing but money. That may be true of some of us, but I think most of us recognize that there are more important things in life.

  62. What if your kid goes to a friend’s house and sees that they have a nicer house than you. The horror!

  63. He contributes far more to the world than you do, so rejoice in that fact, and have your kid rejoice in the fact that his kids will probably always have more than yours will.

    A: Contribution of society is not a measure of wealth.

    B: You have no fucking idea who I am. How do you know I am not working on the next big Hollywood blockbuster, or inventing the flying car, or whatever…

    that there is little good reason for someone to have way more stuff than another person

    Since when did people need a reason to have stuff? Each to their own needs, right?

    And so when most people see that someone else has much better health care, police protection, or educational opportunities they rightly see it as unfair. And when it applies to kids its very, very unfair.

    Life is not fair. Sorry, that’s just a fact, neither I nor you nor any government intervention that has proven to makes things less fair will change said fact.

    Sorry to break it to you. Get over it.

  64. What if some of these people with private fire services got rich by building these developments in fire zones ?

    Everything was once a fire zone. Including downtown LA.

  65. ….you may also want to convince yourself that your ability to buy that filet is derived from your virtues and the many stuck with the rinds have gotten the just deserts of their vices.

    No, that isn’t what it is at all. Life is a bitch and then you die. If you work hard sometimes you move up the ladder. Sometimes you don’t. Having been on both ends, I’ll take the filet over wondering why your neighbor murdered his girlfriend and left her body in the laundry room of your shitty little apartment in the bad part of town.

    Mostly, the harder you work the luckier you get.

  66. And so when most people see that someone else has much better health care, police protection, or educational opportunities they rightly see it as unfair. And when it applies to kids its very, very unfair.

    My cat got eaten by a coyote on Sunday. That’s just about how fair life is.

  67. An interesting article in the Economist about this:

    http://www.economist.com/daily/columns/techview/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10045898

    In my home state of Western Australia, I used to be in the voluteer fire brigade and we did controlled burning in bushland to prevent this very thing from happening. I think the Mexicans have it right — some times the low tech solutions seem to work the best.

    I don’t recall many big fires when I lived in Texas, do they have a different policy here? I’ll readily accept that the climate and terrain are different from California though.

  68. @Anonymous Bastert

    Wow, the fire was the rich peoples’ fault because they didn’t vote the right way.

    Those rich people… huge voting block.

    You might find this interesting….

    @Mr. Nice Guy

    What the five year old gets and you do not is not “gimme” but that there is little good reason for someone to have way more stuff than another person, especially in those areas where having the stuff amount to the basis for living a decent life. And so when most people see that someone else has much better health care, police protection, or educational opportunities they rightly see it as unfair. And when it applies to kids its very, very unfair.

    It would only seem unfair to someone who already had the expectation of being entitled to have the same amount of “stuff” as someone else had. So what’s actually the problem here? The reality that some people are more adept at accruing “stuff”, or the unrealistic and unfounded sense of entitlement? You state “there is little good reason for someone to have way more stuff than another person” – why? Isn’t there equally little good reason to expect that everybody have an equal amount of stuff? Especially when that is, and always has been, the reality of the matter?

  69. @Mr. Nice Guy

    Just to have some fun with the more right wing versions of libertarians, let’s say the rich guy is Michael Moore, who, by giving the public a commodity they want more so than anyone else on this site can ever hope to do, can give his son about a thousand more presents than your kid gets. Right there in your face.

    So what’s a libertarian to do? Rightly they should tell their kid “sorry son, but Daddy just can’t contribute to the world like Mike can so his son gets more than you. Way, way more. And that is an excellent thing, because Mike deserves more than I do and by extension his son deserves more than you do. But you see son, the beauty here is that noone has limited anyone elses freedom. We are like so totally free to not buy a copy of Bowling For Columbine tonight! Now let’s go home and wait for the Magic Market to show up in that Pumpkin Patch.”

