Libertarian History/Philosophy

Let it Burn or Not? Fulton Fire Department Follow-up: Updated with Mangu-Ward Video!

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Here's a hot story—so hot, in fact, that when Reason's own Katherine Mangu-Ward blogged it on October 4, relatively few commenters could handle it—that supposedly demonstrates the uselessness of libertarian principles in "the real world" (and by real world, I mean strange examples that may or may not be representative of how things work 99.9 percent of the time):

Residents of rural Olbion County, Tennessee must contract indivdiually with nearby Fulton city for fire protection. The annual fee is $75. An Olbion County resident failed to pay the fee (he says he simply forgot and had paid the fee for the previous two years) and his house caught on fire after his grandson lit trash near the building. The owner called 911 and offered to pay the fee and, later at the site of the fire, offered to pay the fire department whatever it would take to save his home. The firemen—part of a municipal force—refused because of rules preventing such action. They were on hand to protect the house of a neighbor who was up to date in terms of fees.

So, what do you think, gentle readers? Does this story, showcased by Dramatic Olbermann as an instance of the grim corporate outsourcing that awaits us all now that George W. Bush is firmly ensconced in his third term as permanent God-Emperor of Dune, demonstrate that contractual service provision is inhumane and awful? And that this story is a preview of the Tea Party uber alles? In this, the Big O is joined by a seemingly endless stream of commentators who note that Ayn Rand should stuff this fire in her pipe and smoke it, be-yatch!

For some counter-perspective, here is Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute writing in the Washington Examiner:

Histories of firefighting in both America and England (where the practice of insurance companies fighting fires began) show that [letting unisured houses burn] never happened. Indeed, the reason insurance companies began to get out of the fire fighting business and passed the hot potato to municipalities was precisely because of the free rider problem – their fire brigades were routinely putting out fires in buildings that held no policy with the company….

It is hard to see a fire brigade employed by a private insurance company simply sitting by and letting a house burn to the ground for the sake of an unpaid $75 fee. If it had, the company would have been accused of greed. What other word should we use to describe the motivation of a municipality in such circumstances?

And here's National Review's Kevin D. Williamson, taking a hard line:

Until a few years ago, [Fulton's fire department] would not respond to any fires outside of the city limits — which is to say, the city limited its jurisdiction to the city itself, and to city taxpayers. A reasonable position. Then, a few years ago, a fire broke out in a rural area that was not covered by the city fire department, and the city authorities felt bad about not being able to do anything to help. So they began to offer an opt-in service, for the very reasonable price of $75 a year. Which is to say: They greatly expanded the range of services they offer. The rural homeowners were, collectively, better off, rather than worse off. Before the opt-in program, they had no access to a fire department. Now they do.

And, for their trouble, the South Fulton fire department is being treated as though it has done something wrong, rather than having gone out of its way to make services available to people who did not have them before. The world is full of jerks, freeloaders, and ingrates — and the problems they create for themselves are their own.

There are any number of variations on the positions stated above. Some folks have wondered what the fire department's response would/should have been if a person was trapped in the building. In a way, Murray's point suggests that if free-riding in endemic to these sorts of situations, emergency service fees should be levied without regard for the consent of the governed—though there remains a real question of who is the governed in an unincorporated area.

Then again, the reason why old-time private fire companies put out fires wherever they found (contra Gangs of New York) was because fires spread rapidly in 19th century cities. That wasn't the case here and one assumes the owner of the house has homeowners insurance. If he doesn't, should the city or taxpayers or an insurance company simply reimburse him for his loss because, well, that would be the kind thing to do? Isn't that the extension of the idea that the fire company (again, a municipal crew, not an evil corporationf that burns down orphanages for fun and profit) should have put the fire out despite a lack of any clear legal or contractual obligation to do so?

Chew on all that, vicarious policy pyromaniacs, and then cut to the next iteration of the argument, courtesy of Dr. Paul Krugman, who immediately puts the story in a dopey health-care context:

This is essentially the same as denying someone essential medical care because he doesn't have insurance. So the question is, do you want to live in the kind of society in which this happens?

National Review's Dan Foster, a critic of the Fulton FD's lack of action, responds:

No. Krugman would have been correct if he'd said "This is essentially the same as an insurance company refusing to pay for someone's essential medical care because that person never bought insurance in the first place." And I don't mind living in that kind of society at all.

Which begs the question who does pay in the hypothetical medical care situation above. If the patient doesn't have insurance and can't pay, his costs are spread to other (paying) patients, or to charities or to taxpayers eventually. Is any of that just? Moral? If it's charity paying, certainly so. If it's other folks, there's a lot more to debate.

Whatever. This much seems certain: There is very little denial of "essential medical care" in the United States if we're talking about emergency room visits and the like. The real question in this variation is the definition of essential. Does it mean basic medical care (of the sort provided by any number of free and low-cost programs) or does it mean the level of care one presumes a Nobel laureate, tenured professor, and NYT columnist gets? I know very few people—even libertarians—who are against the provision of free and reduced-price medical care (the libs will rightly suggest that philanthropy rather than state bureaucracy is more cost-effective and efficient). The real question comes as you add more and more service on to a system.

Which might just take us back to the starting point of this post: Should the Fulton FD done anything differently? And if so, what?

Last night, Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward debated the issues on RT's Alyona Show with Mike Elk of the lefty pub In These Times, who immediately accuses Mangu-Ward of wanting to enact a pro-corporate deregulatory agenda that would end in mass death and neglect of the poort. Mangu-Ward also points out that the family in question had failed to pay its fee three years ago and had a chimney fire put out by the same FD.

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  1. eh… firefighting and medical care are a lot alike…

    the sooner you stop the problem, the cheaper the cost…

    Libertarian doctrine seems to mean there is rarely an obligation to step in unless it is contracted..

    so houses burn, people die.

    right on!

    1. I think the question about what the FD should have done is immaterial. They have strict rules to fight fires in their jurisdiction or where they have been contracted to fight fires. They could have circumvented these rules to aid this person. They chose not to. End of story.

      For fighting fires, we have to ask what would be the goal of the particular case cited in this post? To save lives? Prevent further fire damage? Or to save the resident money in the form of preventing as much structural damage to his house? If the latter is a goal, there has to be a break-even in the cost effectivness of the system where free-riders saturate the system. There also has to be a point where we ask whether it is a necessary function of a public service to save an individual’s property value.

      My guess is that if someone was trapped in that house, the FD would have been there in a heartbeat, along with paramedics, etc…But since the only thing at risk was property value, the FD became much like an insurance company that wasn’t paid its premium, and said coverage denied. I have no problem with that.

      1. Besides, rebuilding the house will stimulate the economy. Jeez.

    2. Re: Charles Montgomery,

      Libertarian doctrine seems to mean there is rarely an obligation to step in unless it is contracted

      You don’t think. And I mean the actual action: You DON’T think.

      There’s ALWAYS a contract involved, CM – even when you go to a corner store, there’s an implicit contract between you and the owner, where if you want to obtain a ware, you PAY for it first.

      Second, you’re talking about a municipal entity as a State-mandated monopoly. That’s hardly an example of a libertarian society.

    3. Charles,

      Please explain to me what actions you personally took to put out this fire.

      (Crickets.)

      Why is it the Fulton Fire Department’s job to put out a fire for someone who a) doesn’t live in their city and b) didn’t pay the very reasonable opt-in fee?

      You, personally, have exactly the same relationship to this unfortunate individual as the Fulton Fire Department does. Namely, none at all. We all stand equally in no relationship to this guy. So why is it their job to fight the fire and not yours?

      Seriously. This is not snark. I want a specific and detailed explanation, and not, “You libertarians are evil and that’s why you don’t understand.”

      1. This line of argument is retarded to the nth degree for an almost infinite number of reasons.

        1. None of which you are willing to actually name.

          1. There’s no need to name it. Arguing you didn’t do anything while 3000 miles away is fucking absurd. It’s border line retarded.

            1. You could have anticipated the problem and taken steps to ameliorate it last year by having a policy in place to deal with it.

              That’s exactly what you want the Fulton Fire Department to have done. Why are you exempt?

              “Cause I am not there,” is not a moral principle or argument, dude. Either we all stand in mystical moral obligation to each other or we don’t. Your physical location is absolutely irrelevant.

            2. Okay, why didn’t the neighbors put out the fire? Are they heartless motherfuckers, too?

              1. Probably saw it as the best opportunity in years to get rid of some dangerous and worthless neighbors.

            3. Look, I think one odd thing about the argument we’re having is that you’re arguing that private companies would do better in this situation than the state, because a private company would have bargained with the guy on the spot instead of just sticking to the city policy.

              And that may be true, but once we’re talking about private actors I think you’d have to concede that the freedom to bargain includes within itself the freedom to not bargain.

              Maybe a private fire department would be anxious to secure a profit opportunity by having penalty pricing. But maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe they’d be satisfied with their existing product line of just serving the people that are signed up for the service. And if they were, in fact, satisfied with that – what’s wrong with that? Anything?

              1. You’re assuming bargaining on the spot at the time? Why not have a system in place before hand and narrow the bargaining down to pay X since you didn’t pay Y or we let it burn.

                You’re making some pretty silly assumptions at every point.

                I’m arguing incentives and motivations tied to bargaining. There’s a difference from just a discussion about whether bargaining would help or not, that really is a moot point. It would.

                1. Why not have a system in place before hand and narrow the bargaining down to pay X since you didn’t pay Y or we let it burn.

                  You could or you could not? Did you even read Fluffy’s post?

                  Rerequoting:

                  Maybe a private fire department would be anxious to secure a profit opportunity by having penalty pricing. But maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe they’d be satisfied with their existing product line of just serving the people that are signed up for the service. And if they were, in fact, satisfied with that – what’s wrong with that? Anything?

                  That is the part you havent answered.

            4. This is hmm’s standard argument on this subject.

              “Your argument is stupid”

              “Why?”

              “Because your argument is stupid!”

              1. Now *that’s* begging the question!

              2. There’s no sense in discussing or refuting the absurd. It’s a waste of time. So if you’re going to make absurd points like “why didn’t you put out the fire.” then yes the rebuttal is a swift stfu moron since there really is no proper response to such a moronic assertion.

                1. Sounds to this fella like you got called out and had bubkus to back up your blather.

                  You lose. Better luck next time!

        2. Feel free to elaborate. Seems pretty damn reasonable to me.

      2. Well I’m sure that Charles, feeling the need of this family will, be generously donating money to their cause.

        Certainly he’s not going to let their need go unfilled because he’s not contracted to help them?

      3. So would Libertarians like to argue that the fire department, which apparently was called next door, was right to stand and watch while a man’s house burned to the ground because he hadn’t paid a $75 fee?

        If so, don’t plan on getting anyone elected in the next 15,000 years. What if a small child was trapped in the house? Is it still OK, from a Libertarian perspective, for the fire department to perform only what they are contractually obligated to do?

        This is fucking stupid. There’s a real world out there and this kind of stuff won’t fly.

      4. I, of course, did nothing, because I am three thousand miles away.

        “You, personally, have exactly the same relationship to this unfortunate individual as the Fulton Fire Department does. Namely, none at all. ”

        No, we are all human beings. And as a fellow human being, with no regard for anything other than this is a person in trouble, I have no doubt I would have aided him. I don’t need a government to tell me what is the right thing to do when someone is in danger.

        Did this company have the right not to respond. Sure they did. The problem I have with it is that they DID respond. Had they chosen not to respond, oh well. But they expended the resources to stand there and not help. The gas, time, equipment and men were already there–from a fiscal pov, they had NOTHING to lose by doing the right thing. As decent . .no, even as fail humans they could have helped.

        “I want a specific and detailed explanation, and not, “You libertarians are evil and that’s why you don’t understand.”

        No, not all of us. But there’s a reason I have come to see Libertarianism as a blight and scourge, after years of being one. The point, to me, of opposing government is that humans are capable of being good and doing the right thing without being forced. Clearly, YOU are not that sort of person. And, sadly, you represent the vast majority of entitled, self-centered, ignorant git from financially secure family who had life handed them who have coopted a decent movement to secure individual rights into a excuse never to do ANYTHING right.

        You and your ilk embarass decent libertarians. I take that back, I renounce libertarianism . . .because libertarians ARE evil. (Except for David Brin.

    4. Libertarian doctrine seems to mean there is rarely an obligation to step in unless it is contracted..

      Really, I thought that was government doctrine, to do everything by the rules. In private society, people often offer to pitch in and ignore the rules.

