Tennessee County's Subscription-Based Firefighters Watch As Family Home Burns Down

The system works!

The conservative vision was on full display last week in Obion County, Tennessee. In this rural section of Tennessee, Gene Cranick's home caught on fire. As the Cranicks fled their home, their neighbors alerted the county's firefighters, who soon arrived at the scene. Yet when the firefighters arrived, they refused to put out the fire, saying that the family failed to pay the annual subscription fee to the fire department. Because the county's fire services for rural residences is based on household subscription fees, the firefighters, fully equipped to help the Cranicks, stood by and watched as the home burned to the ground.

Cranick said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late. They wouldn't do anything to stop his house from burning. Each year, Obion County residents must pay $75 if they want fire protection from the city of South Fulton. But the Cranicks did not pay. The mayor said if homeowners don't pay, they're out of luck. [...] We asked the mayor of South Fulton if the chief could have made an exception. "Anybody that's not in the city of South Fulton, it's a service we offer, either they accept it or they don't," Mayor David Crocker said.

I guess it could be worse -- in Gangs of New York, the fire departments burned down and looted buildings with unpaid "subscription fees"...


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85 Responses:

  1. elusis says:

    Hell yeah, Libertopia, woooo.

  2. Kevin Gunn says:

    You can:

    a) use taxes to make everyone contribute funds which then provide fire protection to everyone when needed (social safety net). Great because it covers everyone equally, however it is also prone to excess cost for services provided.

    b) privatize entirely so that two or more competing companies provide coverage for a subscription fee. This is a free-market model and *can* reduce costs, but won't cover everyone (unless you pass a law requiring coverage), and is vulnerable to cheating (the company saves money if it shows up too late to do anything, collusion, etc.).

    c) you can have this idiot model which blends the worst of both worlds. No universal coverage, no free market cost controls. We call this a protection racket.

    • dasht says:


      Option (b) is also highly f'ing fail prone from a public safety perspective.

      In theory, what yonder FUCKING IDIOT firefighters were doing there is staying on hand to protect neighboring subscribers in the event the fire spread more than it did.

      That "playing the odds" activity on their part represents a non-trivial dereliction of their purported duty to paying subscribers elsewhere.

      Suppose, for example, another call came in while they were watching that house burn. What are they to do? Leave and put the neighboring subscribers at higher risk? Or remain and leave the subscribing caller hanging?

    • The part where you note that option B is prone to cheating and collusion fails to note that this cheating and collusion can result in option B providing less and costing drastically more than option A. Viz. deregulation of the power industry in the early 90's, among many others.

      • Or the current state of "health care" in backwards third world hellholes like the USA.

        It also really doesn't help that health care, fire protection, police protection, etc have inelastic demand AND for the most part anyone who is not a provider is incapable of correctly assessing the differences between competitors.

  3. disconn3ct says:

    I had a car accident the other day, and no matter how much I yelled and cried, the insurance company wouldn't pay because I didn't have a policy! thats no reason for them not to help!

    The more balanced article I saw had them in a very rural area, outside the city and outside the response area for the city-funded unit (and not in reach of any other station). They said, in so many words, that they refused the $75/yr subscription because "I thought they would respond anyway"... that is pure idiocy, plain and simple. I can't get in an accident and then try to pay a month's premium to get my car replaced.

    • jwz says:

      Cue the Randroids in 3...2...1...

      • disconn3ct says:

        Neat, straight to namecalling. Thats pretty awesome. I keep forgetting, this isn't the place for any sort of reasoned discourse. My bad, go ahead and play in your sandbox any way you like.

      • ctd says:

        In this vein, I think you should have a "Randroid night", where only people who pay for drinks receive them.

        • True Randroid Day would be serving drinks consisting of turpentine, radium, and grenadine, because every consumer should always bring his own mass spectrometer and do chemical analysis on every drink, because consumer safety laws are like slavery. Which incidentally should be legalized, because a society can't truly be free, unless it has an enslaved underclass.

          • ctd says:

            It is typical of kneejerk anti-libertarians to have no concept of elementary good business practices, e.g. not killing your customers.

            I think you achieve a "special" level of atypicality though, in equating libertarianism with slavery.

