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Fire Fighters Let Home Burn... for Delinquent $75

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That is ia BIG city, Tyco. A million homes works out to probably 3-4 million people. Few cities (not metro areas, but actual cities minus suburbs) are that large.

Many fire departments serve a rural area, with a much smaller budget. They must nevertheless be prepared to respond to either grass or forest fires over a large area. I would expect fees (or (alas) taxes) in a rural area, per person, to be much higher, because they must service a large area with a much smaller paying population. Our local (rural) FD has, if I am not mistaken, two hose trucks and two water tankers (no fire hydrants!). This is about the size of a regular city fire station, and must cover a very large area (about 100 square miles) with far fewer people than live in a city fire district. So of course the cost per person, whether collected via tax or voluntary fee, will be higher.

So I tend to agree that a 75 dollar fee would be absurd in the city you posit but would not be absurd everywhere.

By the way a typical fire truck costs $500K or more, not $50K.

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Yes the man forgot/failed to pay the annual subscription.

Actually there is no "forgot" about it- he is quoted as saying that he didn't pay because he thought if there was a fire they would have to put the fire out anyway.

As to the neighboring buildings being in danger (mentioned in an earlier post) - the fire dept did in fact show up to keep the fire from crossing the guy's property lines as both adjoining neighbors had paid their fees.

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Actually there is no "forgot" about it- he is quoted as saying that he didn't pay because he thought if there was a fire they would have to put the fire out anyway.

I think you may be reading too much into his quote.

Its possible he *did* forget to pay, but thought he was safe anyway when he remembered that he hadn't paid after his trailer caught fire.

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You are speculating about a hypothetical LFC society, and claiming to know for a fact that in such a society firefighters would've shown up and put his house out. By that logic, no one is responsible for anything...

No, I'm not claiming to know for a fact that this would happen, for all anyone knows, maybe no one would decide to put his house out, and then it would burn down. If that had been the case, we wouldn't be having this discussion. I am claiming to know for a fact that private buisness performs services for profit. And I am claiming to know for a fact that such a scenario was removed from the possibility of happening by the initiation of force, and I'm evaluating that as wrong. Am I wrong?

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As reported:

"I just forgot to pay my $75," Cranick
told ABC News
. "I did it last year, the year before. ... It slipped my mind."

This is different than the article I read the day after it happened. I was reading anything into it- the guy said straight out that he didn't pay it deliberately.. maybe he's now changed his story...?

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This is different than the article I read the day after it happened. I was reading anything into it- the guy said straight out that he didn't pay it deliberately.. maybe he's now changed his story...?

There has been so much spin on this story, it is impossible to know without a recording.

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This is different than the article I read the day after it happened. I was reading anything into it- the guy said straight out that he didn't pay it deliberately.. maybe he's now changed his story...?

I also remember reading somewhere that he hadn't paid (and hadn't ever paid) the fee. I couldn't re-find it in a search though. It may have been in a comment or some random story. In the end, it does not matter if it was intentional or accidental. He hadn't met the requirement to have his house saved, and it followed that his house was not saved.

If I knew the man and the true reason for not having paid the fee, that might effect how much sympathy I have for him.

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I've been trying to find online the Breaking News release I referenced earlier. Can't seem to find it. But I recall the quote being pretty close to this: "We didn't pay the fee, but we never thought they would have let the house burn down, we offered to pay when we called"

Then there is this from the homeowner

"Even more puzzling to Cranick is why firefighters failed to respond to her home when, according to her, they had helped people in the past who hadn't paid.

"It doesn't make sense," she said. "Two or three years ago this house up here caught fire. My son lives there but they waived the fee." Cranick said South Fulton firefighters had also previously helped people but sternly reminded them to pay the fee the next day.

"I guess they have to let a house burn once in awhile to teach us a lesson," Cranick said."

Which seems to support the thought that maybe they just didn't want to pay it.

If they're now saying they "forgot" it is perhaps because initially in more candid moments they found less sympathy than expected.

As a side issue, doing web searches on the topic you will find several people blaming Ayn Rand for this and referencing "John Gault (mis-spelling theirs) style firefighting.

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I've been trying to find online the Breaking News release I referenced earlier. Can't seem to find it. But I recall the quote being pretty close to this: "We didn't pay the fee, but we never thought they would have let the house burn down, we offered to pay when we called"

There's this from the original post and the story linked at the top of this thread:

"I hadn't paid my $75 and that's what they want, $75, and they don't care how much it burned down," Gene Cranick told WPSD, an NBC affiliate in Kentucky.
"I thought they'd come out and put it out, even if you hadn't paid your $75, but I was wrong."

