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Privatize Fire-fighting?

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capitalist Posted: Wed, Apr 23 2008 8:34 PM

My apologies if this has been discussed before.

 

Could someone make the case for privatizing fire-fighting? I am definitely pro-free market, but this one has stumped me. I don't really see how fire-fighting would be better if privatized. 

If a poor persons house was burning and they hadn't previously purchased a firefighting plan, would their house simply be allowed to burn until it other houses around it (with purchased fire protection) started to burn?

 

It seems like this might be one thing better left to the government. I haven't, however, spent to much time thinking about it -- can anyone here argue for the privatization of firefighting?

 

Thanks,

Cap


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tgibson11 replied on Wed, Apr 23 2008 9:57 PM

That is certainly possible.  No one has the right to appropriate resources from others in order to protect their property.

However, it is likely that the insurers of adjacent property would be willing to put out fire on the uninsured property in order 1) to prevent it from spreading to adjacent insured property, and 2) to generate goodwill in the community.

 

 

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capitalist replied on Wed, Apr 23 2008 10:30 PM

Do you think privatizing would make firefighting companies any better than they are today?


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Ego replied on Wed, Apr 23 2008 10:49 PM

People are more than willing to donate to charities, even considering high taxes. With no taxes, I would be shocked if local fire departments couldn't be maintained using voluntary money. Either way, you don't have a right to take money from me to fund anything.

Don't allow leftists to play games with definitions! Some of the libertarian-leaning leftists at this forum will try to redefine "left-wing" back to its original defition (Third Estate, limited government, free-markets, laissez-faire reforms, etc.). Fine! We non-leftists can't stop them from using their own personal definitions; they can use whatever labels they want to describe any concept they want.

However, they have the audacity to then use their personal definition of "left-wing" (remember, the original definition, which is no longer valid) to prove that modern leftists are more libertarian than modern rightists! They will say that libertarianism is "inherently leftist" (again, using the original, no longer valid definition), and use that to insist that we should prefer and side with modern leftists over modern rightists.

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tgibson11 replied on Wed, Apr 23 2008 10:51 PM

They would certainly serve the needs of their customers better, because their profitabilty would depend on it.  That could mean reduced cost, quicker response, more effective equipment & techniques, a variety of service level agreements based on what the customer is willing to pay, etc.

Those who want the maximum guarantee of protection and were willing to pay for it would get it.  Those who wanted the bare minimum or no protection would be free to take their chances and spend their money other things.

Of course, this is purely speculative, since no one can know for sure how the market would develop.  The point is the market will encourage the entreprenuers who provided the most desired services for the lowest cost, and penalize those who fail to do so.

The current arrangement provides none of the incentives or feedback mechanisms of the market.  (Actually, it provides its own set of perverse incentives to "serve" the politicians who allocate budgets.)

 

 

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kingmonkey replied on Wed, Apr 23 2008 11:33 PM

capitalist:

My apologies if this has been discussed before.

Could someone make the case for privatizing fire-fighting? I am definitely pro-free market, but this one has stumped me. I don't really see how fire-fighting would be better if privatized. 

If a poor persons house was burning and they hadn't previously purchased a firefighting plan, would their house simply be allowed to burn until it other houses around it (with purchased fire protection) started to burn?

It seems like this might be one thing better left to the government. I haven't, however, spent to much time thinking about it -- can anyone here argue for the privatization of firefighting?

Thanks,

Cap

Fire fighting is a service just like anything else and nothing delivers services more efficiently than the free market.  Fire departments can be a non-profit activety where the fire fighters are volunteers (we used unpaid volunteers in my county) and money is collected via donations or it can be a for profit service funded by customers (such as you and I or perhaps insurance companies looking to protect their own interest).

Here is one thing most people don't realize about fire departments:  When they respond to a house fire their goal isn't to save the house but contain the fire.  Once your house is on fire by the time the fire department gets there it is far too late to save your home.  They are just trying to keep other homes from catching as well.

So, let's assume that John does not have fire service protection but his neighbors on either side of him, Larry and Bill, do.  Larry sees that Johns home has caught fire and then places an emergency call to the local fire protection service who rushes out, not to put out Larry's house, but to ensure that Johns does not catch fire.  Bill uses the same service so the fire fighters will also ensure that Bills home does not catch fire.  However, the fire fighters might determine that the only way to ensure the houses of Larry and Bill survive is to douse the fire in Johns house then they might just do so.  While they might have put Johns fire out they did so only because they have an agreement with both Larry and Bill to protect their homes and it was determined that the only way to do so was to actively work to put out the fire in Johns home, but they have no obligation to do so.