            • Knowingly harming your customers often provides greater short-term profit than taking costly action to avoid harming them. Covering up the harm you're causing is very often more profitable than not causing harm. Even more profitable is harming people who are not your customers, and lying about it.

              Adults tend to think these things are bad.

              • ctd says:

                You may be surprised (especially if you're used to debating strawmen) to know that libertarians fall squarely within the mainstream regarding harming others. I am amused by the way by "Even more profitable is harming people who are not your customers" - I guess you think the real fat margins are in assassination? I assure you that the oldest profession is something far more win-win than that...)

                Here is another thing that may surprise you. Nothing you have said has anything to do with the parent comments or the OP.

                • You may be surprised to know that libertarians fall squarely within the mainstream regarding harming others.

                  And yet they insist there should be no regulation to prevent harm, no restriction against harm, no punishment for harm, and no recourse to the harmed. Because, you see, all of history is wrong and everyone would totally be nice to each other in less profitable ways if only they weren't being FORCED to play nice.

                  I am amused by the way by "Even more profitable is harming people who are not your customers" - I guess you think the real fat margins are in assassination?

                  More "preventing harm is expensive". And if you're not harming *your customers*, your customers can keep buying from you, and fuck the non-customers. If they didn't want your toxic waste in their water supply, they should have paid you to dump it somewhere else.

                  Nothing you have said has anything to do with the parent comments or the OP.

                  I suspect you should read this thread again. Notice how each comment refers to the one before it, and all the comments that aren't yours make sense?

                  • ctd says:

                    I see now - you think libertarianism means anarchy. It doesn't.

                    Remember, it's fun to learn new words, but learn what they mean before you embarrass yourself!

                  • Oh, don't be silly. In true anarchy, they kill and eat the Libertarians because they're annoying.

                    Libertarianism is *like* anarchy, but The Invisible Hand protects the Libertarians and makes everything perfect using MAGIC. And the reason nothing like that has ever happened ever before and we see no reason to assume it would happen is that everyone trying it just hasn't quite been ideologically pure enough and hasn't wished hard enough! If only they'd been a LEEEEEEETLE bit more Libertarian, everything would have stopped being a complete shithole because of Libertarian policies and it would have turned into a magical fairytale land because of those same Libertarian policies.

                  • ctd says:

                    Now you are confusing it with Communism. :)

                  • Don't be silly. Communists share.

                  • ctd says:

                    Actually they hoard - who knows the next time you'll see a decent beet?

                  • They're not QUITE perfect commies, then. If only they were a LEEEEEETLE bit more communist, everything would work out just fine! Because magic! Like Lolbertarianism!

                  • ctd says:

                    The efficiency of markets can seem like magic to some, yes, in an Arthur C. Clarke kind of way.

                  • The efficiency of the market has yet to prevent any large scale Libertarian system from rapidly devolving into either an anarchic or oligarchic shit hole. This is why Libertarians get so much unending grief: it doesn't work, grown ups know it doesn't work, and there's not a single real-world example of it working.

                    So the market's ability to make Libertarianism work is like Clarke's assertion about magic, in much the same way Clarke used a lot of interplanetary space travel in his novels: it's pretty cool, but most people stop basing their real world plans on it after they turn 15 or so.

                  • ctd says:

                    Not a single real-world example of freer markets being more efficient?

                    The Hanseatic League
                    South Korea vs. North Korea
                    Hong Kong vs. mainland China
                    modern mainland China vs. Communist China

                    I could type more, but...

                  • Oooh, rocket-propelled goalposts!

                    Nobody is saying that markets do nothing well.

                    We are arguing against your idiotic assertion that completely unregulated markets universally work better than somewhat regulated markets, and that completely unregulated markets work best in all cases.

                  • ctd says:

                    Hm - I wouldn't actually make that assertion, and I'm not sure where you got that idea. My guess is you have some poorly founded beliefs, including that anyone who disagrees with you is an idiot, and regressed from there.

                    I don't think completely unregulated markets are always better - some measures against violence, fraud, and harmful non-economic side effects should exist. But that would still be far less regulation than exists in most modern economies.