      1. More to the point: there aren’t so many goddamned rules to begin with.

        1. Funny how so many people here are so worried about their comments not getting seen that they’ll add their precious insights to the original comment, thus creating a self-defeating parody of themselves. Nested comments: can’t live with them…

    5. BAHAHAHAHA Mike Elk!

      Mike Elk attended the PA Governor’s School for International Studies in 2003, a pre-college program at the University of Pittsburgh. Just as I did.

      Unlike Mike, I did not tell the entire group of 100 students that I was going to go to an Ivy League school. It didn’t matter that half of our class got into Ivy Leagues later that year, he PROFESSED he would. Unfortunately, Mike, Bucknell is not Ivy League, in fact it might not even be a first tier school.

      Anyways, unlike Mike, I did not get kicked out of the program for the repeated failure to show up for classes because “I was on important phone calls with the Governor”.

      Also unlike Mike, I didn’t have my mom send out letters to the other students’ parents, begging that they petition for the reinstatement of her Special Snowflake.

      I also did not stage a “protest” with 5 other haggard and toothless union members outside the Forbes Hall dormitory, claiming my civil rights, labor rights, and right to live were violated.

      I’m not making any of this up, people. He was booted from my pre-college program because he was a crazy loon.

      God, Katherine, I’m sure you had absolutely no idea who the hell you were dealing with. This guy is a grade A circus freak.

      1. Wow, hilarious if that’s true!

        1. Sure is Dan. I posted this below, but I’ll post it again here:

          Hey, people have a right to know. If anyone doubts my story, you’re free to contact the University of Pittsburgh’s University Center for International Studies (UCIS) director Melissa Reed. Dr. Reed was also Director of the now-defunct PA Governor’s School for International Relations, or PGSIS. http://www.ucis.pitt.edu/main/

          1. Any of the information you mention would be covered by FERPA. The university will not comply with requests for such information unaccompanied by a signed waiver from the student in question, a search warrant, or a court order.

            1. I dunno what FERPA is, but I do know it happened and that at 98 other students, 6-10 teachers and staffers and RA’s and the 98 students’ parents are well aware of it. Besides, the University was the host, it did not run the program. The State of Pennsylvania ran the program.

  2. Should the Fulton FD done anything differently? And if so, what?

    Does the problem lie with the department or the city? The department follows city policy.

    Like I said before, making the department a private entity would solve all the problems mentioned. (although a few smaller (imo) problems may occur due to privatization)

    1. A better solution would be to put out the fire and bill the homeowner the cost.

      I’m curious as to whether or not the insurance company will pay when they find out this guy could have signed up for fire protection and was too cheap to fork over $75 ….

      1. Depends what his policy says. I would bet his insurance predates the existence of the fire service and thus their is no clause requiring him to have it. Most likely it wasnt added in when the service came into existence.

      2. You’re a day late to that argument. I spent a good hour dealing with, “OMG HE DIDN’T PAY LET IT BURN!!!” moral absolutists yesterday while at the same time dealing with, “OMG YOU STUPID LIBERTARIANS SEE HOW YOUR IDEAS RUIN LIVES!!” retards. It was an interesting mix.

        The private comment deals with incentives. Private companies have an incentive (profit motive, and image) to bargain. Government has an incentive to not bargain, or the ability to take a position that allows them to not care about bargaining.

        But that seemed to complex a concept for a many since the straw-men and really poor analogies were abundant in the rebuttals.

      3. If you presume a 100% collection rate, perhaps. Or should the city subsidize non-residents who don’t pay?

        1. Using penalty pricing is an easy way to solve this. It’s been done for centuries. You get a higher rate of payment and a generate a higher marginal revenue per infraction for those who gamble and lose.

          1. Agreed. I don’t think billing the homeowner “the cost” is sufficient, is all.

            It makes sense for the fire department/city to have an “oops, you should have paid the $75” price as long as the fire department would have had sufficient resources to fight the fire had it spread to the house of someone who paid the fee up front.

            1. Which begs the question:

              Because this guy was too cheap/lazy/whatever to pay his $75 fee, is he responsible for any of the damages which occurred to his neighbor’s house?

          2. Why didn’t you personally put out the fire for him and then charge him penalty pricing for doing so?

            You are in the same contract relationship to this guy as the Fulton Fire Department.

            1. Gap in specialization.

              Why don’t you build your own cell towers and use that instead of AT&Ts; equipment?

              1. He could if he wanted to. If AT&T doestn cover his area, that would be a better response than bitching about it.

                1. I’m guess he doesn’t have the knowledge, equipment, and general ability to erect his own towers and networks.

                  So no, he couldn’t.

              2. In other words, you made sure you weren’t in a position to be able to help him, and your theory is that this excuses you from the obligation to help him.

                So if you’re a lazy asshole who doesn’t know how to fight a fire, and you make sure you don’t learn how to fight a fire or have any equipment that could fight a fire, you are morally in the clear and under no obligation to this idiot at all.

                But as soon as you take any steps to prepare yourself to fight even one fire, you are morally obligated to come up with a way that every idiot in America can use your service in every possible circumstance.

                Is that about right?

                1. I didn’t make sure of anything? I don’t own a pumper truck? Your point is absurd beyond belief and based in nothing even remotely cogent.

                  1. Why dont you own a pumper truck? You should, so you can help in these situations.

                    1. Because it’s more efficient to allow specialization within markets.

                      We can play this game. It’s a stupid one, but not too hard to make a point with.

                    2. It isnt more efficient – there was no one with that specialization in that market.

                    3. Uh fire services are specialized in putting out fires. Big red trucks and all, both private and publicly owned.

                    4. There is no fire service in that area. Thats why some people hire one from a different area. And some dont.

                      But, I was specifically referring to the penalty pricing service. That doesnt exist in that market.

                    5. There is a fire service in the area. They stopped the house next door from catching fire. Wouldn’t that qualify as in the area?

                  2. It only appears absurd to you because you’re an entitled consumer who postulates that he’s under no moral obligation to help because he “can’t”, but that others are under a moral obligation to help because they “can”.

                    And that’s an awfully convenient moral system to have if you’ve seen to it that you’re an incompetent fuck with no useful skills.

                    1. Or the fact I’m 3000 miles away and have no means to physically help.

                      But don’t let that stop your absurd assertion.

            2. You can do better than that.

              1. Look, its stupid that they dont have penalty pricing, BUT, that is their option. He knew they didnt have penalty pricing (I assume this would be published) when he decided* not to pay the fee.

                *Forgetting is a type of decision

                1. Now ask why the city doesn’t offer that option? And we end up right back at incentives and motives with respect to government and firms.

                  1. Now ask why the city doesn’t offer that option? And we end up right back at incentives and motives with respect to government and firms.

                    I agree, but I dont fucking care. Some people (and maybe not you, but you seem to be) are arguing the city not having that policy is immoral.

                    Its a policy. Stupid one, sure, but thats life. Like I said somewhere in this thread, he should have negotiated the proper policy in advance. And, yes, I realize it being a municipality instead of a private business makes that almost impossible.

                    1. I don’t care if it’s moral or not. I’m saying a private firm would have the incentives to set up an entirely different business model and pricing model than a government.

                    2. Maybe a private fire department would be anxious to secure a profit opportunity by having penalty pricing. But maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe they’d be satisfied with their existing product line of just serving the people that are signed up for the service. And if they were, in fact, satisfied with that – what’s wrong with that? Anything?

                    3. Nothing, but then there would be an opportunity for entry of firms into the areas they don’t serve. Under this scenario the areas not directly served have to compete with a subsidized entity. (plus the other issues like distance and so forth)

                    4. I don’t care if it’s moral or not.

                      Quoting myself from below:

                      But who gives a fuck about anything other than the moral issue?

                    5. I’m not so sure, A private firm may also decide that it can’t risk spending resources on somebody that isn’t covered because somebody who is covered may need their services. I suspect if the pump truck was tied up fighting this guys fire and a fire on the other side of town broke out a private company would be open to a lawsuit. A municipality is more likely to be immune to that kind of lawsuit.

            3. If I had the equipment, the ability to know about the fire and respond, etc., then, sure, it would have been a great profit opportunity.

              I can argue that the Fire Department is being *stupid* in its policy and missing out on a profit opportunity without arguing the moral issue.

              1. I can argue that the Fire Department is being *stupid* in its policy and missing out on a profit opportunity without arguing the moral issue.

                Yes you can. But who gives a fuck about anything other than the moral issue?

                1. Foregoing profit is a moral issue if you are a publicly held company. There’s an interesting twist…

                  1. Foregoing profit is a moral issue if you are a publicly held company

                    Nope. It may be an ethical/legal issue, but not moral.

                    If a publicly held company passes on a profitable opportunity because their charter makes it clear they arent going to get into the porn business (or the tobacco business or the lobbying business) that isnt a moral problem. They might open themselves up to shareholder lawsuits though.

                    1. The assumption was legal/ethical profit with respect to a publicly held company. Which shouldn’t really need to be stated.

                    2. You said moral. If the assumption was legal/ethical I think you would have used the phrase legal/ethical.

                    3. The issue of foregoing ethical/legal profit is a moral one with respect to equity owners.

                      confusion fixed?

                    4. The issue of a company…

                      let cover all the bases on that one.

                    5. No, it is an ethical issue, not a moral one even for the equity owners.

                    6. A company foregoing profit (legal/ethical) is the wrong behavior for a publicly held company.

                      moral
                      1 a : of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior : ethical

                      Semantics, ya. You can call it fruity happy theory of rosy potato chips for all I care. The point stands. It’s wrong for public companies to forgo legal/ethical profit.

                    7. It’s wrong for public companies to forgo legal/ethical profit.

                      Bullshit. Christian bookstores, even if public, dont carry porn. They forgo the profit. And it isnt wrong.

                    8. Of course, I argue the term public company is wrong anyway. They are private companies with ownership open to anyone.

                    9. Individuals don’t own a publicly traded company through equities. They own a right to the companies future profits. Bond holders and lenders could be said to own, or more accurately have a claim, to the property of publicly traded companies.

                      Since we want all the semantics and ideas to be correct.

                    10. That violates the companies ethical charter making that profit unethical. It’s also absurd since you would presume such an action would be a drastic departure from the book stores business model driving it’s core market away and reducing its revenue, which would reduce the stores profit (if it remained a Christian book store), which would reduce profit, which would make the action irresponsibly wrong on the book stores part since the repercussions of such an action are easily foreseeable and reduced profits.

                      Really?

                    11. Any dictionary that says moral and ethical are the same thing should be thrown away.

                    12. Tossing out Webster?

                      I’ve seen varying philosophical delineations usually dealing with the personal versus the collective. Either of those works perfectly fine in the above discussion.

                2. Because a private company would have the incentives to make a profit and avoid having a stupid policy, whereas government has a larger tendency to get stuck on rules. So ignoring the moral argument (other than a moral of “duty to make a profit”) leads to a justification of why a private service would work better.

                  A private contractor tends to *love* situations where someone says “I’ll pay you whatever you want to fix this.” But governments want to ban “price gouging,” even though in an emergency price gouging is better than nothing.

                  Just talking about the moral issue ends up being ridiculous, because so many non-libertarians assume that the only motivation for behavior is moral, and that nothing will happen unless it’s morally required.

                  1. I think that, rather than the moral issue, it’s worth discussing that a private company would be a lot more likely to bargain than just refuse to serve someone who is willing to pay emergency prices.

                    Leftists apparently look at this and call it “government acting like private industry.” But private corporations don’t miss out on the chance for enormous profit.

                    Sure, the auto insurance company doesn’t let you buy insurance after the fact. But the body shop will fix it if you didn’t have insurance, you just have to pay. The fire department here acts as both insurer and provider of service.

                    1. But private corporations don’t miss out on the chance for enormous profit.

                      Actually, they do all the time. Usually big corps. And then a small company swoops in, snarfs up the opportunity and becomes bigger than the little guy.

                    2. “bigger than the big guy” that is.

                      And I see an opportunity for the hmmm fire protection company. The muni fire dept isnt properly serving the market, there is profit to be made!

                    3. Companies dislike competing with government in most markets. There are examples to the contrary like UPS or FEDEX, but for the most part competing with a guy who has pockets with no bottoms is a rough thing to do.

                    4. No competition. They arent interested in serving the guys who didnt pay the $75. You can target them as your customer base.