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There's this from the original post and the story linked at the top of this thread:

"I hadn't paid my $75 and that's what they want, $75, and they don't care how much it burned down," Gene Cranick told WPSD, an NBC affiliate in Kentucky.
"I thought they'd come out and put it out, even if you hadn't paid your $75, but I was wrong."

Thanks!

I think that, in addition to the quote from them above is pretty clear evidence they're changing their story after the fact.

I do agree with SWNerd though that the law needs a bit of changing.

If you have a medical emergency and get taken unconscious to the hospital you will still get a bill even though you did not consent to treatment (and I have personal experience with this as well). It seems better and safer for the firefighters and the community to put the fire out and send the family a bill for $20k. If the fire had spread to the neighbors land (the ones who had paid their fees) and they hadn't been able to put it out quickly there would have been a problem, not to mention that letting the fire spread is more dangerous for the firefighters.

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No, I'm not claiming to know for a fact that this would happen, for all anyone knows, maybe no one would decide to put his house out, and then it would burn down. If that had been the case, we wouldn't be having this discussion. I am claiming to know for a fact that private buisness performs services for profit. And I am claiming to know for a fact that such a scenario was removed from the possibility of happening by the initiation of force, and I'm evaluating that as wrong. Am I wrong?

Yes. There's no one stopping you from starting a private fire department. (anywhere, but especially in that town, since there are no fire departments funded by taxes there)

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"South Fulton Mayor David Crocker said city officials don’t want to see anyone’s house burn, but he emphasized that South Fulton has a city fire department which is supported by city taxes in order to serve its residents — with a rural fire subscription service made available outside the city limits to county residents in the city’s designated rural coverage area." [emphasis added]

...

"At the end of the enrollment month of July, the city goes a step further and makes phone calls to rural residents who have not responded to the mail-out.

'These folks were called and notified,' Vowell [south Fulton city manager Jeff Vowell] said. 'I want to make sure everybody has the opportunity to get it and be aware it’s available. It’s been there for 20 years, but it’s very important to follow up.'

Mayor Crocker added, 'It’s my understanding with talking with the firefighters that these folks had received their bill and they had also contacted them by phone.'"

"Tempers flare in SF after house allowed to burn; fire chief hit"

Edited by Trebor
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This is not some victory for capitalism, people who think this is what happens in a LFcapitalist society dont understand the moral foundation supporting laissez faire. Those firefighters and city leaders are probably not rational egoists, but anyone who claims to be one shouldnt act like this is some free market victory. Impressive benevolent universe premise some people hold.

Again:

Those firefighters took an oath. Moral obligations are not rooted in a $75.00 contract, they are rooted in the nature of egoism itself. I wouldnt be able to live with myself if I had the means to save that mans house (and pets) and chose to stand by and watch it burn. City government be damned. Ridiculous.

j..

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This is not some victory for capitalism, people who think this is what happens in a LFcapitalist society dont understand the moral foundation supporting laissez faire. Those firefighters and city leaders are probably not rational egoists, but anyone who claims to be one shouldnt act like this is some free market victory.

Things like this still could easily occur in any LFC society. I would think that the important point to make is that if one firefighting company is bad - which many people would probably think about this fire department after an event like this - another firefighting company would be preferred. Because this fire department in question is tax-funded primarily, there is less money to go towards any fully private fire department if anyone decided to start one. While I do think the fire victim here was wrong to just say he expected the fire to be put out anyway, in an entirely free market situation, the fire probably would have been put out. Notably, it was mentioned that the firefighters were legally not allowed to act, and would have preferred to act. Of course, a fire department could make a contractual obligation to not act, but in such a case, the fire department with the obligation probably be viewed as inferior to a fire department that didn't have the obligation.

Edited by Eiuol
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Things like this still could easily occur in any LFC society.....

....Notably, it was mentioned that the firefighters were legally not allowed to act, and would have preferred to act.....

I get your point with regard to free markets, LFC doesnt prevent immorality, it simply rewards morality. However, unlike some others, I dont excuse the firefighters for not acting even though they werent "allowed" to act. If I chose by my own free will to be a firefighter, (a proud profession) unless physically restrained from doing my job, I would do it. They were there, they had hoses, they had water, and a mans life was potetially ruined by their inaction. A mans life, his home burned to the ground because of a $75.00 mistake. Rand laid out 7 virtues in Galts speech, which of these were the people in this situation exercizing? And please dont say justice.

