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October 06, 2010

Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow?

Every militant infantilist who thinks somebody else should have paid to prevent this house from burning down should be given the opportunity to express the courage of their convictions.

The town can keep three registers: the first for home owners paying their annual $75 levee to the fire department; the second for everyone choosing not to pay, and; the third for bleeding hearts willing to assume the moral hazard for paying for however many as they choose - by name - from the second list.

But no. That would involve charity, a virtue. What they want is socialism, a system where the other guy is forced to pay for their sentiment.

Update: Feel free to disagree with me in the comments but I will not pay for you to insult me. If you do, I will twat you with the ban hammer.

For the record, I am not a libertarian. I am a man.

Here is some more free advice for "conservatives" unwilling - or worse, unable - to part with $75 of their own money but eager to dictate to the fee paying residents of Obion County how to part with theirs.

Because they are not conservatives, they are communists.

Allowing its residents to pay a voluntary $75 fee to South Fulton was the most inexpensive and efficient means for Obion County to provide fire protection to its residents… assuming they acted like responsible homeowners, instead of crybabies and chumps. If we expect maternal government to save us from ourselves in all circumstances, we had better be ready to pay the high cost of our day care. Most of that bill will be footed by the dwindling number of people who remain productive and responsible, despite the absence of logical reasons to do so.

To think I used to wonder how Rome fell.

If I lived in Obion County, I would pay a surcharge for the fire department to turn up and watch every time a non-fee paying resident had to try and put out his own damned fire. You cannot make a man if you shelter him from the consequences of his own actions.

In cases like this, ridicule and ruin are his best reward. Unlike some of my readers, I believe a man should be allowed the opportunity to learn from his mistakes.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at October 6, 2010 08:16 AM


I do think the fire should have been put out.

But the problem started before the fire. The fire department should have enacted a policy for such cases, enabling the collection of money when a customer is willing to pay.

So, for example, the fee is $75 per year for unlimited visits. If you don't pay that fee, but request service, the fee is $5000 per visit.

Of course, some may try not to pay the $5000 once their house is saved, so there should be provisions to simplify collection of such funds by the fire department, in coordination with other municipal/government services. For example, you can't renew your vehicle registration if you have an oustanding debt to the fire department. That sort of thing.

Posted by: Anshu [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 6, 2010 03:02 PM

Your alternative ordinances are quite interesting and I expect local government will be having a think along those lines. But, as your alternative was not in place, what you are actually saying is that this man should have had his house saved by the fire department despite having refused to pay for the service. The bad example, and my argument, stand.

An alternative solution may be found in Crassus' private fire brigade in the latter days of the Roman Republic. He would turn up an make an offer on the building, if it was accepted he would put the fire out. If it was refused, he would let the fire go for a bit and then make another, lower offer.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 6, 2010 04:38 PM

The problem with fighting the fire and then expecting the $5000 to be paid is that it may cost MORE than that it may cost less. Further, just because you have a promise to pay doesn't mean you get paid. A small town that has a volunteer fire department probably doesn't have the resources to fight every person that promises to pay and then won't after the smoke has cleared.

the ultimate issue being that if noone pays, there is no fire service at all.

Anishu, you are assuming that local government can make contracts for state government, it cannot. Fire services are coordinated and operated by county and city government. They don't trump state law where it concerns being in arrears.

The system is simple. Pay the $75 per annum, get fire service from the volunteers.

Posted by: Montieth [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 6, 2010 05:10 PM

"The problem with fighting the fire and then expecting the $5000 to be paid is that it may cost MORE than that it may cost less."

True, but that's not the point. The home owner in this case didn't realize he'd receive no service. That was his own fault. But by clarifying that there is a per-visit fee, there would be no room for confusion.

Secondly, it is foolish business practice to not collect money when a customer is willing to pay for services the business can readily deliver with no opportunity cost.

And I do think, despite the issues, that the fire should have been put out. Apparently multiple pets died in the fire (1 cat, 3 dogs). That, to me, makes the actions of the fire department morally wrong.

Posted by: Anshu [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 7, 2010 12:22 PM

You are clearly a sensitive man.

Here is where you can send your $75-.