                  • So, what you're saying is that you're ignorant of the effects of deregulation, you're ignorant of the history of the way free markets act under reduced regulation, you think the current negative efects of lack of regulation simply haven't gone far enough.... but you're not a REAL true Randroid because you think SOME coercion is okay and SOME taxes aren't theft and SOME free markets need to be less free.

                    Which makes me wonder why you're defending Libertarianism. If you've taken off the adolescent blinders enough to know that completely unrestricted markets are stupid and don't work, you necessarily have to have seen enough to realise that the trend of less regulation = more shithole is not going to magically reverse itself as you move deregulationward from Enron, Monsanto, and Walmart.

                  • ctd says:

                    I don't follow everything Ayn Rand said for a lot of reasons. And you're making a lot of other unsupported statements about my beliefs.

                    But this isn't too surprising, because you started this thread claiming that libertarianism and anarchy are the same thing. Do you notice a theme developing?

                    The examples you cite next are all over the map as far as deregulation:
                    Enron: made bank in California off so-called "privatization" that was really just delivering customers. If you don't have the choice to not use power at rate x, it's not really a market.

                    Monsanto: GM foods yay - manipulating crop genes is as old as agriculture. Suing farmers for receiving windblown seeds boo. Suing farmers for stealing seeds probably OK.

                    Walmart: Cheap stuff but smells funny. If it were close to becoming a monopsony I'd worry but it's not even close.

                  • No, not a single example of – I'll type slowly because this seemed to whiz past you last time – any large scale Libertarian system that didn't devolve into an anarchic or oligarchic shit hole.

                  • ctd says:

                    I can't help but notice that I'm giving examples and you are trying to get by on repeated assertion.

                  • Look, you know this is why people point and laugh at Libertarians, right? Because you ask them questions like name a single working example of a sustained large scale Libertarian system and they give answers like South Korea, which features a single-payer health care system, a social welfare system, school, taxes, and pretty much everything else that qualifies it as, you know, not a Libertarian system.

                    And then, having completely whiffed the ball, insist they hit a home run.

                  • It's NEXT to North Korea. Don't you see? Being NEAR a less free state makes it MORE free, and actually counterbalances a pile of evil socialist coercive statist activity. So, because the Norks are commies, that means South Korea's *liberalism* magically gets bumped up to Twoo Libewtawwian Wuv.

                    It's another service provided to you, free of charge, by The Invisible Hand.

                  • This is, by the way, why Canada is "Soviet Canuckistan" and why Canadian health care and social safety doesn't work at all and old people are left out for the moose - because we're next to a less regulated country, and so all our successes are transmuted down a couple of orders of magnitude simply by proximity.

                    True facts, here.

                  • ctd says:

                    For some reason you made the dumb-ass assertion: "The efficiency of the market has yet to prevent any large scale Libertarian system from rapidly devolving into either an anarchic or oligarchic shit hole." I named some singles and doubles (political interests mean it's hard to find really laissez-faire economies), and one home run: Hong Kong.

                    Now, the question becomes, are you the sort of person who changes your beliefs when proven wrong, or falls back on name-calling and repeated assertions?

                  • cananian says:

                    I think perhaps you ought to study the history of your "home run" better. What decade of Hong Kong's history are you referring to, for a start?