                    5. A private firm would be competing with a subsidized entity (the city fire) within the fire market. The subsidized entity is capable of coercing funds. The private firm wouldn’t be able to capture enough market share to be profitable because the city can price at 0 (not zero due to tax, but perceived that way) or a drastically discounted rate.

                      Come on, things like this are basic business and shouldn’t even be considered an argument.

                  2. So ignoring the moral argument (other than a moral of “duty to make a profit”) leads to a justification of why a private service would work better.

                    Thats utilitarian crap. While I agree that a private service would work beter, I dont care. I would prefer a private service because its the moral way to handle it, as opposed to taxing people (in this case for people outside their jurisdiction, the service was basically a “private” service, in the same way that GM is a “private” car company. They behave like a private company but happen to be government “owned”).

            4. OK Fluffy,
              Because I was a thousand miles away, in a different country and am not a professional firefighter.
              If I HAD been on the scene in my fancy turnout gear sitting in a half-million dollar fire engine I WOULD have helped- policy be damned. They can fire me later. Letting a man’s house burn to the ground over a trivial bookkeeping problem (the man HAD been paying and was simply forgetful rather than actually a refusenik) is jobsworth insanity.

              Not to mention that the best way to protect the property of the fire-squeeze paying neighbors is to put the damn fire out.

              In fact, If I had just happened to be standing there with a tin pail and a shovel I would have offered to help the guy. It’s what decent, civilized people do.

              Sometimes there’s more to life than a bunfight over a few bucks.

              There. Happy now?

              1. Because I was a thousand miles away, in a different country and am not a professional firefighter.
                If I HAD been on the scene in my fancy turnout gear sitting in a half-million dollar fire engine I WOULD have helped- policy be damned.

                Why didn’t you make preparations in advance to help? By your logic, you’re just as negligent as the fire department.

                1. Being there would have helped.
                  Not being there could not.
                  Moreover, it’s not my actual JOB to fight fires– but I would have helped anyway and this been, say, my actual neighbor’s house.

                  In FACT, I HAVE helped fight a fire at the store near our cottage while we waited for the volunteer fire department to arrive.

                  Been there. Seen the elephant. Have already put my skin where my mouth is.

                  The fire department was there, with the necessary equipment, and it is their actual job. The bookkeeping could easily have been handled after the fact.

                  Your argument is ridiculous.

                  1. The fire department was there, with the necessary equipment, and it is their actual job.

                    And yet not their actual duty.

                    1. “I thought they’d come out and put it out, even if you hadn’t paid your $75, but I was wrong,” said Gene Cranick.

                    2. I see the point you’re trying to make and I agree. Within the narrow terms of their job description and legal requirements thereof you are likely quite correct.

                      And for want of the specification for a nail in the General Purchasing Agreement in Chapter 4, section 5, subsection 5-G, paragraph 12, the kingdom was lost.

                      but at least we followed the rules.

                  2. Then since you know how to fight fires, you are morally delinquent because you are posting on this message board right now rather than seeking out fires to fight.

                    It doesn’t matter if you’re getting paid to do it or not. This guy didn’t pay the Fulton Fire Department. Since you think that’s immaterial, it is also immaterial if you personally are getting paid to do it.

                    You were a volunteer, you say? Even worse. You’ve demonstrated that you will fight fires for no pay. How dare you stop? That makes every fire that happens in the USA today YOUR responsibility.

                    1. Ok, now you’re just being irrational.
                      No point in continuing this discussion. If you can’t see the distinction then you’re beyond saving.

      4. JohnD –

        This is exactly what I thought, and it parallels the health insurance model well. If you don’t have insurance and need medical care, you get the emergency care you needed and then get presented with the bill for the full amount. If you want to take the risk of not having the insurance, fine, but you’ll get stuck with the bill for the full cost of treatment when you check out of the hospital.

        What this case really shows me is the danger of public fee-based models. You get the worst of both systems: the inefficiency and buck-passing of government combined with insurance style customer service.

        1. How do you make them pay?

          You could lien the house – possibly – depending on the law.

          However, you cannot generally force someone to sell their house to pay the lien. Too many homeowners opt for this, and the fire department would go out of the business (cash flow problems). Result: no one has fire services.

  3. I see a 200 post hyperbole ridden shit fest in the near future. My magic 8 ball says it is likely.

    1. incif took care of the last thread’s problem.

  4. This is essentially the same as denying someone essential medical care because he doesn’t have insurance. So the question is, do you want to live in the kind of society in which this happens?

    Yes, I do! I do, indeed!

  5. 200? Shit, we hit nearly 400 on this topic yesterday.

    What more can we say here that wasn’t already said there?

  6. I don’t see how people can blame the market for this. The decision to not put out the fire because the resident didn’t pay the $75 was the decision of a government agency. In most rural areas that operate on a subscription basis, they will put out your fire and bill you something on the order of $500 later, typically.

    1. Bingo.

      Isn’t it grand, hearing from erudite and upstanding urban dwellers who have never set foot in an area served by a Volunteer Fire Department?

      Only they could conflate the conflagration, and pretend as though the consequence of a government mandate is proof that private entities are failures.

    2. Five hundred is peanuts. Everyone in our rural township is covered (volunteer FD), but if we burn brush without a permit and the fire gets out of control, or are otherwise found negligent, we pay a $1,000 fine *plus* the cost of suppression.

    3. I don’t see how people can blame the market for this.

      The same way they blame the market for gov’t-interference-based healthcare.

      It doesn’t have to make sense when the bodies are piling up in the streets and subsequently catching peoples’ homes on fire.

  7. Let me see if I understand this…a municipal fire department allows a home to burn to the ground because the owner did not pay his $75 annual fee for one year, and this proves that outsourcing to private companies would be a disaster? Sounds like impeccable logic to me.

    Actually, the private company would have had every incentive to put out the fire on the non-payer’s home to avoid possible liability to neighboring properties if the fire spread. Since municipalities are immune from such liability, they have no such incentive. Seems to me to be a reason in favor of privatizing.

    1. Even the municipal FD was worried about that, the fire started to spread into the neighbor’s yard and they put that out.

    2. This is true to some extent, but even more importnatly, a private company would likely put out the fire for a price, just as someone without medical insurance can pay for their medical care in cash if they would like to.

      What company would be on the spot, ready to perform a service, but refuse to do so for an agreed upon price?

    3. Actually, we appear to only have the homeowner’s word that he only missed one year’s payment. But he also said the thought they’d come out even if he didn’t pay. So, which is it?

  8. I can’t believe that any person would stand there and let a place burn because of an unpaid fee. It just goes against human instinct not to help.

    So much for this hero shit that is dumped on us daily from the fire fighter unions and their lap poodle media.

    1. Yes, it’s all a liberal plot by those dastardly firefighters!

    2. When you have no reason to care and a rule saying you don’t have to care it seems pretty easy for government agencies and those within them to not care.

    3. The reason it would have been heroic for them to fight the fire anyway is because there would have been no reason for them to do it.

      1. BINGO! Going to ‘work’ is not heroic.

    4. “I can’t believe that any person would stand there and let a place burn because of an unpaid fee. It just goes against human instinct not to help.”

      No one was inside the house. Saving the property of cheap, freeloading assholes isn’t “heroic”, it just makes you a sucker.

  9. …when Reason’s own Katherine Mangu-Ward blogged it on October 4, relatively few commenters could handle it…

    No comment. Literally!

    Firefighters only do the job because they get paid? That seems somewhat less heroic.

    1. get paid to sleep…

      That’s what it should have said.

    2. You should never save someone’s life unheroically.

  10. Residents of rural Olbion County, Tennessee must contract indivdiually with nearby Fulton city for fire protection. The annual fee is $75.

    It is clear that they contract with the city, not a private entity, so I don’t understand the Olbermann’s argument against “outsourcing” such services?

    The rules are quite inflexible, common thing with a government – if I was running the service, privately, I would have sent my firefighters and then slap the guy with a fair bill.

    1. The problem with that is if a neighbor calls in a fire while the homeowner is away. Who do you bill? The homeowner never agreed to pay you in exchange for the service.

      Perhaps a blanket law saying the fire department can bill you, even without your consent?

      1. Re: Stretchy,

        The problem with that is if a neighbor calls in a fire while the homeowner is away.

        I don’t send anybody. If the carpet cleaners don’t send anybody if my neighbor calls them claiming my carpet is dirty, then why would firefighters do the same?

        Perhaps a blanket law saying the fire department can bill you, even without your consent?

        Extraordinary circumstances make BAD laws.

        1. If the carpet cleaners don’t send anybody if my neighbor calls them claiming my carpet is dirty, then why would firefighters do the same?

          Just to be clear, if a neighbor hears gunshots in your home and calls the police and ambulance, the would-be responders should say, “We’re going to wait until we hear from Old Mexican”?

          1. Re: Night Elf Mohawk,

            Just to be clear, if a neighbor hears gunshots in your home and calls the police and ambulance, the would-be responders should say, “We’re going to wait until we hear from Old Mexican”?

            Is the police a private company? Because we were talking above about BILLING and CONTRACTING.

            What if the were NO shots and the neighbor was full of shit? Who pays for my busted door? My scared wife? My anguished kids?

            1. You were the one who used the example of a private company while someone else was talking about the fire department. And the last time I rode in an ambulance, I got a bill for it even though I didn’t call them and didn’t consent to using them.

              If your neighbor was purposefully or negligently full of shit, your neighbor pays. If it was an honest to goodness mistake made in good faith, I tend to believe that you probably eat the cost of the door (though I could be persuaded otherwise) but if I were the neighbor I’d probably be willing to split it with you. I think the price of a door is probably fair in comparison to having neighbors who try to have your back even if they are imperfect.

              1. Re: Night Elf Mohawk,

                You were the one who used the example of a private company while someone else was talking about the fire department.

                Read my post again – I said if I was running the service (firefighters) privately. This is why I am asking YOU: Is the police a private company?

                If your neighbor was purposefully or negligently full of shit, your neighbor pays.

                That’s a good possibility, for the knowledge that a negligent busybody will be hit with a bill might make my neighbor think twice and mind his on business.

                It would also make germane the purchase of insurance and alarm systems.

                And the last time I rode in an ambulance, I got a bill for it even though I didn’t call them and didn’t consent to using them.

                Welcome to the U.S.S.A. In Mexico, you only ride an ambulace YOU call (there are several private services you can subscribe to for something like 15 USD per month – honest), or the Red Cross drives you for free if you’re bleeding, as it is a charity-driven organization.

          2. Better that than them coming, breaking down your door, and shooting dead your dog for a false alarm.

  11. I lived in an area with subscription fire service for several years. The savings on my insurance rates for having a subscription far outweighed the cost of the fire service. And to my knowledge, banks made having a subscription a condition of getting a mortgage.

    Did this guy have insurance? I can’t see how he wasn’t penalized by the company for not having a subscription if it was available.

    1. Probably his insurance policy predates the existence of the fire service.

      1. More likely that the fire insurer would either (a) require that any fire service fees be paid, or (b) pay the service fee itself and build it into the premium.

      2. Yeah, but even so insurance companies will often let you know about available discounts for this sort of thing.

  12. Here’s a hypothetical scenario: Paul Krugman’s lungs are on fire. Do you piss down his throat to put it out?

    1. LMAO !! A dilemma for sure.

    2. I “try” to piss down his throat, but miss. Win-win!

  13. Fact question – do we know whether the only reason the FD let the house burn was non-payment? Or was the house so far gone that they made the strategic decision that it was beyond rescue?

    1. There’s also the issue of being able to respond to subscribers while servicing a non-subscriber.

  14. I really don’t see the problem here, nor the analogy to libertarianism. No private companies were involved, so how can you criticize them?

    1. Because if libertarians were in charge, society would be exactly that retarded, 100% of the time.

      1. How so, “atheist”? Please, enlighten me…

        1. As you can see by the comments, the folks here either think this is the model to follow, or else refuse to even think about it. If they were in charge, all fire departments would act this way.

          1. No, private companies would be in charge of the fire protection, not inept city governments.

            1. I can’t say about city governments, but our township council is pretty adept, actually. Roads get maintained and cleared of snow. Fires get put out. We can either hire private garbage pickup or haul it ourselves to a nearby collection point. Town council meetings are announced, which residents are urged to attend. People who want to speak get heard.

              1. There is something to be said for keeping things more local, rather than expecting a city 20 miles away or a massive Federal Bureaucracy 1000 miles to kiss you boo-boos and give you a wowwypop. Best thing about local taxes, you can easily point out the fuckfaces skimming off the top and run them down in the streets shortly before being carted off to an institution.