Would Roark have made the same choice? Not integrity either.

j..

Edited by JayR
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It seems to me that many are taking the position that the home owner has some innate right to have his house protected from fire. I keep reading that the the fire department was 'wrongly' prevented from working on this guys house. Is it not true that the fire department is operated and managed by the township (or whatever) that made the law in question? While government activity in certain services can definitely muddle the situation, especially the moral aspects, the government in question should be able to manage that department as they see fit. Furthermore, if some township has a meeting and they decide to organize a fire department with voluntary funding, while it is not necessarily in the realm of proper role of government, I don't see cause to determine such action--or the department--as a rights violating entity.

It seems fairly simple to me why the department was 'regulated' from not protecting the homes of owners who haven't paid the fee: that department would have a hard time operating if people only payed when their property was on fire. Additionally, LFC would by no means prevent such hard decisions or necessary regulations; if my hypothetical company operated that department, the same regulation would exist, except it wouldn't be called regulation or law, it would be called my business policy.

I've got no problems with a benevolent attitude toward fighting house fires; I even said it would be commendable if someone would have chosen to fight the fire in question. However, I am still very confused about why this guy is being labeled as a victim, while the fire department operators (including government) are being labeled as demons. He failed to pay $75 dollars; the fire department operates on a fee basis (almost like insurance); and since he didn't pay, his house burnt.

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It seems to me that many are taking the position that the home owner has some innate right to have his house protected from fire.

Not in this thread. No one has expressed that view. You do, however, have a right to ask someone or hire someone to put your fire out and pay them afterward if they are willing to accept, that is the right to free exchange, and in this case the guy was prevented from exercising that right by the initiation of physical force. Follow the link in Trebor's post #23 and think about fire protection services instead of medical services.

I keep reading that the the fire department was 'wrongly' prevented from working on this guys house. Is it not true that the fire department is operated and managed by the township (or whatever) that made the law in question?

The fire department is operated by the fire chief who is an employee of the city government, and is managed by the mayor and the associated city bureaucracy, and funded by taxes.

While government activity in certain services can definitely muddle the situation, especially the moral aspects, the government in question should be able to manage that department as they see fit.

Why is that? Of course, the government should not socialize any industry, but if they do, they do not have the right to manage that industry "as they see fit." Perhaps some of us are forgetting the lessons of We The Living? They are not "operating this government service like a business," else why not scap it altogether and turn it over to private enterprise? They are operating it like a bureaucracy including all the arbitrary mandates that that entails as a part of its very nature.

Furthermore, if some township has a meeting and they decide to organize a fire department with voluntary funding, while it is not necessarily in the realm of proper role of government, I don't see cause to determine such action--or the department--as a rights violating entity.

I do. For one, all government action involves the use of force. Therefore, there is no reason whatsoever for the government to involve itself in the firefighting industry. If a group of people in a local town come together to form a city fire department, the fact that "the majority" wants to do it is not a valid reason to do this. If they decide to fund it voluntarily, operate it independently, and allow open competition, then there is no reason to call this a government entity. If they are managed by the local bureaucracy, then they are using force because the decisions of the government are being imposed onto the fire department and its customers. Instead of the producers and consumers of the service deciding what ends to attain, the government decides (and if they are in conflict with the desires of the producers and/or the consumers, well too bad.) And again, this fire department was not voluntarily funded, so this amounts to subsidizing some people at the expense of others, redirecting resources to the ends of government and denying you access to free exchange if you disagree with (or forget to pay, or whatever) the government's arbitrary ends. That is immoral. Thus, this fire department is a coercive monopoly, as there is no private competition due to its tax-funded status a the very least (I don't know if there is a law prohibiting private competition as in some localities and services, much like the so-called “public option,” but at the very least, an entity funded by taxes is granted monopoly prices by force making it pointless to compete with. We cannot call such a situation open competition and certainly not laissez-faire.)

It seems fairly simple to me why the department was 'regulated' from not protecting the homes of owners who haven't paid the fee: that department would have a hard time operating if people only payed when their property was on fire. Additionally, LFC would by no means prevent such hard decisions or necessary regulations; if my hypothetical company operated that department, the same regulation would exist, except it wouldn't be called regulation or law, it would be called my business policy.