I am certain at least one homeowner who has decided not to pay his or her service fee will be very grateful a man with a heart as big as yours stepped up and put your money where your mouth is.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 7, 2010 12:28 PM

"You are clearly a sensitive man."

Is that intended as an insult?

I suspect most people find something wrong about the fire departments actions in this case. They may agree that the guy got what he deserved, or rationalize it that this is an unavoidable brutality of the system, but they still will see some of the wrongness in the actions of the fire department.

I will not be sending my money to county. The county was wrong to not enact more reasonable policies to handle cases such as this, and further wrong to then refuse service due to their own policy failings. Two wrongs don't make a right.

BTW, as a person who favours limiting government, I also think this kind of situation will ultimately move society in the wrong direction. Many reports I've read already have tried to characterize this as a failure of the market (it was no such thing, the fire department is the municipal department of the nearby city, with monopoly control). I've also seen this case being used as an example of why you need to have more things covered by taxes, and as a case study for why increased state control is a good thing.

You rightfully rail against the left for siding with radical Islam. But what I see you doing here is siding with government stupidity under the premise of remaining true to your libertarian leanings.

Posted by: Anshu [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 7, 2010 01:40 PM

I cannot believe you are going to let someone let their cats and dogs burn to death. Send money! The people of Obion County need your help.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 7, 2010 01:41 PM

"I cannot believe you are going to let someone let their cats and dogs burn to death."

I realize you don't wish to enter into any serious debate on this point. I interpret that as a form on conession that you realize you are wrong.

But your statement is flawed. The home owners were not burning their cats and dogs to death. If they were, they should be charged with animal cruelty. And were I in a position to intervene, I would have likely done so.

Defending those that can't defend themselves I hold as a virtue. And consider it honourable.

I see no honour in your position.

Posted by: Anshu [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 7, 2010 04:24 PM

Dude. You come into my home and tell me and my friends our position is "immoral" when we don't agree with you. Then you can't be bothered to pony up $75- to save a home and some pets you claim to care about more than we do.

So, no, I don't believe it is possible to enter into a "serious debate" with you. I believe you don't believe a word you are saying. At least, you don't believe your word is worth $75-.

On that point we agree.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 7, 2010 06:33 PM

Longtime reader here, but I don’t recall if I’ve commented before.

Actually, Flea, your position is immoral — and I can back that up with cold facts and logic. I’m not ponying up any $75, by the way, because I haven’t got the jack, and I can’t afford to pay the bills I’ve already got. Sucks to be me, but I am medically unable to work, and I’m not receiving, nor am I eligible to receive (nor do I believe, on moral grounds, that I ought to receive) any kind of financial help from the government. (In fact, they’re the ones dunning me right now.) So if you taunt me about the $75 fee, as you’ve taunted Anshu, I’ll tell you to get stuffed.

How is it immoral, you ask? Because firefighting perfectly fits the definition of a public good. Put it this way: Suppose you were that man’s next-door neighbour. The fire company refuses to put out the fire in his house, and as a result, your house catches fire and burns down. You paid your $75, but there’s no way to put out your half of the fire except by tackling the whole conflagration, which the fire company, according to your lights, would be wrong to do. So what are you going to do? Cheer the fire company on for doing nothing, on the grounds that your deadbeat neighbour didn’t pay his fee? Or sue them for a whole crapload of money because they didn’t provide you with the service you paid for? Let me say that I strongly suspect the latter. And this is not merely a hypothetical case: in a highly built-up area, every serious house fire is likely to cause significant property damage to adjacent houses.

The fact is, firefighting (in urban areas) is a service that has to be extended to everyone if it is going to effectively protect the people that actually pay for it. This creates a free-rider problem, of course; but having a few free riders is a small price to pay, compared to having no service at all for anyone.

I think it’s fair to say that I am so conservative I make you look like an Obama fan, but I am no libertarian, and this is one of the many reasons why. Letting a house burn down in a suburban neighbourhood, just because some jerk didn’t cough up $75, exposes the neighbours to a hazard that they did not deserve and from which they have a right to be protected.

Posted by: Jay Random [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 8, 2010 08:16 AM

"The fact is, firefighting (in urban areas) is a service that has to be extended to everyone if it is going to effectively protect the people that actually pay for it."