                    Random wiki cites, from the various decades of Hong Kong's existence as a *British colony*: "The stability, security, and predictability of British law and government enabled Hong Kong to flourish as a centre for international trade", "A colonial police force was established in the 1840s to handle the high crime rate in Hong Kong. By China's standards, colonial Hong Kong's code of punishment was considered laughably loose and lenient. The lack of intimidation may have been the leading cause for the continual rise in crime." "In the 1970s, corruption was a way of life in Hong Kong, being the norm in all government departments. Policemen would often extract bribes before they investigated a crime, as did firemen before they rescued people and put out fires. Many Chinese detective superintendents amassed incredible wealth from their corrupt dealings with triads and corporations." "The Hong Kong government introduced the 6-year free compulsory education in 1971, and expanded it to 9-year in 1978" "[In the 1960s] The long hours in the factories would break apart that traditional structure when most people spend far more time working in factories than at home. But people lived under a strong willingness to bear sufferings." "In 1963 and 1967, serious droughts affected Hong Kong. Water supply was unable to support the needs of the rapid population growth. The government introduced a water restriction policy. There were periods when water supply was restricted to 4 hours per 4 days. People had to save water for 4 days of usage." "In 1969 ... a guide titled the 'Colony Outline Plan'... was the first paperwork to outline strategies to house a million people with low-cost public housing, along with defining tight regulations and guidelines on how to construct among the high density population." "The lack of foreign-exchange control, and low tax, contributed to the competitiveness of Hong Kong's economy. Though a floating rate, coupled with panic about intensified political talk of the handover, sent consumer confidence to an all-time low, causing Black Saturday in 1983. The end result was that Hong Kong adopted a linked exchange rate system. The exchange rate between Hong Kong dollar and United States dollar was fixed at HKD $7.8 = US $1. ... In the short period from just a decade previously, inflation would also increase from 5% in the 1970s to 12.7% by 1983."

                    Doesn't sound like a home-run to me. On one hand, there's blatent co-ercion from the state! On the other, devolution into an anarchic or oligarchic shit hole! How does this prove your point at all?

                  • ctd says:

                    You have a lot of chaff here. For example, you cite the existence of a strategy paper for public housing as evidence of, uh, what? And the existence of government corruption is mostly orthogonal to economic freedom. And you're trying to argue that it is at the same time an anarchy and an oligarchy?

                    Boil it down, man.

                  • In the interest of not gumming up this journal any further, I suggest we relocate this thread here.

                  • cananian says:

                    Er -- you've missed the point. I'm asking *you* to boil it down, since the examples I quoted have shown even you, I think, that Hong Kong has a complex and contradictory history. You need to tell us what part of Hong Kong's history and economic system you think is actually your "home run". You're the one claiming the runs, you have the burden of proof.

                    I've elaborated this point over at imperator's relocation of this thread, so please respond there.

                  • spendocrat says:

                    The Invisible Hand is magic. That's always a crowd-pleaser!

                    Have you read Adam Smith? Have you subsequently read any other economist?

                  • My argument is that Libertarianism inherently expects The Invisible Hand to *do* magic, as opposed to being a useful metaphor.

                  • ctd says:

                    Translation: "My argument against libertarianism is based on ignorance of it."

                  • Keep dreaming. In the mean time, the functional adults who actually pay attention to the past and present will continue to do our level best to make sure your monumental ignorant childishness doesn't fuck up our future.

                  • ctd says:

                    Dreaming? No - you're making an ignorant statement right here!

                    My friend, if you actually study economics and history before entering into discussions like these, you will either wind up agreeing with me or become able to back up your arguments for some other model. Doesn't that sound more appealing than looking like an ass on the internet?

                  • Seriously, I like you, and perhaps even the cut of your jib.

                  • In the interest of not gumming up this journal any further, I suggest we relocate this thread here.

      • dasht says:

        Here is the hardcore libertarian answer (can't speak of Ayn what's her face per se):

        Yonder fire company should have noted subscribers *at risk* from this fire, showed up quickly, put it out, and sued the owner for the cost plus punitive damages. Twas the gross negligence of the owner that (would have) forced them to put out the non-subscriber fire.

        Instead, these are hick mafia wannabes and the earlier comment about protection rackets is spot on.

        (That such an outcome is perfectly libertarian-consistent and can be abstracted is pretty much why hard-core libertarianism is self-refuting: adopt libertarian values and pretty soon you can prove the need for niches of collectivism w/in the economy.)

        • Where this strays beyond the lines of Randian utopia is where you say, "sued the owner for the cost plus punitive damages," which assumes the existence of a public enforcement mechanism and authority (i.e. the courts). In the Randian world, everyone just acts out of enlightened self interest and conflicts are settled, um, well, there are no conflicts because everyone just acts out of enlightened self interest.

          • leolo says:

            I thought Rand's approche to conflict resolution was to kidnap their kid, strangle them to death, dismember the body and strew the parts around town.