          2. Re: atheist,

            As you can see by the comments, the folks here either think this is the model to follow[…]

            Don’t presume to KNOW what I can see. I am asking YOU to explain your assertion.

            or else refuse to even think about it.

            You’re an idiot – are you seriously giving me this crap?

            If they were in charge, all fire departments would act this way.

            How would YOU know? Again, you’re an idiot.

            1. I know by simply reading the comments. Try reading, you might like it.

              1. Re: atheist,

                I know by simply reading the comments.

                I didn’t ask you about what other people are commenting, asshole. I want you to give arguments that make this assertion “Because if libertarians were in charge, society would be exactly that retarded, 100% of the time” valid.

                Simply saying that you know because of a few comments only tells me you lack critical thinking skills.

          3. No, they would offer to put out the fire for a penalty fee. Because they’re greedy bastards. As opposed to the heroic government servants who did nothing.

          4. I beg you either to stop posting this crap or change your handle–you’re giving the rest of us atheists a bad name.

            1. Perhaps you should ask the Pope of Atheism to excommunicate me.

      2. exactly, with one small exception – the fire would’ve been put out.

    2. Because this is was passes for “logic” on the Left.

      Case in point: Read atheist’s comments.

  15. The fire chief stated they would have put out the fire if someone had been in the building.

    I live a few miles north of Olbion County, most of the counties around here have had “No burn” orders in effect for a couple of months now. So the question is, will the grandson or the homeowner (if the grandson is a minor who should have been supervised) face charges for violating the burn ban? In burning the trash with conditions as dry as they are, especially during the daytime, the homeowner put all of his neighbors at risk.

    1. The fire chief stated they would have put out the fire if someone had been in the building.

      Do you really think he’d be stupid enough to say that he wouldn’t? I’m not saying that he wouldn’t, but there’s no way the fire chief would have indicated that he would have them stand down even if he would have.

  16. The Krud-man:

    This is essentially the same as denying someone essential medical care because he doesn’t have insurance.

    I haven’t been denied care in lieu of insurance. I simply was required to pay more out-of-pocket.

    1. I actually have paid less w/o insurance. I was paying in cash though, so I’m sure that made a difference.

      (I’ve also traded service for dental work. But that was in BFE and it seems rural practitioners are more willing to deal.)

      1. (I’ve also traded service for dental work. But that was in BFE

        What is this “BFE” you speak of? Is that like the GFE (Girl Friend Experience) that hookers offer?

        Did you really offer to have sex with your dentist while pretending to care about him?

        1. “BFE” is an acronym for “butt-f—ing Egypt”. That is, a remote, out-of-the-way, rural area. This is a common American English vernacular idiom.

          I know a few dentists, and they will all entertain reasonable offers, although I doubt any would be interested in this “GFE” thing. One guy I know traded implants for a sailboat.

  17. You’ll have a hard time finding anyone around South Fulton or anyplace else who still thinks the separate fee is a good idea.

    However, a libertarian circle jerk on the internets thinks it’s swell, so all is right with the world.

    1. There he is. What took you so long?

    2. You’ll have a hard time finding anyone around South Fulton or anyplace else who still thinks the separate fee is a good idea.

      And you know this how?

      1. *facepalm*

        1. Hey, if you don’t like the philosophy, perhaps you should post elsewhere. Democratic Underground, perhaps.

          1. But, what other blog has such a supply of pale, feeble embarreled fish, each one imagining itself a sharpshooter?

          2. Oh, right. The best surround sound is an echo chamber. The best sex is a circle jerk.

            1. There are commenters who disagree but are actually capable of argumentation, thought, and reading comprehension. Atheist is apparently capable of none, or at least pretends so on the Internet.

    3. I guess the thing to do would be to stop offering the fire services for $75 a year and let the county residents go back to however they handled fires before.

      1. I have no problem with that. This clearly is not working, except for nasty people who want to see this guy and his family get some sort of Objectivist comeuppance. It’s fairly sick (as evidenced by all the nasty responses I get here).

        1. Re: Libertardian,

          I have no problem with that [letting the county residents go back to however they handled fires before.]

          They DIDN’T handle fires before, retard. That was the point.

        2. This is a libertarian blog, not an Objectivist blog, two entirely different things.

          But the local city government let this guy’s house burn to the ground, once again proving that governments could care less about the little guy. They had a rule so damn it, the FD was going to let his house burn no matter what!

        3. So in your universe it would be better for nobody in the county to have access to organized fire response, even for an extremely reasonable $75 fee? This would be better than having the neighboring town’s fire department available for a $75 annual fee?

          1. Bingo. You have aptly summarized the modern liberal’s concept of equality. As a bonus, you’ve also demonstrated how they have no idea how stupid it sounds.

        4. What do you mean “clearly not working?” The county has been contracting this way for 20 years. The citizens of the county have collectively decided that they prefer contracting to running their own department, and an annual fee instead of a tax. There is only one problem with this story.

          The city fire department refused payment when they arrived. A privatized department would have incentive to negotiate, but the city (government) officials have a policy of not negotiating.

          That has nothing whatsoever to do with libertarianism, objectivism, or whatever word you were taught to hate as a child.

          As for the nasty responses? Come on. You knew exactly what you would get for trolling like this. I for one, salute you. It’s been a breath of fresh air to have new troll blood. You’ll have to prove that you have the staying power, though. Keep up the good work.

      2. back to however they handled fires before.

        Manually? *rimshot*

    4. That’s because a bunch of emotivist assholes think, “Awww, that poor guy!” and think that’s an argument.

      It’s no argument at all. And you’ve got absolutely nothing else BUT that.

    5. Re: Libertardian,

      You’ll have a hard time finding anyone around South Fulton or anyplace else who still thinks the separate fee is a good idea.

      Oh, so you tried to, personally? What an achievement.

      1. I’m personally disappointed that he didn’t go and put out the fire himself, if he had time to go there and poll everyone about the fee.

    6. I’m betting the people who actually paid the fee and accordingly have been served by the fire department as a result think it’s a fine idea.

  18. The most striking thing about this story is how some people took the guy’s misfortune of having their house burning down and used it as the basis of a pathetic, exaggerated diatribe against libertarians.

    I’ve never felt so viscerally that people are starting to talk about us like others talk about Jews. “They” want everybody’s house to burn down because they’re all greedy and selfish.

    1. No, libertarians aren’t even selfish. A selfish person would want their house protected by a free fire department. They’re just delusional.

      1. A rational person on either side of the encounter (or outside the encounter) would want a means to bargain allowing both parties to come out ahead. Instead of one of the parties gaining and one losing.

        1. No. A rational person would know that when his house was burning down, he’d be in absolutely no position to bargain for anything, and would put fire fighting outside of the market, as a necessary public good. But libertarians aren’t rational people.

          1. If only there was some way for him to have gotten fire protection before his house started burning down. Perhaps some sort of fee.

            1. Or even better forgo the simplistic pay or lose model and adopt a model that allows everyone to get what they want/need in the broadest scope of situations.

              1. Then negotiate that model in fucking advance.

              2. But, a broad model that gave most people what they wanted in most situations? That would be so un-Libertarian!!


                1. But, a broad model that gave most people what they wanted in most situations? That would be so un-Libertarian!!

                  You really are an idiot. A broad model is libertarian. A narrow model is libertarian. No model is libertarian.

                  1. Libertarianism: it’s a floor wax, it’s a dessert topping! No wait, it’s nothing at all. It’s whatever system robc needs it to be right now. When that becomes inconvenient, it will magically change to something else…

                2. Trolls don’t get sarcasm. You actually have to think as you go along. it is off the script. please don’t confuse him.

                  1. Personally, I think you should try fascism. Give all those statists what for! Lock ’em in a privately contracted concentration camp.

                3. No it wouldn’t? You set up a pricing scheme so people pay what they feel is correct per their perceived risk. How is providing choice across the perceived risk of a customer base not libertarian? Bob is a worry wort and pays $75 a month. Steve is gambler and forgoes the $75 a month for the risk of having to pay $5000 if he needs the service.

                  You then get a outside influences from other market participants like insurance companies who would want you to pay the $75.

                  That’s pretty libertarian.

                  1. That’s pretty libertarian.

                    Yes it is. As is a private company that offers a single tier: pay $75 and we show up.

                    1. A company would never price that way. That’s the point.

                      If this seems confusing look at the tried and true hardback v softback book model for pricing. It’s the exact inverse of this situation. A premium paid for being first and perceived value then a shift to a discounted price and bulk for the rest of the market. Flip that and you have this market.

                    2. doh, that’s me. hmm

                      Krugman is trying to steal my persona!!

                    3. Ooops, didnt see this when I posted below. Why wouldnt a company work that way, see Fluffy’s post that I have requoted 3 times that you havent responded to?

                      Why wouldnt a company just decide to charge $75 and only serve that customer line. Maybe they find billing post-fire to be a hassle they dont want to deal with.

                    4. Because they will only capture a portion of the market. Companies act to maximize profit and pricing at a fixed level is not maximizing profit.

                      Pretty basic economic principles.

                    5. Your correct that if the hassle of collecting is difficult or other circumstances cause collection issues it may not be worth while, but you can spend all day saying what if or start from a basic tiered model that accomplishes profit maximization and then deal with issues as they arise. And a flat rate constant pricing model is rarely the answer.

                    6. you can spend all day saying what if or start from a basic tiered model that accomplishes profit maximization and then deal with issues as they arise.

                      Actually, you probably start with a flat model and add the tier as you realize the need, because there are actually dumbasses who wont pay the $75.

                      But, we arent discussing best business practices, I think we are in agreement that having the two tiered model is better. However, plenty of businesses dont maximize profit. Some companies make x product a day and turn away customers when they run out. And Im not talking about production limits or anything like that, Im talking about people who feel they make enough working 4 hours a day and would rather do yoga or drink beer than maximize profit.

                      I could see the same thing with a rural fire company: Too much of a hassle with paperwork and billing and shit. We collect $75 from many people and thats good enough.

                    7. I build pricing models.

                      All business maximize profits per the information they have and can use. Just like people act rationally per the information they have and can use. When companies are not capturing all the profit they can from a market they lose market share to other firms who are doing a better job of maximizing per constraints.

                      When government is injected into the mix things start to get more complicated and the relations between consumer and producer/service provider start to break down or degrade.

                      Like I said before the cost of dealing with outlying areas could be too much, but then there’s always another solution and someone somewhere figuring out how to better their lives by finding that solution. And that someone is never government.

                    8. A company would never price that way.

                      Ummm, where you replying to hmmm or me?

                      Because your response makes zero sense to either of us.

                      Come on people, once weve reached max indenting, you need to quote if it isnt clear.

                    9. Ummm, where you replying to hmmm or me?

                      PAul Krug was hmm screwing up as usually.

                      Companies never price at a flat constant level, or at least they don’t for very long since they either adapt or leave the market.

                      The model traditionally used to show this is the market for books. Hardcovers are sold first at a premium to capture the first portion of the market willing to pay the higher rate. At some point the softcover goes on sale capturing the rest of the market. Flip that scenario and you have the pricing model for this market. The majority pays a discount ($75) for fire service and those with less aversion to risk pay a premium. ($5000)

          2. The time when you bargain is not when the house is burning down.

            Sometimes you have to prepare.

            If some asshole goes boating today with no radio and no life preserver and his boat sinks, it is not an argument against libertarianism that the rest of us have not made any provision for how to save him in that circumstance.

            The bottom line is that he had an asset worth tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars that he could have protected for the cost of a new computer game, and he didn’t do it.

            Maybe he gambled and lost.

            Maybe he just forgot.

            In either case, do you know what that has to do with me? Dick.

            Why didn’t you put the fire out?

            1. The argument against it is that most people are shortsighted, and they don’t usually prepare for the exigencies of life, unless forced to. If you make people depend on individual choice for fire protection, you are going to have a hell of a lot of people harmed, quite pointlessly. And furthermore, if someone doesn’t prepare ahead… or if he’s just unlucky… and his house burns down, he endangers others who may have planned ahead themselves. These are simple facts of life, though, so I wouldn’t expect you to understand.

              1. The argument against it is that most people are shortsighted, and they don’t usually prepare for the exigencies of life, unless forced to.

                I think you meant to say, “…unless we force you to prepare for them.”

                Nice dishonest use of language there. But that’s pretty fucking typical.