    No, I’d explain to my kid that, while it may be unpleasant to contend with a clown like Mr. Moore being richer than I am, it’s important to defend his right to his property for the same reason liberals get up in arms when a clown like Rodney King gets the shit kicked out of him by the police – namely, that if Rodney King doesn’t have a reasonable expectation of being secure in his person, and Michael Moore doesn’t have a reasonable expectation of being secure in his property, then eventually none of us will have a reasonable expectation of being secure in our persons or property. That is, I’d explain that defending the respective rights of Mr. King and Mr. Moore is essentially a defense of my own rights, and that the principle is worth defending on it’s own merits, without regard to how loathsome individuals like Mr. Moore and Mr. King may be in their own right…

  70. Actually Taxtik I don’t have to know who you are to guess that you and your progeny do and will have less than Moore and his. I can predict this and be right about 95% of the time because capitalism, while increasing opportunities more than most systems I know, is not Magic and the wealthy class is not as porous as you may like to believe. And as to government intervention making things less fair, I agree in some areas but in others you are plainly wrong. Police protection, even unequal as it is, gives a basic level of protection to folks who otherwise would have less. Medicaid and Medicare give basic levels of health care to folks who would have less, student loans make college attendance available for more people, etc. Since the New Deal, the Great Society, etc. more people have more opportunity for more things. Now that’s “life.”

    Pig Mannix-There are many societies with redistribution to make things fairer in which people are not deprived of their property rights in any serious ways. There are rich people in nations that have progressive taxation and welfare systems (like ours) who get more for working more and whose private property, after some modest redistribution, is well protected (in fact usually better than in nations without these systems). Moore, an you and I, can hae a reasonable expectation of being secure in property, up to and even well over what any person would need to be quite comfortable, and have redistribution to make things more fair.

  71. Actually Taxtik I don’t have to know who you are to guess that you and your progeny do and will have less than Moore and his. I can predict this and be right about 95% of the time because capitalism, while increasing opportunities more than most systems I know, is not Magic and the wealthy class is not as porous as you may like to believe.

    Completely irrelevant ad hominem argument, but whatever, I suppose we’ll agree to disagree, seeing as none of us are fortune tellers.

    And as to government intervention making things less fair, I agree in some areas but in others you are plainly wrong. Police protection, even unequal as it is, gives a basic level of protection to folks who otherwise would have less.

    Fair enough…

    Medicaid and Medicare give basic levels of health care to folks who would have less, student loans make college attendance available for more people, etc

    Shitty health care provided at a far greater cost than private care. If Medicaid/Medicare were such great “opportunities,” why are there now call for universal care?

    The college thing is just a basic misunderstanding of how supply and demand works. The more people that attend college, the less the degree is worth.

    Who gets screwed?
    Poor people who don’t go to college, because the influx of degrees has made a B.A. almost a basic requirement for most jobs. It also sucks for those of us who actually worked to pay our way through school, since we had to watch the fed-loan babies party their way out of school while we worked to stay in school.

    Since the New Deal, the Great Society, etc. more people have more opportunity for more things. Now that’s “life.”

    Entitlement does not equal opportunity. What exactly are the opportunities available to a person staying on welfare?

    Just think of your analogy. That 5-year-old is upset because the other kid has stuff the first doesn’t have. Imagine how pissed (and rightly so) the 5-year-old would be if the stuff the other kid has came from someone taking stuff away from the first kid.

    As per your response to Pix Mannix, you illustrate a level of ignorance I can only attribute to ideological blindness. Making sweeping statements about how other unnamed societies are functioning is not only irresponsible, but flat out stupid.

  72. Maybe, just maybe, the municipal fire departments could afford more trucks, more men, more hoses if they weren’t paying out 100%-of-last-salary pensions.

  73. I think MNG is the 5-year-old in his story, because his argument seems to be “WAAUGGHH!!! Somebdy has better stuff than me!!!”

    Tell you what–I’ll come to your house, decide the absolute minimum you need to survive, and I’ll take the rest and give it away to people that I determine need it more. That cool with you? It’s OK if I make those decisions, right?

  74. AIG’s an insurance company. They’re only putting out the fire because they’d have to pay for the house otherwise. It’s rolled in as a “service” for marketing purposes because…they’d do it anyways!

  75. Uhh, he’s 5 years old. No, he won’t be able to “get it,” because he’s 5 years old.

    I for one am not evaluating political philosophies based on whether they appeal to 5-year-olds (of whatever age).

    Of course, this may explain why libertarians are a perennial micro-minority.

  76. Perhaps i’m not reading something right here…

    Is Mr. Nice Guy really suggesting that we should base our economic system on the emotional responses of children?