Now, assume that John, who does not have fire protection decides that he must have some assistance.  So he called the nearest fire protection agency for assistance.  They agree to dispatch a truck out to his home and douse his fire but only if he agrees to pay for the service.  After the job is completed he is presented with the appropriate paperwork, etc. and is sent a bill for their service.  John can do one of two things:  A) He can pay the bill or B) he can refuse and the fire protection service can seek legal remedies.

While it might seem like only the government can provide this service we must remember that any service can ALWAYS be provided for better in the free market than under government control.

 

 

"It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds. " -- Samuel Adams.

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Ego replied on Wed, Apr 23 2008 11:36 PM

I'd guess that residential firefighting would be a charity rather than a for-profit business.

Don't allow leftists to play games with definitions! Some of the libertarian-leaning leftists at this forum will try to redefine "left-wing" back to its original defition (Third Estate, limited government, free-markets, laissez-faire reforms, etc.). Fine! We non-leftists can't stop them from using their own personal definitions; they can use whatever labels they want to describe any concept they want.

However, they have the audacity to then use their personal definition of "left-wing" (remember, the original definition, which is no longer valid) to prove that modern leftists are more libertarian than modern rightists! They will say that libertarianism is "inherently leftist" (again, using the original, no longer valid definition), and use that to insist that we should prefer and side with modern leftists over modern rightists.

Question their motives.

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MacFall replied on Wed, Apr 23 2008 11:37 PM

Fire companies would probably have direct subscription as well as work through insurers. Everyone in a community - neighbors, insurers, the property owners themselves and also whoever owns the street - has an incentive to prevent and stop fires. Just in the same way that citizen street patrols would be formed, so would volunteer fire departments. Insurance companies, street owners and homowner associations would subsidize them. It would probably raise the costs of those services because of the free rider problem, but almost certainly with greater efficiency than under public ownership.

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kingmonkey replied on Thu, Apr 24 2008 12:32 AM

Another thing is this:  Most homeowners already pay for fire insurance on their homes.  Even the poorest people have fire insurance on their homes -- its required by the mortgage companies.  Likewise, if you take out a mortgage on your home more than likely the mortgage company will require that you carry not only fire insurance but also fire protection insurance.  You would be "forced", for a lack of a better term, to obtain protection from a fire protection agency in order to have that mortage.  Failure to do so would force the mortgage company to call in the loan to protect their assets.

So I would say the likelyhood of someone NOT having a fire protection agency would be rather low.

 

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TokyoTom replied on Thu, Apr 24 2008 2:30 AM

capitalist, if you'd do a little bit of legwork you might note that there is already a fair amount of private firefighting service, provided by insurers.  This made the news in connection with last summer's wildfires, when the insurers of expensive homes sent out teams to provide further fireproofing treatment and to keep fires at bay. 

This should be contrasted with the $1 billion budget that Congress now throws at supressing and fighting wildfires, instead of just letting them burn themselves out, making private homeowners bear their own risks, and forcing local forest regions to spend from their own budgets only to protect sites and timber that are most valuable.  We discussed this on a few threads last summer that you ought to be able to Google up.

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capitalist:

My apologies if this has been discussed before.

 

Could someone make the case for privatizing fire-fighting? I am definitely pro-free market, but this one has stumped me. I don't really see how fire-fighting would be better if privatized. 

If a poor persons house was burning and they hadn't previously purchased a firefighting plan, would their house simply be allowed to burn until it other houses around it (with purchased fire protection) started to burn?

 

It seems like this might be one thing better left to the government. I haven't, however, spent to much time thinking about it -- can anyone here argue for the privatization of firefighting?

 

Thanks,

Cap

 

Most poor people do not live in houses, they live in apartments or trailers - most of which require landlords to take care of this.

 

The few that do live in houses live out in rural areas where almost all of the fire departments are voluntary associations of local citizens.

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Bostwick replied on Thu, Apr 24 2008 3:26 PM

capitalist:
Could someone make the case for privatizing fire-fighting? I am definitely pro-free market, but this one has stumped me. I don't really see how fire-fighting would be better if privatized. 

You are viewing the situation much too narrowly.