                1. Commenter Fluffy bravely rebels against basic necessity! But why stop there, why not attack reality too?

                  1. It’s not a basic necessity.

                    My life is not impacted one iota by the fact that this guy’s house burned down.

                    So I was not forced to prepare for the exigencies of this guy’s life, and life went on.

                    Please detail the basic necessity here.

                    1. Sure, fluffy, believe that. Have fun.

              2. The argument against it is that most people are shortsighted

                Against? That is an argument for. Maybe they will learn to prepare the second time around.

                1. Sure, let ’em burn to death, that’ll learn ’em.

                2. Funny, this *was* the second time around after the guy had already paid for a couple of years and stopped. But taking a little bit of personal responsibility is way too much to ask.

              3. “These are simple facts of life, though, so I wouldn’t expect you to understand”.

                Nice mix of ignorance and arrogance .Just the right amount of both.

              4. The argument against it is that most people are shortsighted, and they don’t usually prepare for the exigencies of life, unless forced to.

                I’m sure coddling them doesn’t contribute to this situation in any way. If I have to choose between buying a new Xbox game and fire protection, even though I know the fire department will save me regardless, guess which I’m going to choose. And if enough people do this, guess what happens: nobody gets fire protection because the fire department goes bankrupt. But everyone will be equally miserable, which is all that matters to Liberals.

                1. Damn Liberals! Enjoying their XBoxes instead of paying separate checks to the fire department! Why I’d like to eliminate those fuckers!

                  1. Nice. Except the town has no taxing authority outside of their jurisdiction. That is why they send a bill. That is why some people choose to pay and some people choose not to pay.

              5. The argument against it is that most people are shortsighted, and they don’t usually prepare for the exigencies of life, unless forced to.

                That’s arguably not true. That’s even less defendable when talking about people with enough game to buy their own house.

                The guy in question just thought he could get away with being a free rider, and now is poorer. I’m OK with people having to live with the consequences of trying to rip other people off and not succeeding.

              6. “Forced to” Yikes! What else are you going to “force” me to do – for my own good, of course.

          3. – Why would someone be in no position to bargain? A private company would have an incentive to price the penalty at a rate that would be relatively fair for all since they don’t want to piss off the rest of the customer base. So in reality the bargaining could take place well before the incident and the owner of the burning home could simply decided yes or no.

            – A statement about fire protection needing to be a public good and outside the market (which it is not in this case or any case) without any reasoning behind it is pretty pointless. Arguing necessary public goods is also pointless since it’s not hard to show that there really aren’t a lot of things private firms can’t do and government can.

            That is rational, instead of making wildly broad assumptions to justify a moral view like fire departments are a necessary good.

          4. Re: atheist,

            No. A rational person would know that when his house was burning down, he’d be in absolutely no position to bargain for anything[.]

            Not that trying is rational, mind you . . . right, “atheist”?

            […]and would put fire fighting outside of the market, as a necessary public good.

            You mean a free good, no?

            1. No, it’s not really a free good. There is no such thing as a free lunch. It’s a public good that is paid for by tax money. And it scarcely matters whether or not you “try” to bargain when your house is burning. But that’s a basic statement of reality so I don’t expect you to understand.

              1. I understand it perfectly.

                It’s the same mindset that calls for price controls on bottled water during a hurricane.

                Basically you’re saying that any time a circumstance arises that actually changes the value of a good or service, it’s not reasonable to ask someone to bargain for that new actual value under those changed conditions.

                I understand it, I just reject it.

                1. I understand it, I just reject it.

                  Awesome! You guys should really charge admission.

                  1. To watch you atheist? I dare say your lack of reading comprehension is not worth the admission.

                    1. But your borderline-sociopathic lack of concern for others, combined with your narcissistic delusion of a just world? Pure gold.

                    2. You’re a poopoo head.

            2. No. A rational person would know that when his house was burning down, he’d be in absolutely no position to bargain for anything[.]

              Actually, you can still bargain. You should be willing to pay up to the amount of the damage that the fire company can prevent by putting out the fire. The fire company should be willing to accept down to the cost of putting out the fire, including overhead and collection costs. In most cases, that leaves a bargaining range that allows both parties to strike a deal that leaves them better off.

              If the fire company offers to charge you a million dollars to prevent a hundred thousand dollars worth of damage, you’re in a position to bargain, and should turn them down.

              Yeah, you’re gonna pay more when your house is on fire than prospectively.

          5. It was a public good. In the city. Where they chose not to live.

      2. What’s this delusion I have? I think it’s perfectly fine that my city has a Fire Department and charges me taxes to run it. Lots of libertarians would agree with me. I presume you hold the same position.

        So, where’s my delusion? What are we disagreeing about? And what the heck does this weird story from Tennessee have to do with libertarianism?

  19. At least that wasn’t a false analogy or a straw-man of an argument. You’re progressing!

  20. Krugman would have been correct if he’d said “This is essentially the same as an insurance company refusing to pay for someone’s essential medical care because that person never bought insurance in the first place.”

    Note the implicit assumption that essential medical care will always be performed. That goes beyond Nick’s point of payment.

    Yes, in Libertopia, you would be denied medical care if you had neither the means nor the coverage to deal with it. That’s really one of the core issues that turns both Conservatives and Liberals off to libertarianism.

    Suck on it. It’s better than the vague moral standard that I must help those in “need”.

    1. “Suck on it. It’s better than the vague moral standard that I must help those in “need”.”

      Actually, no, no it isn’t, but go ahead and keep thinking so, because your insinuation someone is putting a gun to your head is so sane and spot on. /sarcasm

  21. The firemen – part of a municipal force – refused because of rules preventing such action.

    I would like to know more about the basis for this rule. My first guess is that there are no fire hydrants, and the water to fight the fire is brought in on pumper trucks. If the water is used up fighting the “wrong” fire, and causes the fire crew to be unable to fight one which they are contractually obligated to extinguish, that would be a problem.

    Being on site, watching the uncontracted neighbor’s house burn down is unquestionably a public relations problem.

    ps- Don’t play with matches.

  22. I don’t understand these idiots’ point. It wasn’t a private contractor that refused to put out the fire. It was a government.

    In essence, they didn’t put out the fire because the guy failed to pay what was really a tax.

    They should be cheering this.

  23. I love when Epi takes a dump on my face. Even better if it’s runny.

    1. One Cleveland Steamer to Table 6!

  24. After the beating they are taking on this, I wouldn’t be surprised if the municipality reverted to its former policy of only putting fires out within the city limits.

    Would that make Olberman happy?

    Yes, in Libertopia, you would be denied medical care if you had neither the means nor the coverage to deal with it.

    You assume that in Libertopia there would be no charitable foundations to provide assistance to those without means. I do believe you are wrong in that assumption.

    1. You assume that in Libertopia there would be no charitable foundations to provide assistance to those without means. I do believe you are wrong in that assumption.

      You can’t assume charity. Charity may exist. One could argue, that given human nature and the general rejection of Objectivism, it’s likely to exist. However, there’s no guarantee that it would exist everywhere, in all occasions that it would be necessary.

      The specific case is one of emergency medical care. Heart attacks. Strokes. Something where seconds matter in terms of medical care. In libertopia, if you weren’t already engaged in a contract for care, whether it be paid from your pocket or charitable, then your time’s up.

      And I’m OK with that. Most aren’t though. And that’s the largest rub against libertarianism.

  25. This event could very well (if only temporarily) replace Somalia as the libertarian (read: anarchist) boogeyman.

  26. Hey little girl is your daddy home
    Did he go away and leave you all alone
    I got a bad desire
    Im on fire

    Tell me now baby is he good to you
    Can he do to you the things that I do
    I can take you higher
    Im on fire

    Sometimes it’s like someone took a knife baby
    Edgy and dull and cut a six-inch valley
    Through the middle of my soul

    At night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet
    And a freight train running through the
    Middle of my head
    Only you can cool my desire
    Im on fire

  27. I can’t buy car insurance AFTER the wreck, either.

    As such, defending the Tennessee fire fighters is easy:
    http://www.dailyscoff.com/?p=2685

    But the actions of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, who seem hellbent on torching the entire STATE:
    http://gravelle.us/content/wi-…..tn-firemen

    …are entirely inexcusable…

    -jjg

    1. Your analogy, it is false. Has been thoroughly refuted it has. In previous thread it was.

      Nice day you have.

      1. The analogy was not refuted at all.

        Screaming ‘This analogy is bad!’ is not refuting it.

        1. It was in the previous thread. Keep up, read the whole post, try not to drool on the keyboard.

  28. A point I have yet to see mentioned here:

    If I were a resident of the town actually served by the fire department (i.e., not the neighboring county), who paid my taxes that support the fire department, I would be mightily miffed if my house were burning and the fire department could not respond because they were out there in the county somewhere putting out a fire for someone who not only did not even live in the town and had paid no taxes to support the fire department, but also had not even paid the measly $75 fee for the services.

    It seems that the fire department here is a limited resource. Who should have priority in access to its services? Those who actually live within the jurisdiction the fire department exists to support and pay for its existence by their taxes, those who do not live within that jurisdiction but pay an agreed-upon fee up front under a separate fee arrangement, or those who do not live within the jurisdiction and have paid nothing to be entitled to their services?

    Jeez, this is such a hard question!

    1. Ah, but I can duck that hard question because the FD was already on site, tending to a subscriber. I simply assume that there is no additional risk or cost associated with fighting the fire.

      POOF

  29. The medical analogy is stupid.

    A firetruck will come and put out the fire, but they won’t rebuild your house. And nobody expects them to.

  30. A selfish person would want their house protected by a free fire department.

    Write this down.

    There’s no such thing as a free fire department.

  31. What are the chances this guy forgets to pay for fire fighting services if everyone wasn’t trained to assume the government is there to put out fires free of cost?

  32. In the not too distant future technology will create buildings that cannot burn. Will government then maintain the fire service by taxing the owners of unburnable buildings for the sole benefit of owners of old and historic structures?

    1. The fire department will set fires. Duh. Ive read that book.

      1. robc habitually looks over his shoulder… Government might be following him…

        1. Or robc was making a literary allusion that most people who made it out of 8th grade would get.

        2. Dude, you are retarded

  33. The user fee system wasn’t totally wrong, since it was apparently a transition from no fire protection at all. But this is a great illustration of why universal coverage is the best system. His neighbor’s house would never have caught fire if they would have simply put it out in the first place! More damage was done to the community because one person was given the choice not to opt in. His choice not to pay the fee (we’ll put aside the fact that it was an oversight) brought on extra costs to his neighbors.

    And it’s closely analogous to healthcare. The most obvious way is communicable diseases. Don’t treat a contagious person because she can’t pay, and the contagion spreads. But it goes further. If Nick is willing to admit that:

    There is very little denial of “essential medical care” in the United States if we’re talking about emergency room visits and the like.

    then we’re operating from a real-world standpoint in which people aren’t turned away from emergency care because of lack of ability to pay. In a world where health insurance is optional and thus non-universal, this increases costs for everyone. But there’s really no need to engage in speculation about the pitfalls or benefits of universal healthcare, since we’re pretty much the last advanced country to enact it. All we have to do is look at any other country to find a better system.

    1. The US healthcare system already treats contagious disease very differently from chronic illness.

    2. But there’s really no need to engage in speculation about the pitfalls or benefits of universal healthcare, since we’re pretty much the last advanced country to enact it. All we have to do is look at any other country to find a better system.

      There’s no need to look at any other country, just look at Medicaid and Medicare. Oh wait, Medicare also suffers from the same cost issues compared to universal health care for 65+ in other advanced nations. (There’s also no savings at the transition from 60-64 to 65-69, either, no discontinuity in costs.)

      If Medicare could demonstrate that its costs were similar to care for the elderly in other countries, or that it made costs go down for the newly on Medicare compared to right before it, then you would have a point.

      So it’s worth actually looking at the data.

      And it would have been worth trying to fix Medicare first.

      1. You’re ducking Tony’s underlying point. There are circumstances where the risks of not addressing a problem can affect more than just patient zero.

        1. I’m addressing one of Tony’s points.

          Contagious diseases are, already, handled very differently in the US. Mandatory vaccinations, etc. And if you’d actually look at the data I provided, you’ll see that very little, if any (possibly negative) costs are imposed on the US system from contagious diseases compared to other country.

          So I’m sorry that, no, I didn’t directly address his red herring.

          1. I’m a little confused about what your point is. I used contagious diseases as a clear example of how a user-fee based system imposes costs on others, even those who opt in, that could be mitigated by a universal system–such as the government intervention you’re talking about.