  77. WAAUGGHH!!!

    Fires torch SoCal. Women and minorities most crispy.

  78. “Contribution of society is not a measure of wealth.”

    Nor of what someone should get paid.

    If contribution to society was the basis for income, then the garbage collectors and sewer workers should be the highest paid for without them everone elses contributions means nothing; we’d be dying of colera and other disease Americans never even have to think about.

  79. “Is Mr. Nice Guy really suggesting that we should base our economic system on the emotional responses of children?”
    Uhh, no, I’m using a story to make the point that this idea of fairness is quite natural to human beings. In fact, Ron Bailey has detailed psych experiments in which people will actually leave themselves worse off in order to level playing fields.

    Tiktax-I’m not trying to ad hominen you but make a point about the economy, capitalism, and libertarians wildly optimistic views of both. I’m sure you are a fine, hard working and smart person. I’m also sure you (or me) will never make the amount of money that Moore made last year alone (many, many millions) and that your kids will have less than his. It’s very safe to make these predictions in our economy, and that is kind of my point…BTW-if you need me to name some societies that are doing just fine protecting property rights while redistributing to increase opportunity, then how about Sweden, or Norway, or the U.S. for that matter.

    “I think MNG is the 5-year-old in his story, because his argument seems to be “WAAUGGHH!!! Somebdy has better stuff than me!!!””
    Epistarch is always a goofball. Your argument is better than “WAAAH, I want MY stuff.” Or it’s worse, that you DESERVE yours somehow.

    Some Jed Clampett shoots at a racoon and strikes oil and becomes filthy rich while some person is born disabled and while working as hard and smart as possible is unable to afford basic goods and services that entail a decent life (sorry fellas but charity ain’t gonna save your day here, the public was fully aware of things like charity in the Great Depression and easily decided it was not enough to serve such people). Does either deserve it? It certainly is not fair, and we can address it.

    Before you start to cry and wail that life ain’t fair and that somehow means we should not have collective (or individual) action to make it more fair, remember that things like contract and tort enforcement, all done by governments in Libertopia, are usually issues of “fairness.”

  80. “Your argument is better than “WAAAH, I want MY stuff.”” Replace . with ?

  81. “Does either deserve it? It certainly is not fair, and we can address it.”

    I note the implication that no rich person deserves what they have and no poor person deserves what they have. Even if we make such an assumption, after a political process redistributes stuff from one person to another, we are still in a situation where nobody deserves what they have.

    Maybe the lesson is that desert is a crappy yardstick?

  82. the conspicuous absence of Dan T to serve as avocado diaboli.

    The Devil’s Avocado would make a great name for a Mexican food joint.

    there is little good reason for someone to have way more stuff than another person

    Spoken like somebody who doesn’t have much stuff, but damn sure wants what their neighbor has without having to go through the bother of, you know, paying for it.

  83. Epistarch is always a goofball. Your argument is better than “WAAAH, I want MY stuff.” Or it’s worse, that you DESERVE yours somehow.

    I might be hopped up on goofballs, but this is a crystal clear example of how demented and illogical your argument is. I don’t deserve the things I worked for? So I guess you don’t either? So I can come and take your stuff, right? Address plz.

    Does either deserve it? It certainly is not fair, and we can address it.

    Really? Who is we, poor man? I love how you assume there is some automatic metric (determined by you or people like you, I assume) with which we can “address it”. Through theft, of course.

    Spoken like somebody who doesn’t have much stuff, but damn sure wants what their neighbor has without having to go through the bother of, you know, paying for it.

    Maybe if MNG actually worked for some stuff he’d appreciate it and not want it stolen by…people like himself.

  84. MNG–

    Part of growing up (regardless of ones political orientation) is getting over envy.

  85. My cat got eaten by a coyote on Sunday. That’s just about how fair life is.

    I’m so sorry to hear that, TWC. My condolences.

  86. MNG, do you believe in a zero-sum economy? If so, that would certainly explain your issue with some having much more than others. But if you do not, in fact, believe in a zero-sum economy, then I simply am baffled by pretty much any perception of a problem with even the largest of income disparities (in and of theirselves, of course).

  87. Pig Mannix,

    I’m afraid that I don’t see what your poster had to do with my point, vis a vis the size of the rich voting block.