Read your own comment before calling my views "immoral". If the house were located in an urban area, this home owner could have skipped out on his taxes instead of skipping out on his fee for service fire department.

It wasn't.

Now go away and read "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress". No need to send $75- either, you can get it from the public library somebody paid for so you could be generous with somebody else's money.

I can't imagine why you don't support Obama. Your "conservatism" is square with his.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 8, 2010 08:33 AM

Ahh, the old public good vs public service arguement. Without discernment, ie. identifing those who freely pay their due against those who willingly do not, then there is no discernment at all. All equal. It may be in the public good to stop a fire, or a contagination, from spreading, but the results always must be weighed and accounted for heavily against those who really oppose the public good by opposing their own selfish good...
As said, many fire depts are volunteer staffed and depend on community support. More power to them. Shit happens and be thankful.

Posted by: meleager99 [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 8, 2010 07:52 PM


Herr Flea, I agree with you. The house in question was WTFOT(math term, actually), outside of city limits. One of the problems with living WTFOT is that you're not protected by services(police, fire, etc) to which you don't pay taxes for.

I grew up in CA where people decide they want to go live close to nature in some canyon, and in not incorporated in any city or county lands, so as to not pay taxes. Then when something like a wildfire or a mudslide hits they complain that services to which they never gave a dollar to support are not there to help them. They're Aesop's grasshoppers to the rest of our Aesop's ants. This is not new to me. It's only just become a political firestorm for some unknown reason(probably because ThinkProgress and other's thought this a good time to mistate/misrepresent/lie about people's positions with the aid of a tear jerk moment. YOu know, when people are thinking with heartstrings instead of their brains).

Alternatively, it's a herd defense. If you opt out you hurt the survivability of the herd. So double damn on this idjit for not opting in on the service. Kinda like opting out on MMR vaccine and then bitching when there's a measels outbreak in your school and your kid nearly dies. Tragic and ALL YOUR OWN FAULT(looks at Michele Malkin). Your opting out hurts the rest of us. Thanks a lot, selfish jackass. (Oh, but I'm willing to pay now, when there's a problem, but not pay when we had to do the procurement and other financial planning).

Posted by: ry [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 10, 2010 05:16 AM

This comment must have got me on the psychic telephone because as I was getting up this morning I was thinking how these "conservatives" would, by the same logic, be in favour of mandatory vaccinations. That or, tugging at the same heartstrings, blame G*d when they and their families get the disease they could not be bothered to protect themselves against.

"Selfish jackass" is exactly right. If anyone endangered the neighbouring properties it was not the fire department, it was the man who thought $75 was too much to care for his own, let alone the neighbourhood.

Certainly, it would have been charitable for some volunteers to come along and save this man's house. This is why I keep suggesting to the bleeding hearts they open their wallets and do exactly that to help the next victim of his own bad judgement. But bleeding hearts have no more interest in Christian charity than this home owner did.

What they want it for somebody else to pay for their own incompetence and bad fortune. I can understand that, it is the consequence of a generation celebrating childish magical thinking and encouraging childish selfishness with the aim of inculcating childish dependency. What I don't understand is why they think the responsible adults in the room should agree with them. It isn't an argument, it is a temper tantrum.

Worse yet, thanks to the chaos of "democracy", their votes count just the same as yours and mine. Even the one of the man who, by his own admission, cannot work for a living but thinks he has the right to dictate to others the form of their charity.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 10, 2010 06:53 AM

Flea --

Given that said area is in the midst of a drought and the hills are like tinder, it was highly irresponsible for the fire companies not to fight the fire. Indeed, it brings to mind the friendly neighborhood fire protection rackets of ancient Rome. They were endangering their paying customers, and indeed all the towns around.

But yeah, I'm sure that righteous knowledge of payment will smother the flames like magic once the wildfires start. Yuppers.

Posted by: suburbanbanshee [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 10, 2010 12:51 PM

I believe you will find I had Crassus' fire brigade covered in the second comment. This was the "compassionate" solution in all but name suggested by bleeding heart number one.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 10, 2010 09:37 PM