            • Nono, no no no. That's not a good reflection of Ms. Rand's ideas on conflict resolution at all. You see, Ayn teaches us that conflict arises only when people do not faithfully follow their true desires, and express their rational self interest and enlightened greed in productive, enlightened ways like inventing exciting new metals or being a philandering actor or ruthlessly crushing the competition by any means at your disposal.

              So this other thing isn't about conflict resolution. It's just plain old bat shit crazy, is all.


        • sethg_prime says:

          I'm not sure you can sue to recover the costs of preventing imminent damage from another person's actions-only for curing the damage after it happens.

          (Obviously a community could rewrite its tort laws to permit this kind of lawsuit... it could also rewrite its tax code to pay for firefighting services out of the general tax revenue....)

    • tedlick says:

      I fail to see how it's in any way beneficial to the town to not fight the fire and charge the homeowner for the cost of the response, since he hadn't paid up front.

      That would have been the best of both worlds-- illustrate why it's a good idea to pay the $75/year, because it's $2,000+ if they respond to a fire on your property... and no one ends up looking like a heartless douche of a libertarian.

      • disconn3ct says:

        The right answer was probably to not leave the station until you are actively responding to a subscriber. That stops the dickhead move of "sorry, we're not allowed to help." Also I noticed that this article carefully avoided pointing out that the dept made sure everyone was out and safe.

        Suing/billing is an idea, but there would be just as much whagarble when they sued for "outrageous costs". (Whether it was $500 or $10,000.)

        I do like the idea of a club night where locals pay extra so that out of towners can drink free. Lemme know when that happens.. :)

        (On a side note, I can promise that if he had - in any way - befriended the station, they wouldn't have left him to burn. He was publicly bragging about not paying, and so they responded in kind. Simply stopping by to say hi, or bringing food would go a long way to make friends with the people who may risk their lives to save yours. I can still tell you who makes the best lasagna in our first-due area, and I had to quit volunteering 3 years ago :) ..)

        • logic_lj says:

          Two possible reactions:

          1. Let it burn. "Sorry man, nothing we can do. These trucks full of water and equipment, they're for when the fire finally starts damaging your neighbor's property." People are outraged.
          2. Accept the owner's offer to pay, put out the fire before any more damage was done (and hasn't spread to neighboring property), and send him the bill. People are outraged.

          Public opinion will suck no matter how you slice it. Do you honestly find the first option the more defensible position here?

          • disconn3ct says:

            Depending on the local situation, the first option may be the only one that preserves the station's ability to respond out there at all. (And it looks like that is their usual response - see the article below.) $75/yr/house is CHEAP. It says "we're hoping a lot of people pay". Depending on the roads, it could literally not pay for the gas to get the vehicles there and back, much less the firefighter salary, equipment maint/purchases, etc. (Maybe its all going to gold-lined 80" televisions in the breakroom, but I doubt it..) Telling people not to bother paying until the house is actually on fire is going to result in more idiots like this guy. Without that extra income, they may not be staffed/equipped to cover the extra first-due area and it will be a moot point - nobody will be able to get out there anyway.

            You could send just an engine/ambo for search crew, but then you have the residents dying because there -was- someone trapped, and the available equipment wasn't enough to get them out.. (engine by itself is only slightly better than the garden hoses against a housefire once it really gets rolling.) According to this article, the policy has been in place for 20 years. If it was causing people to lose houses left and right, this wouldn't be the first time it came up. This is just one idiot trying not to pay for his own decision. (http://www.wpsdlocal6.com/news/local/Firefighters-watch-as-home-burns-to-the-ground-104052668.html .. "a neighborhood" is upset, except the neighbor paid, and the only quotes are him and his wife. This isn't "yet another house burned down"..)

            Fire trucks are expensive, and you need a lot of them in a station. For amusement value, check out your local dept's budget - it'll probably be a mix of town, county and if you have volunteers, a non-profit. Vehicles are expensive, even used. Insurance is blinding. Course, they could just not pay and expect the county to pay worker's comp anyway... ;) We're lucky here - the non-profit owns all the vehicles in 2 of the 3 stations, with city/county/state paying maintenance. Then again, this is an area that supports emergency services...

            • tedlick says:

              Any way you slice this, the better course of action would be to put the goddamn fire out because you're firefighters and you're on the scene with the equipment to do so.