        2. Yes, the actions of one individual can affect other individuals.

          The blame for this incident belongs to the Cranicks, for burning during a burn ban which started a fire. If the fire spread to neighboring properties, then the liability for any damages also lies solely with the Cranicks.

          1. Ah libertopia, where everyone’s house is burned down, everyone’s water source is poisoned, but it doesn’t matter because everyone’s in a courthouse trying to litigate it all.

            1. As opposed to liberaltopia, where everyone lives in equivalent government housing, everyone receives their daily ration of water, and no one complains for fear their Great Leaders will withhold that promised Christmas turkey.

  34. If the guy had paid in previous years, then I’m far more sympathetic to the idea that his nonpayment was a clerical error, and the FD should have helped him.

    On the other hand, apparently he was uninsured, and the damages exceeded the limit of his coverage. So, that means he wasn’t very careful about such things, and it means that he doesn’t have the money to pay “cash” for the fire response, even if he offered to do so.

    Perhaps the correct answer is for the county to levy the fee on all residents within reach of the city fire department. But it’s hard to be pissed at a city fire department for not fighting a fire outside of their jurisdiction.

  35. One of the main reasons I don’t have a dog is that I’m not interested in watching something take a dump and then picking up the turds.

    I’m certainly not going to do it on a blog.

    1. On balance I think having a dog is worth it. Human turds are in another universe compared to dogs.

    2. Ya, but acting like you throw the ball and watching the dog run around completely bewildered is great fun.

  36. Is atheist libtardian? Am I going to have to add a new incif entry every day?

    1. I believe one or the other is an eruption of the Markets Are Magical!/concerned observer/oh no not this again family of trolls. Diction and lack of a real argument is certainly similar.

      1. family of trolls

        Good Lord, they breed?

      2. I just wanted to rile some narcissistic, deluded whackjobs. Is that so bad?

  37. This family doesn’t sound like the responsible, sympathetic individuals the media is playing them out to be. The fire started from burning garbage? Who does that in close proximity of their dwelling? I’m under the impression that the trash fire was prefixed with, “Hey, watch this!”

    Also, could the Fulton FD be held liable for any incidental damages done from extinguishing a fire on a property that wasn’t contracted? Meaning, could this family sue them for water damage to the shit that didn’t burn?

    1. Yeah, they’re just a bunch of parasites. They should burn with the rest of the trash.

      1. Yeah. And we can use your strawman for kindling.

      2. The government should start assessing a trolling fee to you. Every post you make is a negative externality.

        1. I just wanted to rile a bunch of right-wing whackjobs. Is that really so bad?

  38. I’m not interested in watching something take a dump and then picking up the turds.

    Spoilsport.

    1. As always, I don’t object to other people picking up dog turds with their hand wrapped in a plastic sack. It’s just something I don’t want to do and really can’t relate to.

      I’m going to try to give them all up. They really aren’t worth my time.

  39. Dear God Mike Elk is a simpleton.

    I do wish that KMW had responded to his question “What if they couldn’t afford the fee?” with something like “Then they wouldn’t have been able to afford the taxes you want so they already would have lost their home to the government.”

  40. “I thought they’d come out and put it out, even if you hadn’t paid your $75, but I was wrong,” said Gene Cranick.

    Who is the greedy one in this scenario? The homeowner who skipped a $75 fee, putting his property, pets, family and neighbors at risk to save a few dollars or the city who had extended its fire protection to rural areas for a nominal fee, and refused to provide service to someone who hadn’t paid at the expense of the taxpayers (and service subscribers)?

  41. You can’t assume charity.

    I feel safer in assuming that charity will address the problem of medical care for the poor than in assuming that government mandates will.

    You have to pick your assumptions, after all. I’m assuming, based on, oh, millenia of experience, that there will be charity.

    1. The whole point of “government mandates” is that they take the guessing and assuming out of it. Charity never has and never will be enough to provide universal care–and it certainly won’t provide care on an equitable basis.

      Libertarians assuming charity is a big fat cop-out.

      1. The whole point of “government mandates” is that they take the guessing and assuming out of it.

        In New York, they can’t shut off your heat in the winter, for understandable reasons. Thus I had a friend who simply wouldn’t pay utilities in the winter.

        Let’s suppose that this same guy didn’t pay the $75 fee to try to save a buck, figuring, in exactly the same way, that “they’d come and put the fire out even if I hadn’t paid.” Then what? We’re back to the same problem.

        It gets back to your argument that we’re better off being able to threaten people like him with violence to get them to behave how we want.

        In this case, the neighbor’s house was protected and undamaged. I believe you’re confusing “house” and “property” and “actually burnt neighbor’s property” with “looked like it was going to.”

        1. “house” and “property”

          A technically that’s ultimately irrelevant to the argument.

          Forest fires start with a single cigarette. In this case, there was a much larger conflagration in the midst of a burn ban. I don’t know the area, but I can imagine how such a fire could easily grow much larger than one person’s property and be quickly uncontrollable.

          Which I believe is Tony’s original point. Due to the nature of fire, isn’t there a point at which a fire should be put out for the sake of the community, regardless of the origin of the fire? If so, who pays for that?

          1. The family that violated the burn ban is the one who pays for everything.

            I wonder if any of the neighbors are going to forget their annual fee next year?

            1. Hypothetical: homeless guy wandering through starts the fire. Assuming he can even be found, how do you expect him to pay for the cost of a neighborhood that burns down?

              Isn’t it simply, and obviously, better just to have a system in place to prevent fire spread as soon as possible?

              1. Umm, an individual pays the fee and thus protects his or her property from wandering hobo arsonist. If you were able to identify said hobo arsonist then you charge them with arson. Not super complicated.

          2. Due to the nature of fire, isn’t there a point at which a fire should be put out for the sake of the community, regardless of the origin of the fire?

            That point, I believe, is the point at which the fire threatens to spread beyond the property of the person who set the fire.

            As was done in this case.

            So what’s the problem?

            1. Indeed. I’m still trying to understand (1) what it is that people are claiming actually happened here that shouldn’t have happened, and (2) if so, why it shouldn’t have happened.

  42. This family doesn’t sound like the responsible, sympathetic individuals the media is playing them out to be. The fire started from burning garbage?

    And, apparently, burning garbage during a burn ban due to dry conditions.

  43. Perhaps the correct answer is for the county to levy the fee on all residents within reach of the city fire department.

    And when he can’t afford to/doesn’t pay that fee, aren’t we right back where we started?

    Why does it matter who sends the bill?

  44. I only have a few questions. The first, When did it become necessary to pay for the services of a city employed rescue unit in an emergency or eminent damage? Isn’t that why the service is formed and exist to begin with? If the man had paid for the 2 previous years why wasn’t that taken as a down payment or expense against taking action? Firefighters, Police and rescue services are constantly given perks for the performance of their duties i.e. free food, tickets cars..Should they pay these back now if they aren’t even going to perform the very jobs that echo ” To serve and protect”? This isn’t the slightest bit controversial in that wether the citizen paid or didn’t pay I’m sure at some point these men have received enough extras to warrant getting off their asses and doing what is simply right. I’m going to think twice the next time I see one of these guys laying in the street asking for help if they are hurt and maybe consider if he has done enough for me and my family before I help or not.

    1. When did it become necessary to pay for the services of a city employed rescue unit in an emergency or eminent damage?

      Answer: when you dont live in the city paying for the services. To these residents, this was basically a private company that happened to be owned by some distant muni (okay, short distance, but not theres).

    2. When did it become necessary to pay for the services of a city employed rescue unit in an emergency or eminent damage?

      It’s always been necessary. City residents pay taxes, non-residents pay a fee. Do you think the previous situation, in which non-city residents paid nothing and had no fire protection is better?

      If the man had paid for the 2 previous years why wasn’t that taken as a down payment or expense against taking action?

      The same reason I’ll go to jail if I try to use the fact that I paid taxes the last 2 years as an excuse for not paying taxes this year.

  45. The whole point of “government mandates” is that they take the guessing and assuming out of it.

    You’re assuming, still, that the government mandates will (a) exist and (b) work.

  46. First the lefty didn’t answer ONE single question and interrupted constantly. You wouldn’t have to even hear the argument to know who was on what side.As for the hostess “can you imagine private ambulances”. Where have you been for the last 40 + years ?

    1. Probably couldn’t beleive the crazy horseshit he was hearing. Liberals sometimes forget what a pack of whackaloons libertarians are. Thankfully your educational project will change that.

    2. ‘As for the hostess “can you imagine private ambulances”. Where have you been for the last 40 + years ?’

      I recommend the 1976 movie “Mother, Juggs and Speed”.

  47. When did it become necessary to pay for the services of a city employed rescue unit in an emergency or eminent damage?

    When the first one was formed? They are all paid for somehow, you know.

  48. Charity never has and never will be enough to provide universal care–and it certainly won’t provide care on an equitable basis.

    And, furthermore, I don’t even have a pony, which is patently unfair.

  49. “I thought they’d come out and put it out, even if you hadn’t paid your $75, but I was wrong,” said Gene Cranick.

    Well, let this be a lesson to you.

    1. I bet he doesnt make the same mistake again.

  50. Fluffy:

    Look, I think one odd thing about the argument we’re having is that you’re arguing that private companies would do better in this situation than the state, because a private company would have bargained with the guy on the spot instead of just sticking to the city policy.

    And that may be true, but once we’re talking about private actors I think you’d have to concede that the freedom to bargain includes within itself the freedom to not bargain.

    Maybe a private fire department would be anxious to secure a profit opportunity by having penalty pricing. But maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe they’d be satisfied with their existing product line of just serving the people that are signed up for the service. And if they were, in fact, satisfied with that – what’s wrong with that? Anything?

    Quoting down here to avoid the indenting hell up above, and for emphasis. This combines a bunch of things Ive been trying to say.

    So, a big ^^^THIS^^^.

  51. Nick, if the compelling government interest is, as they say, to prevent harm, then I would venture that the firefighters should have only assisted to do just that where human life is concerned. However, one can’t help but notice the moral component here of standing by while someone’s house burns down–for a measly, MEASLY, 75 bucks. I mean, come on… we all know that government employees are by and large amongst the most lazy of the labor pool, but this is really unconscionable. They even had the guy on the phone promising to pay it, begging for help. I blame the firefighters and the local government for this charade. If, on the other hand, the guy told them F you and demanded they put out the fire, that would be more understandable, perhaps, in understanding the attitude of the firefighters. (Remind me never to buy a house in Olbion, TN)

    1. In general fire is a community problem. It spreads. The most efficient way to deal with fire is universal coverage. Yes that means a lot of people will pay for a service they will never enjoy directly. But they do get the benefit of having all fires put out no questions asked, thus reducing their risk. Community problem, community solution, and it beats the hell out of a free market system any day of the week.

    2. They didnt just stand by, the prevented the fire from spreading to the neighbor’s house.

      1. You’re ducking the point. A very plausible hypothetical is one where the non-paying home owner lives in the middle of nowhere with no neighbors. But lots of flammable property. When the fire department doesn’t show up and the fire spreads to the point where it’s uncontrollable, what then? How many acres have to be lost on account of one homeowners stupidity?

        1. I think the FD shows up anyway, to prevent it from getting uncontrollable.

          And, hey good thing CA has all those FDs so that they never have an uncontrollable fire either.

          Also, who owns the acres? You said no neighbors, so if the uncontrollable fire is on his private island, so what?

          1. And, hey good thing CA has all those FDs so that they never have an uncontrollable fire either.
            The point is that when you have a situation that you can control, even if you aren’t being paid to control it, at what point should you control it before it becomes too late and spreads to places where you are being paid but it’s no longer controllable?

            You said no neighbors, so if the uncontrollable fire is on his private island, so what?
            Uncontrollable fires do not respect property lines. No neighbors implied none within sight of the house. Not that the person was on an asteroid.

            1. “The point is that when you have a situation that you can control, even if you aren’t being paid to control it, at what point should you control it before it becomes too late and spreads to places where you are being paid but it’s no longer controllable?”

              Fire brigades make this decision all the time. Sometimes you risk life, limb, time, and equipment putting out a fire. Other times you switch to containment and just let the fire burn itself out. Depends on the weather, the wind, how dry the conditions are, how much structural damage has already been done, and lots of other things. I think it makes more sense to leave such decisions up to the firefighters on the scene, rather than, say, Keith Olbermann.