If the government was to force everyone person into the profession of firefighting and spent its entire budget on fire trucks that would definitely make "fire-fighting" better, but would it make our lives better?

People maximize their satisfaction with their limited resources. When the government forces people to spend more on fire protection then they are willing pay, the government has wasted resources that would have gone towards some productive purpose.

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acejoca replied on Fri, Apr 25 2008 8:35 AM

I would agree with everyone that a private firefighter company would best. Here is a couple ideas.


1. How many times has your house burned down? How many people do you know who's house burned down? So therefore insurance rates for this would be extremely cheap.

2. Seems today most neighborhoods have associations so I believe there would probably be a community fire station that your dues would cover.

3. Firefighter services could be coupled with police services as well or some basic insurance policy.

4. And last if for some reason that poor person didn't live in an associate and didn't have any insurance, then I am sure there would be a company that would come even if you didn't have insurance with them and you would just be required to pay them back. And like another person said here if you didn't pay them back they could just turn it around into charity work and everyone loves them.

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Andrew replied on Fri, Apr 25 2008 9:00 AM

 

I think private fire companies can form voluntary mutual funds to protect clients that are not proscribed to them. If A house is burning, who has no or a different fire insurance contract, but B's company is right next door, B can put out the fire, and then be compensated for it''s actions with money out of the mutual fund. I don't think peope are cold hearted and let people burn for profit, but it would be a good way to minimize damage and protect the public

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Fephisto replied on Fri, Apr 25 2008 9:03 AM

Here are my two cents:

 

Historically, fire-fighting was a private enterprise.  The first fire-fighter was Crassus, although his methods were a little.....crass, at the time (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Licinius_Crassus), but the attempt had to start somewhere.

 

I think the doubt that this can be done by volunteer firefighters is an overblown doubt.  I can speak from experience from what I've seen in Argentina, that is that almost every tiny community there has a local volunteer fire department.  People generally have a vested interest in seeing not only there houses not burn down, but their neighbour's houses not burn down (since fire tends to have this nasty habit of spreading).

 

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Hey guys I think I could answer this one.  My father actually works for the local fire dept. as a mechanic  He has actually told me about how careless they can be sometimes.  He said that there are times when fire fighters just start spraying the hose at a building when the fire isn;t that out of control yet.  He has mentioned that if they actually went into the building, found the source and put that out first then the property damage to the house would be less severe.  He has also brought up the idea of using technology.  Some fire depts, a lot of voluntere ones actually, use advanced technology, such as heat vision, scanning etc, when they show up to help them find the source of the fire then attack it instead of simply spraying the hose into the house which of course damages windows, the exterior of the house etc.  He has given many other examples I can't think of right now, but he has stated over and over again how sometimes fire fighters can cause more damage than a fire.  He even told some of his fire fighter friends that if they were payed based on performance that none of them would have a job lol.   In fact many fire fighters choose not to use these methods because buying said equipment would require them to take a cut in pay or benefits.  My dad has expressed a lot of dismay at the demands of some of the FF.  God firbid that they actually pay for some of their benefits or insurance, they simply want everyone else to pay for it.  Whenever I mention privitizing the fire dept I always get the "well did you see gangs of new york?! fire were never put out back then!" Firts of all its hollywood and while I am sure problems like that occured I doubt it was everytime.  Second the market may be slower in some areas than others.  Using force is easier, forcing people by taxation is a lot more effective than the market where it is voluntary.  However just because it is easier doesn't make it right.

 

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Voievod replied on Wed, Apr 30 2008 1:26 PM

>> Most poor people do not live in houses, they live in apartments or trailers

 I actually own an apartment. If I spot a fire in my neighbor's apartment (and he can't be reached), can I call my own firefighters or should I alert his?

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Well first off the main consumers of private fire fighting firms would be insurance companies, due to the cost. Ok so would they let the poor guys house burn? Well I think an option is to allow him to pay the fire fighters that are there watching the surrounding houses to put it out, with a premium of course. No, government fire fighting is not a good thing, there is no competition or innovation.

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Bostwick replied on Wed, Apr 30 2008 3:55 PM

xSFx:

>> Most poor people do not live in houses, they live in apartments or trailers

 I actually own an apartment. If I spot a fire in my neighbor's apartment (and he can't be reached), can I call my own firefighters or should I alert his?

I'd go for both.

 

 

Peace

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