You do that, but that would be a stupid policy. Private business performs services in exchange for money. A private, for-profit company that condemned its customers for the "evil" of wanting to buy its product and refused to do business with them would not likely last very long.

I've got no problems with a benevolent attitude toward fighting house fires; I even said it would be commendable if someone would have chosen to fight the fire in question. However, I am still very confused about why this guy is being labeled as a victim, while the fire department operators (including government) are being labeled as demons. He failed to pay $75 dollars; the fire department operates on a fee basis (almost like insurance); and since he didn't pay, his house burnt.

He's not being labeled as a victim (by me at least) for not paying his $75.00 fine. He's being labeled as a victim only to the extent that we all are in a mixed economy where interventionism has reduced the options available to us, and this interventionism resulted in the government's fire department refusing to fight a fire that was burning his house down. Again, if it were just the fact that the local volunteer fire department refused to put his house out because he didn't donate or some such thing, then we wouldn't be having this discussion. We would instead discuss whether or not the reason they boycotted him was moral. We are not arguing that he deserved the unearned, just that socialism is wrong and results in situations exactly like this in services all across the board. If we are to win the fight against socialized medicine, it is vital that we understand the difference between bureaucratic management of a tax-funded government monopoly or "public enterprise" versus management for profit of a private enterprise on the free market and their effects on the consumer, in this instance, a man in need of fire protection who ended up losing his house because of the hegemonic relationship established between the government and the consumers of fire services by the initiation of physical force.

Edited by 2046
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if my hypothetical company operated that department, the same regulation would exist, except it wouldn't be called regulation or law, it would be called my business policy.

I agree with your post, but I would point out...

Wouldn't your business policy include a service rate for an instance like this? You have all the means (equipment and man power) to respond to fires. If a "new customer" who has not paid his insurance needs service, why would your company deny itself the opportunity to profit. Perhaps, an emergency rate equivalent to 100 times more than your "insured" rate? You'd set the price to what it is worth.

Your "policy" wouldn't be to sacrifice profits in favor of teaching a lesson, would it? (Especially when you could teach a lesson AND profit at the same time)

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Not in this thread. No one has expressed that view. You do, however, have a right to ask someone or hire someone to put your fire out and pay them afterward if they are willing to accept, that is the right to free exchange, and in this case the guy was prevented from exercising that right by the initiation of physical force. Follow the link in Trebor's post #23 and think about fire protection services instead of medical services.

----

The fire department is operated by the fire chief who is an employee of the city government, and is managed by the mayor and the associated city bureaucracy, and funded by taxes.

----

Why is that? Of course, the government should not socialize any industry, but if they do, they do not have the right to manage that industry "as they see fit." Perhaps some of us are forgetting the lessons of We The Living? They are not "operating this government service like a business," else why not scap it altogether and turn it over to private enterprise? They are operating it like a bureaucracy including all the arbitrary mandates that that entails as a part of its very nature.

----

I do. For one, all government action involves the use of force. Therefore, there is no reason whatsoever for the government to involve itself in the firefighting industry. If a group of people in a local town come together to form a city fire department, the fact that "the majority" wants to do it is not a valid reason to do this. If they decide to fund it voluntarily, operate it independently, and allow open competition, then there is no reason to call this a government entity. If they are managed by the local bureaucracy, then they are using force because the decisions of the government are being imposed onto the fire department and its customers. Instead of the producers and consumers of the service deciding what ends to attain, the government decides (and if they are in conflict with the desires of the producers and/or the consumers, well too bad.) And again, this fire department was not voluntarily funded, so this amounts to subsidizing some people at the expense of others, redirecting resources to the ends of government and denying you access to free exchange if you disagree with (or forget to pay, or whatever) the government's arbitrary ends. That is immoral. Thus, this fire department is a coercive monopoly, as there is no private competition due to its tax-funded status a the very least (I don't know if there is a law prohibiting private competition as in some localities and services, much like the so-called “public option,” but at the very least, an entity funded by taxes is granted monopoly prices by force making it pointless to compete with. We cannot call such a situation open competition and certainly not laissez-faire.)

----

You do that, but that would be a stupid policy. Private business performs services in exchange for money. A private, for-profit company that condemned its customers for the "evil" of wanting to buy its product and refused to do business with them would not likely last very long.