  88. Something my 6 year old has been hearing since she was about 3, and now she puts her fingers in her ears when I start on it: “There will always be someone who has more stuff than you, or nicer stuff than you, or can do more stuff than you. It has nothing to do with you, so you need to get over it.”

  89. Something that always bothers me about these kinds of arguments – i.e., it’s not fair that some have more than others, and “something” ought to be “done” about it. And that is – whatever is done, whatever wonderful system is devised to replace cruel, red-toothed capitalism, will be designed, implemented and administered by – human beings. Which explains why socialism and communism have never – ever – worked successfully anywhere, at all. It’s not because the “right” kind of socialism or communism or any other collectivism was pursued – it’s because human beings are not, by nature, selfless or egalitarian or more concerned with others’ interests than their own.

    And so long as this is true – which it will be until either Jesus or the United Federation of Planets shows up – no system of fairness, or equal distribution, or anything else will work in practice. Because there will always be people who can manipulate the system and other people; there will always be people on top and people on bottom; there will always be people with dachas in the Crimea while everyone else has to stand in line for three days for toilet paper. Always.

    Capitalism is like democracy – it’s the worst system except for all the others.

  90. Wrong, all wrong.

    1.”It’s not because the “right” kind of socialism or communism or any other collectivism was pursued – it’s because human beings are not, by nature, selfless or egalitarian or more concerned with others’ interests than their own.” I’m not aware of any biologists or psychologists who think we are totally selfless OR selfish. In fact, altruism is a fact in many species. Besides having what is “natural” determine what is normative is called the “naturalistic fallacy” in ethics. Look it up.

    2. “I don’t deserve the things I worked for?” I imagine some of them you deserve, some of them you probably certainly don’t. I imagine a great deal of it you did not work for (people inherit all kinds of advantages from their parents, from the society they live in [did you go to private schools on private roads protected by private police?]). And of course many people did not “work” for what they have (they inherited money, or they lucked out and were born on land with oil, etc). Either way, whether you “worked” for it or not does not make distributions morally correct. If you “worked” for all the antibiotics in the world and kids needed it to live but could not afford it, it would indeed be not just morally permissible for me to take it from you, but morally required.

    3. “It has nothing to do with you, so you need to get over it.” Wow, I meant my story as a caricature of a hyper-libertarian, but it goes to show you can’t satirize some movements, they will outdo any lunacy you concoct with actual belief!

    4. “Part of growing up (regardless of ones political orientation) is getting over envy.” Yes, but not getting over fairness. They ain’t the same.

    5. “MNG, do you believe in a zero-sum economy?” Not necessarily. Much inequality is the result of creating value where once it was not, and much is made at the expense of other folks (what would you call rent-seeking for example?). Either way though, if the result is somebody having vastly more opportunities in life than many other folks, especially on certain basic things like education, health care, police/fire protection, etc., then that is still unfair. It’s immoral for one human to have that much advantage and more influence in the world than another human being on the grounds that 1. he’s “more capable” or 2. he got more people voluntarily to “give” it to him, just as it would be wrong if he had these advantages because he is stronger and just took them…Most here would obviously object that in the first two examples human autonomy is respected, and I respect that, but now your just injecting a value criteria and I can match it with equality or human well being. I think the latter can trump the former at times.

    2.

  91. I think it’s clear that not everyone shares the typical Reason reader’s view that human autonomy is to be cherished. In that respect, you are correct that in the public discourse, there is nothing inherently “special” about respecting human autonomy over, say, equality (except, of course, that the US Declaration of Independence specifically cites it’s importance). This is precisely why we libertarians/capitalists are compelled to frame the benefits of capitalism in not only moral terms but in terms of utilitarian-esque “overall benefit” as well.

    Ayn Rand is notorious for preferring to frame arguments in terms of the moral supremacy of freedom, whilst Milton Friedman generally balanced his approach with perhaps a bias towards the utilitarian benefits. Both were of course fully convinced of the moral and physical advantages of capitalism, but they each approach the public discourse differently.

    It seems that you’re more focused on the moral side of the issue, yes? You’re concerned that human autonomy inextricably affronts egalitarian ideals. Sounds like a perfect opportunity for the utilitarian benefits of capitalism to enter the discussion, then. And, of course, for the practical negative effects of egalitarianism.

  92. Need an edit button. Inextricably should be inexorably.

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