        2. MP, stop using logic and stop pointing out what would happen in the real world. This is a libertarian blog for chrissakes!

  52. I’m in the middle on this because they could have acted to prevent any spread at all to the neighbor’s house by just putting out the initial fire, then billed the resident for the full cost of the service with a quick “I agree to pay the full financial costs of putting this out to the Fire Department” contract.

    The moral part becomes that the firefighters are risking their lives, for people who are not even contributing to their salaries. Sorry, but firefighters are not willing to risk their lives for free riders, and I don’t blame them one bit. It would be one thing (from a purely altruistic perspective) if there was a child inside or something; in this case, nobody seems to have been in any danger, so from the firefighters’ perspective the moral cost of not saving his house is not worth the risk to their lives for no benefit. Not saying that the policy shouldn’t be changed to allow emergency payments in full, but under the current policy I can’t get indignant about their inaction, especially because nobody else was hurt physically.

    Maybe the idiot will learn several lessons here, not the least being don’t let your idiot grandson burn trash next to your house. Property rights come with responsibilities. Sorry…

  53. The most efficient way to deal with fire is universal coverage.

    Is there anything in TonyWorld which would not be better dealt with by Universal Coverage?

    I’m hungry. Why doesn’t the government whip me up some bacon and eggs?

    1. Food stamps? Hello? Why does everyone always think this is a good example of a universal need that isn’t subsidized by government, when it clearly is?

      1. Food stamps != Universal Food Coverage.

        1. Also food stamps != free food preparation, which is what P Brooks asked for. Although I’ll point to one example where the situation is true: school lunches.

    2. “Why doesn’t the government whip me up some bacon and eggs?”

      The Southwesten Omelete MRE is the most vile thing since the old Omelete and Ham Slice. If the military insists on providing a breakfast option in MREs, why can’t they just give us pancakes? Why must it be eggs?

  54. Jeffrey Tucker said it well over at Mises:

    As it was, the fire burned down as a result of government policy, a refusal of service because the homeowners did not pay what amounted to a tax! The poor homeowner begged for help and offered to pay. He had paid the year before and the year before, so his credit was good. Even so, the bureaucracy refused! (The whole thing reminds me of a scene from Gangs of New York.)

    A market doesn’t just mean fee-for-service. The government cannot mimic the marketplace by merely setting prices on its services. A free market means that producers are responsible to consumers in a world of private property and free exchange. Why is this so difficult to understand?

    1. It’s a floor wax, it’s a dessert topping! It’s whatever Jeffery Tucker imagines it to be at this moment!

      1. Didn’t I ask you to change your handle?

        Sigh. So you’re saying this: a gov’t agency acting in accordance with the gov’t policy is, in this case, an indictment of libertarianism? Is this what you’re arguing?

        The trolls have been flooding this place with stupidity lately.

        1. I’m saying that it is dishonest to argue that a fire department or private company doing exactly what libertarians say it should do, and what most commenters on this blog obviously think fire departments should do, is somehow acting contrary to libertarianism because the agency in question is part of the government. I’m also saying its quite amusing how the definition of “libertarianism” changes every time something inconvenient happens.

          1. The reason you think the definition “changes” is because you have it wrong. You think that the FD was acting in a manner of which we approve.

            As it was stated earlier, the free market approach would have been to extinguish the fire and present a bill to this family.

            1. And what if this was one guy who was known for not paying bills? Would a libertarian fire company not then be perfectly justified in saying, “Screw you, we won’t put our your fire. You have lousy credit.”

              1. So you would rather have them extinguish the fire anyway setting the precedent whereby nobody will have to pay the fire company.

                Do you think banks should give home loans to people with lousy credit? After all, people need a place to live.

                Do you think grocery stores should accept checks from people with lousy credit? After all, people need to buy food.

                Do you think that utility companies should continue to provide services to people with lousy credit? After all, people need water and NG to heat their homes.

                Anybody else want to chime in?

                1. As you say, it’s the precedent that matters…

                  What’s next, they’ll build their houses below sea level (where they can’t purchase flood insurance), then when flooded out, expect support from us ‘highlanders’ to rebuild… in the same damn spot…

                2. Yes, I think they should extinguish the fire anyway. What fucking planet to you live on?

  55. Krugman can get lost, as far as I’m concerned.

    As a Montrealer, I am not ready to forget the firefighter illegal strike of 1974. Between October 31 and November 3, 131 buildings in the city were destroyed by fire without the firefighters moving out of their strike to put it off.

    And the comparison with health care? Well, we’ve had nurse strikes as well, where sick people were left in their bed steeping in their piss and their shit for days.

    About this specific case, now, why fire departments from other cities nearby didn’t rush to the rescue, if they’re so compassionate? See response here from blogger “Aaron”: http://econlog.econlib.org/arc…..lon_a.html

    1. How can a strike be illegal? Were the firefighters your slaves?

      1. Some municipalities have laws on the books that make it illegal or more appropriately a violation of city ordinance or charter for police and fire to strike. I don’t think illegal is the right term for what occurs in US cities. Not sure of any instances pertaining to such legislation either.

      2. Unions and strikes are regulated. Illegal means forexample: the strike was not decided the right way, after the proper escalation, or at the wrong time, etc. That’s all. Why getting so upset?

          1. “Are they yourslaves”.

            What does that mean?

            1. I think he read illegal strike as forcing action or a criminal penalty for inaction.

              Something US law tends to be fairly dead set against with respect to forcing action.

  56. BAHAHAHAHA Mike Elk!

    Mike Elk attended the PA Governor’s School for International Studies in 2003, a pre-college program at the University of Pittsburgh. Just as I did.

    Unlike Mike, I did not tell the entire group of 100 students that I was going to go to an Ivy League school. It didn’t matter that half of our class got into Ivy Leagues later that year, he PROFESSED he would. Unfortunately, Mike, Bucknell is not Ivy League, in fact it might not even be a first tier school.

    Anyways, unlike Mike, I did not get kicked out of the program for the repeated failure to show up for classes because “I was on important phone calls with the Governor”.

    Also unlike Mike, I didn’t have my mom send out letters to the other students’ parents, begging that they petition for the reinstatement of her Special Snowflake.

    I also did not stage a “protest” with 5 other haggard and toothless union members outside the Forbes Hall dormitory, claiming my civil rights, labor rights, and right to live were violated.

    I’m not making any of this up, people. He was booted from my pre-college program because he was a crazy loon.

    God, Katherine, I’m sure you had absolutely no idea who the hell you were dealing with. This guy is a grade A circus freak.

    1. That’s hilarious. Thanks, Tanya.

      1. Hey, people have a right to know. If anyone doubts my story, you’re free to contact the University of Pittsburgh’s University Center for International Studies (UCIS) director Melissa Reed. Dr. Reed was also Director of the now-defunct PA Governor’s School for International Relations, or PGSIS. http://www.ucis.pitt.edu/main/

    2. LoL

      He seems like a bit of an off kilter tard.

  57. ROFL Katherine said flat tax and you can see the exact moment the guy shit himself. Realizing he just advocated for a flat tax. (maybe, he might have just crapped his pants since he seems to not be completely in control of his faculties)

    1. The US already has a de-facto flat tax. Not that libertarians care… it never was about reality.

      1. Which is. I’ve seen more than one tax argued that it’s a flat tax. The US also has a progressive tax, some consumption taxes (not federal), and a ton of other taxes. The point of a flat tax, and the fact I have to explain this is telling, is that the US have only a flat tax.

      2. Re: atheist,

        The US already has a de-facto flat tax.

        This tells me you do not know what a flat tax is.

        Not that libertarians care… it never was about reality.

        Not with YOU, at least. You seem to revel in la-la land.

      3. [citation needed]

        1. US Moves – quietly – toward a Flat Tax“, David R. Francis, The CS Monitor, Dec. 1 2003

          1. Saying the current tax structure is similar to a flat tax does not a flat tax make.

            You really need bone up on the critical reasoning and reading comprehension. That was pretty blatant and over 7 years old.

            1. I’m not interested in how income tax compares to sales tax compares to inheritance tax. I’m interested in the real-world effect of all the taxes levied, put together. And the real-world effect is that, adding it all together, the US public pays very close to a flat tax, with a rate of about 40%.

              I also think its sad that you consider looking at the real-world effect of things to be the province of “seven year olds”, and not worth your time. But if you need to remain blind to how most people actually live, that’s your concern.

              1. I also think its sad that you consider looking at the real-world effect of things to be the province of “seven year olds”, and not worth your time.

                Another reading comprehension fail.

                1. Oh, sorry the article was 7 years old. Look at the other article, it’s only 3 years old and describes the further progress of the de-facto US flat tax rate.

              2. Then the real world effect you are talking about effects only those above a certain income. Leaving a large portion of the population out of your pseudo flat tax argument.

                1. Believe it or not, it actually extends far down the income range. Read the MSN article I posted, which says:
                  “As a consequence, a 30-year-old couple earning only $20,000 a year has a marginal tax rate of 42.5%, while a 45-year-old couple earning $500,000 pays at 43.2%.”

                  $20,000 a year is very low income for a couple.

                  1. You do understand the difference between marginal tax rate and effective tax rate, right?

                    1. Marginal tax rate is the rate applied to the last dollar taxed. Effective tax rate is the rate existing in fact. So?

                    2. The conclusion from the study used in the article.

                      The study of effective marginal tax rates is hardly new.20 Nor is the observation that transfer programs can dramatically affect effective marginal tax rate calculations, and that marginal rates depend critically and sensitively on household demographic and economic circumstances. But what is new here is the inclusion in one study of all the major tax and transfer programs/elements that materially affect incentives to work and save. On the tax side, this list includes federal and state personal income, corporate income, sales and excise, and payroll taxes. On the transfer side, the list includes Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and TAFDC benefits.
                      America’s tax-transfer system confronts the vast majority of American households with either high, very high, or astronomically high total effective marginal tax
                      rates on labor supply and saving. It also provides very substantial tax arbitrage opportunities to a subset of households, particularly those with high incomes or advanced
                      ages.
                      The pattern of net marginal tax rates and arbitrage opportunities with respect to age, marital status, and earnings is quite simply all over the map. But this is what one
                      would expect given the amazing complexity of the fiscal system, the fact that the various components of the system are being developed with little or no thought to their
                      interaction, and that the various governmental bodies responsible for the different elements of our tax-transfer system appear to make little or no attempt to understand the overall work and saving disincentives as well as arbitrage opportunities they are producing.

                      The paper:
                      http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/v…..p;type=pdf

                      Looks like they were focusing on tax transfer and arbitration more than effective marginal rates. Seems like the Article might take some of the papers assertions out of context. It always helps to go to the source.

                    3. Actually the effect of transfer and arbitration on effective rates.

                      The way I wrote it above was wrong.

                    4. OK, I’ll look at it.

          2. For a Flat Tax, tax simplification goes hand in hand with a leveling of the tax rate. Distortions in the tax code caused by deductions/exceptions create additional imbalances that keep the tax from being flat.

        2. Or if you like: “Your real tax rate: 40%” (subtitle: “Income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, ‘sin’ taxes and the rest add up to a virtual flat tax nationwide”), MSN Money, by Scott Burns, 2/21/2007

          1. You see that word virtual?

            Ya.

            1. Right. We pay a virtual flat tax (virtual as in, not perfectly flat). That’s what I was saying.

              1. Re: Atheist,

                Right. We pay a virtual flat tax[.]

                What’s with this “we” business, Kimosabe?

                “We” don’t pay a flat tax. It depends on your deductions and the state you live in.

                1. Sure. But in the aggregate, US taxpayers pay a nearly flat tax. That’s the point.

              2. Also virtual as in, “not real”.

                Yeah, I understand the argument in broad terms: things even out, some taxes are progressive, some are regressive, some taxes look progressive but those with the resources can find loopholes that flatten them out. The argument may or may not be valid, but there is a fact of the matter one way or the other.

                But another fact is that I don’t actually pay the same proportion of my income in tax as everybody else.

                I struggle in vain to understand why you brought this up in the first place.

                1. Trespassers W, the reason I brought it up is that people were calling for a flat tax. I was pointing out that we already have a de-facto flat tax in the US. Why is that hard to understand?

                  1. “Why is that hard to understand?”

                    It’s not hard to understand, it’s just completely incorrect.

  58. As much as Krugman sucks, he’s more accurate in his analogy here than Dan Foster. To be really accurate, it would be like a doctor in the NHS who refused to do emergency care on a Frenchman because he wasn’t an English taxpayer.

