More on “RGF’s Favorite” Fire Department

With the left-wing chattering classes still abuzz over the fire department that let a man’s house burn in Tennessee, I felt that it was important to debunk that this was anything like a “free-market” situation.

While my perspective is laid out in the posting above, I saw an interesting article from John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute over at National Review Online. Berlau adds “fuel to the fire,” so to speak by showing how unionized fire departments have, in the past, allowed fires to burn in order to maximize salary and other concessions. The money quote from Berlau that sums up the issue nicely is as follows:

The answer is federalism. States and local communities should decide what is best for themselves in protecting residents from fire. This could include contracting out to private fire services, allowing insurance companies to create fire brigades for their home-insurance policy holders (my Competitive Enterprise Institute colleague Iain Murray has written on how this worked in the 19th century), or letting homeowner associations contract for fire protection in the same way they often do for services such as garbage collection.

But as with health care, liberals want to take away federalism in fire protection and force all American communities into a one-size-fits-all unionized model. The biggest congressional priority of the IAFF over the past few years has been the so-called Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, which would force unionization and collective bargaining on every one of the nation’s local fire departments.

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6 Replies to “More on “RGF’s Favorite” Fire Department”

  1. I spend time on one particular blog and it was apparent to me that both sides, right and left, thought the actions of the firefighters was outrageous. Both sides blamed the other for various reasons. When I posted my comments that the fire department did the right thing I was blasted by all. The idea of personal responsibility escaped both liberals and conservatives.

    Personally I think the fire department did the right thing. I pay for insurance to protect my property. I don’t care if the local fire department lets my home burn, I have coverage. The guy in TN decided to let his fire department emergency service coverage lapse. That’s on him and he still has his premium in his pocket. You get what you pay for. Besides, it called personal responsibility.

    1. I agree with you that personal responsibility should cause people to buy insurance, but I also think that in a truly free market, the desire to obtain additional customers would likely result in the house not being burned as the private fire department intervened in hopes of him being a long-term paying customer.

  2. What about the responsibility of the Fire Department to do what they are paid to do? That same kind of reasoning could be used to justify letting an injured person die because they weren’t ‘responsible’ enough to buy health insurance. I am a Christian, and I believe that two wrongs don’t make a right. The homeowner did something wrong, but the fire department did something even worse.

  3. The firehouse did what it is paid to do, which was nothing in this case. They were certainly ruthless. In these United States you may be as Christian as you like, or not. And, as helpful as you like or not.

    The fire company should have been willing to come to a price even though the home owner had not been a participant in the group program. Of course the costs for the service would have to break-even considering expenses; and, produce a profit for rendering a service of putting out a fire. You’d think this would create a large penalty for the homeowner, but he would have at least keep his house. So, The Firefighter’s are simply bad businessmen. Oops! they work for the government, they are not in business at all. They would not have thought about a profit motive. Paul you are so right in your reply to Mark.

    The answer is not more government. but more individual human action, free enterprise, entrepreneurship.

  4. There’s a problem with the whole concept of free market economics when it comes to some services. Free market implies competition which is fine if the market will bear it. Can the market support more than one fire department? I’m all for choice but those conditions don’t apply in this case.

    I suppose “moral hazard” doesn’t exist in the eyes of those who commented. If the fire department had put out the fire then it only encourages those who do pay – to quit paying since they will get service anyway. It’s kind of like rewarding Wall Street with bailout money after their 40 to 1 leveraged bets didn’t work out.

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