----

He's not being labeled as a victim (by me at least) for not paying his $75.00 fine. He's being labeled as a victim only to the extent that we all are in a mixed economy where interventionism has reduced the options available to us, and this interventionism resulted in the government's fire department refusing to fight a fire that was burning his house down. Again, if it were just the fact that the local volunteer fire department refused to put his house out because he didn't donate or some such thing, then we wouldn't be having this discussion. We would instead discuss whether or not the reason they boycotted him was moral. We are not arguing that he deserved the unearned, just that socialism is wrong and results in situations exactly like this in services all across the board. If we are to win the fight against socialized medicine, it is vital that we understand the difference between bureaucratic management of a tax-funded government monopoly or "public enterprise" versus management for profit of a private enterprise on the free market and their effects on the consumer, in this instance, a man in need of fire protection who ended up losing his house because of the hegemonic relationship established between the government and the consumers of fire services by the initiation of physical force.

I'm considering anyone who says that this home owner had his rights violated, due to the fire department's decision, to be insisting that this person had an innate right for the fire department to fight the fire. I was wrong in saying that there were "many" such expressions of rights violations. I falsely assumed that the two posts (12, 19) that make that claim were from two different people; but they were from the same author, you. Of course, if you think that the fire department was within their means to chose not to fight the fire, then my claim doesn't apply; however, since you are strongly claiming a violation of rights, then I don't think that is the case.

Last night I got a 'tweet' about Elan Journo's, PJTV interview concerning this very topic, and today I watched it. The philosophical content of the show wasn't very deep, but I did learn a few enlightening things about the case, specifically concrete details which I had chosen before not to educate myself about. I was indeed wrong about a few of my assumptions concerning the organization and funding of the fire department--that's why the assumption was formed as a question to begin with. The fire department is funded by taxes, and the $75 is extra funding.

Since I started to learn the details of this case--I really wished I hadn't wasted my time--I decided to inquire more about the subject. What I learned was that the fire department in question belongs to the city of South Fulton, Tennessee, and they offer service to the whole county of Obion. For this service, they require $75 annually from anyone in Obion county, not in the city of South Fulton I presume. Additionally, the home owner knew that he had to pay the fee, but he thought that the department would come even if he didn't pay. Probably the least important thing I learned, but does slightly challenge Ellan's disbelief that $75 isn't enough to support the departments activities, is that Obion County had a population of 32,450 in 2000, which equates to $2,433,750--of course, the population for the city of South Fulton needs to be taken out of this figure.

Before I learned about these details and afterwords, I knew that this wasn't some gross violation of rights by the fire department or the city of South Fulton; and the works of Mr. Reisman isn't going to refute that conclusion. Nor am I going to convolute the issue by equating the fire department's activities, how the city organized that department, or how they offer services to people outside of city limits, with socialized medicine. And, yes, I understand the coercive nature of government monopolies, but that cannot possibly be the cause for such strong condemnations of rights violations in regards to this department, especially as his rights would be violated whether or not the department fought the fire, given that particular principle.

In any case, however, I am in agreement with you in that this type of situation is prone to improper government activity. Furthermore, the solution, limiting the government to its proper roles, should definitely be brought up when discussing this case. Really, it should be a primary argument, and with it the discussion of 'blame' is moot, where as the other arguments (the primary discussion) concerns fault--fire department or home owner. Where I may have a disagreement, in this portion of the topic, is that I think it's possible for this home owner--and Obion county--to have worse fire services under a LFC system. While capitalism is morally superior (of course, practicality is implied), I think your last paragraph is too utopian in regards to the unknowable, potential market possibilities that would be open to the home owner under capitalism.

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I agree with your post, but I would point out...

Wouldn't your business policy include a service rate for an instance like this? You have all the means (equipment and man power) to respond to fires. If a "new customer" who has not paid his insurance needs service, why would your company deny itself the opportunity to profit. Perhaps, an emergency rate equivalent to 100 times more than your "insured" rate? You'd set the price to what it is worth.

Your "policy" wouldn't be to sacrifice profits in favor of teaching a lesson, would it? (Especially when you could teach a lesson AND profit at the same time)

:) Yes, of course my business would include a service rate for such instances. However, it would have to be a very exuberant fee, which you acknowledge. I would also set up a donation fund for those caught up in this situation, so the community could help out and the bill gets paid.

I wouldn't agree that sacrifice fits into the equation of whether or not to accept or reject someones plea (and money) to fight the fire after not they originally didn't pay. That would really have to be a market decision, and it could go both ways. By both ways, I mean if the decision doesn't pay off, that negative result doesn't make it a sacrificial decision, etc...

Edited by RussK
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