  59. I had to place this somewhere else:

    Re: atheist,

    No, it’s not really a free good [fire fighting]. There is no such thing as a free lunch. It’s a public good that is paid for by tax money.

    A “Public Good” is a free good. If people have to pay for it, then it is NOT a “public” good, it’s a scarce good.

    What confuses you is the difference between private markets and government monopolies. What you ask is for firefighting to be a government-run monopoly, but that does NOT make a good “public.”

    And it scarcely matters whether or not you “try” to bargain when your house is burning.

    May not matter to YOU, I guess.

    But that’s a basic statement of reality so I don’t expect you to understand.

    No, it’s a basic statement of your lack of thinking skills, lack of imagination, lack of knowledge in economics . . .

    1. A “Public Good” is a free good. If people have to pay for it, then it is NOT a “public” good, it’s a scarce good.

      No, that’s delusional. Everything that the government does has to be paid for somehow. This is done through Taxes (Income, Sales, Sin, etc.), selling government Bonds, printing money, etc. But everything done by a government is paid for in some sense.

      The question is not, can I get something for free through government. The question is, how should society allocate its resources. Allocating resources collectively is the only sensible solution to something like firefighting.

      1. Re: atheist,

        No, that’s delusional.

        Don’t use the word “delusional” when you really mean “wrong” or “incorrect”, atheist. You are being crass and obnoxious.

        Everything that the government does has to be paid for somehow.

        Idiot. And what did I say?

        ‘If people have to pay for it, then it is NOT a “public” good, it’s a scarce good.’

        The question is not, can I get something for free through government.

        You answered your OWN question above!

        “Everything that the government does has to be paid for somehow.”

        The question is, how should society allocate its resources.

        “Its” resources?

        Allocating resources collectively is the only sensible solution to something like firefighting.

        First, resources are NOT allocated collectively EVER – only individuals possess things. Second, you’re begging the question by assuming what you want to prove: by making firefighting a “public good,” then the sensible solution is to pay for it “publicly.” That’s circular reasoning, begging the question.

        For someone using the handle “atheist,” you sure rely too much on fallacy to press your point.

        1. Your Humpty-Dumpty-esque demands that words mean exactly what you say they mean, are quite boring Old Mexican, and make talking to you a chore.

          If you are so sure that no property can be held in common, then what do you call a condominium association? Or the board of directors of a corporation? Are such things impossible on your world?

        2. And, by the way, I absolutely mean Delusional. It’s the only way libertarians can be described at this point.

  60. My next vacation will be spent finding the IT guy who instituted threaded comments and the silent majority backing them up.

    I’m COMING FOR YOU ALL!!!!

    1. Im with you.

      Of course, if the threading would actually go more than about 2 deep it would be okay too.

      Wait, but according to you, no business would ever institute a non-maximizing option like this comment system.

      1. Did Reason lose posters by instituting threaded comments thus reducing PPC and traffic based revenue?

      2. I’m going to go with the assumption that the coefficient on the variable for threaded comments dummy is insignificant or incredible small.

        Or that no one bothered to figure it out and isn’t able to use the information.

  61. I’m COMING FOR YOU ALL!!!!

    Not me.

  62. My old girlfriend used to work for a newspaper in northern Minnesota. She said that it is pretty pointless for fire departments to try to fight house fires way out in the country, because typically by the time the trucks get there, the house has burned to the ground. (But a house fire was always good for photos and a few heart-wrenching quotes, which is why she followed the trucks out there.)

    Unless the fee impacted his ability to get fire insurance on his house, it was probably rational for the homeowner to not pay the $75 fee. His money would have been better spent on buying his own fire suppression equipment.

    1. Just a couple of factual bits from the actual story:
      * He wasn’t that far out in the country. He had a neighbor close enough that his fire spread to his neighbor’s house.
      * He didn’t decide not to pay for the fee for some rational or philosophical reason. He forgot to pay it this year. He had paid it in previous years.

      1. Not sure about that. He also said that he thought they would come out even if he did pay. Doesn’t that tend to suggest some forethought from the homeowner?

      2. He wasn’t that far out in the country.

        I doubt it’s a simple matter of distance. For example, do you have hydrants on a municipal water supply, or do you need tankers to bring water to you?

        He had a neighbor close enough that his fire spread to his neighbor’s house.

        Wait. Did the fire spread to the neighbor’s house, or to the neighbor’s field, some unknown distance from any dwellings?

        The more specific articles (those that don’t handwave it as “property”) say it was a field. It’s an important distinction.

        And, of course, you can have a nearby neighbor and still be far away from town.

        He forgot to pay it this year.

        I forgot to pay my electricity bill once. They reminded me, and I put it on autopay with my bank so it wouldn’t happen again.

        1. Don’t take my comments as an effort to defend Cranick. I’m not going to take some big position on something that happened in some county in Tennessee that I’m totally unfamiliar with.

          My basic thought on this whole story: Why the hell are so many people trying to use this weird story as a dig against libertarians, “Tea Baggers”, etc. Pretty much everybody should be having the reaction: “I’m not going to take some big position on something that happened in some county in Tennessee that I’m totally unfamiliar with.”

          Instead, as a libertarian I’ve never felt so unjustly demonized for something that has nothing at all to do with me. Don’t wanna go all Godwin, but, shit, I’ve never felt more like a Jew being demonized by Nazis.

          1. I’ve never felt more like a Jew being demonized by Nazis.

            Irony just committed suicide again.

            1. Jesus, atheist, your mom finally letting you use the computer in the basement unsupervised? I think I’m going to have to start demonizing all atheists. You’re starting to make me hate them all, even though I am one.

              1. Go for it, demonize atheists because some guy mocked you. It makes about as much sense as hating poor people because you’re underappreciated. So why not?

  63. Sorry, I meant, even if he did NOT pay.

  64. Mr. Olbermann, this event as you reality based types should readily be able to discern occurred in the most highly regulated society on the planet at any time in its history not in the libertarian dystopia inside your head. As an advocate of that rigidly regulated and wealth redistributed society you should feel greatly ashamed at its failure to produce the results you intend. Instead of railing against libertarians who have nothing to do with this matter, you should be looking into the inadequacy of your beliefs with much grief and sorrow.

  65. Elk is actually advertising his own stupidity on Twitter.

    The Twitter

    @rortybomb hey did u see me debate this woman on russian tv about privatized fire dept it was crazy http://youtu.be/Xw2B2u8zjPU #p2

    1. this woman…

      I found that funny for some reason.

    2. Does Twitter actually do anything but make >90% of its users look really stupid?

        1. That’s awful. Fucking hilarious. But awful.

        2. Yes, Steve, you are in the 10%. Now please…don’t…you know…

  66. Damn what a bunch of pussies and communists. Why argue for how this proves some need for something or other, when the way to prevent this problem is plainly fucking obvious: pay the goddamn fee next time. Think your house is important? Then perhaps treat your bill payment activities with an appropriate level of importance as well.

    1. Having traveled to former communist countries I must say that communist pussies are furry, cute, and pur quite well.

      1. facepalm’s just angry he can’t get any communist pussy.

        1. I wish to crack jokes about encounters with vagina as well. It will demonstrate how heterosexual I am. Not to mention how I’m totally not a virgin.

          1. I was talking about cats. No clue what you are talking about.

            1. I think the rejoinder was meant for me, hmm.

  67. Is it possible to get a recording of that 911 call? That would be golden content.

  68. “It is hard to see [an employee] employed by a private insurance company simply sitting by and letting a [devastating, life threatening outcome occur] for the sake of an unpaid [premium]”

    Oh my, what a sheltered little child.

  69. The argument made by the progressives on this thread is similar to one the arguments made by Bush for invading Iraq

    Progs: The Fire Department should have put out the fire because that was the morally right thing to do (whether or not Cranick ever paid the $75 fee)

    Bush: America should put out Saddam Hussein because that was the morally right thing to do (and damn the costs).

    1. You’re kind of stretching with that analogy. Fire fighting costs are routine and much smaller, so the analogy has huge differences of scale.

      Now if you were comparing health care reform and the problem of free riding there to Iraq, the analogy holds up better.

  70. OK, as a former firefighter, from a family of firefighters, this story disgusts me. I cannot believe any REAL firefighter would let a house burn because of a $75 fee. Then again we are talking about Tennessee. These “officials”, so-called “firefighters” and anyone who defends them should not be allowed to serve anyone, anyway. The fire service is about service…NOT profit, NOT charges. I’d like to hang the whole bunch of them. Forget your political arguments. The fire service is not about politics either…..its about protecting life and property at ANY cost. Any other arguments are coming from morons

    1. I cannot believe any REAL firefighter would let a house burn because of a $75 fee.

      But can you believe that the municipality would order them to not respond? I can.

  71. This is blatant extortion by the local gov. it also shows the fire services to be whores for hire. In the America I grew up in people would be going to jail for this travesty. What is the fee for an ambulance ?

    1. You think ambulance rides are free?

    2. BTW, the fee depends on what services they have to perform on you. It could be as little as a few hundred bucks to a thousand or so, AFAIK.

  72. Paul Krugman nailed it. Your house on fire, a medical emergency — get serious, one is more urgent than the other???

    If an uninsured person goes to the emergency room, that person is treated and then billed later. Why should a burning house be any different? The fire department could put out the fire even if the person hasn’t paid his protection money, and then send him a bill. They could even make it a larger expense if you pay after the fact; a $75 annual fee OR a $500 bill if they put out your fire and you were behind on your payments.

    Letting a person’s home burn because the homeowner hasn’t paid his fee — that’s unthinkable in a civilized industrialized country.

  73. IMy Real name is Austin Wade Rozzell, I am not amazed, at the unkindness expressed in this comment section, many people have given in to the darkness, and to that you will reap your just reward.
    You neighbor is in need of help, as a good soul you would help them, your excuses not to are many and are based on greed, lack of mercy and evil.
    Yes I am saying your soul is dark and you are evil, will know regret. may you be cursed to that uncaring fate.
    To those who understand, your souls are indeed of a greater level, may the powers that be bless you and keep you safe.

  74. Just contemplating the life of Ayn Rand is enough to remind me why I despise libertarians – but it’s nice to get a fresh reminder now and again. You people are the lowest.

    And Paul Krugman is worth any 1000 libertarians. I wish you would all go Galt on some remote island together and do the rest of the world a favor.

  75. Just contemplating the life of Ayn Rand is enough to remind me why I despise libertarians – but it’s nice to get a fresh reminder now and again. You people are the lowest.

    And Paul Krugman is worth any 1000 libertarians. I wish you would all go Galt on some remote island together and do the rest of the world a favor.

  76. And this would be why I’m no longer a libertarian. Once we lose ALL sense of a collective, things will get even uglier in this country. Sometimes you just need to look at “right v. wrong” instead of protecting an ideological extreme.

    The “lefty” guy in the RT debate clearly wins here, largely because he is simply on the right side of the argument.

  77. What Katherine is arguing there is not actually the libertarian position. It’s certainly Glenn Beck’s position, which hopefully she is mortified to hear, but of course the safe course of action for any libertarian is to be careful not to agree with Glenn Beck.

    A considerably more libertarian position is that only a socialized fire department like South Fulton’s would commit such an inexcusable wrong as refusing to help the Cranick Family, because they offered to cover the costs. If there were a private, competitive fire protection industry, no successful company would refuse to help a non-subscriber, they would simply charge a larger fee…which is what Cranick was offering to pay.

    But the authoritarian government of South Fulton has more of a bullying, protection racket sort of attitude, where if you don’t give them the money all the time, they won’t even help if the free rider question is eliminated by a full fee.

    In fact, townships nearby DO charge a fee of a few thousand dollars, to put out the fire for non-subscribers.

    The profit motive would have protected the Cranicks, serving the community, where the arrogant government bureaucrats refused.

    A government agency doesn’t need to care about the well-being of the community, other than to whatever extent they haven’t locked down the election with insiders, the normal local city political condition. They don’t have a profit motive to protect people from their abuse. A private business does.

  78. Consider:

    I once let my AAA roadside assistance subscription lapse. I discovered this by calling, when my car was stuck. The operator, though she could have made the same soulless arguments as the South Cranick bureaucrats, instead let me pay on the spot, essentially creating the same free rider problem that the politicians there claim to be avoiding.

    But her company apparently feels that the customer goodwill this generates is more profitable, in the long run. So they benefit the community more than any government, out of enlightened self-interest.

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