              Let the payment arguments play out in their own time.

              What if there'd been a person in the house despite the assertion that 'everyone got out safe'?

              As it was, there were three dogs and a cat left to burn to death.

      • badc0ffee says:

        If you could get fire services for a steep one-time fee, I'm sure a lot of people would be willing to gamble and just never pay the $75/year again. After all, chances are good your house will never be on fire.

        I'm not a libertarian; I love my tax-funded fire department. But I do understand why the firefighters let this house burn: they need operating money coming in every month, and people are not going to pay them if they'll put out a fire without that yearly fee.

        Besides, nobody was hurt, and the only probable libertarian here, Crainck, got to learn a lesson about living in a cheap (low-tax, low-services) county.

        • glenra says:

          According to _The Enterprise of Law_, a fairly standard approach for private for-profit fire departments is to put out fires for free when people have paid the subscription and charge full price to put the fire out when they haven't. Only standing aside like this (to protect the rest of the neighborhood) when the homeowner *insists* on not paying the actual cost, which can be substantial.

          For most people the issue doesn't come up because banks require fire insurance to give you a mortgage and fire insurance companies like to bundle their policies with a fire subscription to make it clear whose job it is to put out the fire and avoid any seconds wasted in pesky last-minute negotiating.

          • badc0ffee says:

            Crainck did say on the 911 call that he would pay "whatever it takes", but that's not a legally enforceable contract. Even if he had said that directly to the fire department, they couldn't hold him to anything because he'd be agreeing under duress.

            • glenra says:

              I don't think legal "duress" works like that. Yes, contracts are void if you sign because somebody threatened to hurt you if you didn't. But if the service offered happens to be *really really valuable* to you at this exact moment due to random fate that's not really the provider's fault/concern. You might be under duress by the universe at large, but if the person you're contracting with isn't providing the threat, the contract should be legal.

              (If it weren't, how could the pest control guy expect you to pay the bill to remove a skunk? Or the plumber when your sink explodes?)

              So have a contract that lays out the standard rate per truck/per worker/per hour (plus what kind of charges might be added and what dispute resolution agency would handle billing disputes). Keep a copy of the contract with a clipboard and pen in the glove compartment. The first truck to arrive, the driver finds the owner and says "sign here and we'll put this thing out" - no problem.

              Clearly, *somebody* in the scenario at hand is either being a dick now or lacked forethought previously. Maybe more than one somebody. But no political/economic system can entirely prevent that from happening from time to time. In other words, "utopia is not an option".

    • jwm says:

      Please name the fire service that will put out your house fire, then buy you a new house afterwards.

    • pavel_lishin says:

      Car insurance is a terrible analogy to this, since there's nowhere in the U.S. where car insurance is optional.

      Health insurance is much closer to this.

      • glenra says:

        > there's nowhere in the U.S. where car insurance is optional.

        Car insurance is still optional in New Hampshire for most drivers.

        Which improves the analogy - if you get in an accident in NH, *then* you need to either show insurance or demonstrate you're financially able to bear the costs directly.

        • pavel_lishin says:

          Ooh, I didn't know that. But regardless, some sort of proof of financial responsibility is required by law, whereas nothing forces me to be responsible for my own decrepit meatbag.

  4. mikemariano says:

    Harpers had a good article about a private AIG firefighting team last October. It's here behind a paywall and it follows "Chief Sam" around as he and his AIG crew drive around, not fighting California wildfires.

    The AIG firefighters were less heartless than these Tennessee firefighters, since there were also public LAFD firefighters in the area. But it was breathtaking to see Chief Sam strut around like a hero while doing almost no actual work.

    Suddenly, we were all running into the Rite-Aid. A girl in line for the register had collapsed. She was lying on the floor, surrounded by a crowd. George kneeled down, speaking to her in Spanish. She was having an asthma attack, he said. He was about to move her when three LAFD firefighters, responding to someone's 911 call, rushed through the door. Three men in yellow looked at three other men in yellow. There was an awkward pause. "We're gonna let you guys have it," George said, and we left to find the fire.

  5. fengi says:

    This (Republican run) county collects property and other taxes but apparently does not include fire service among it's funded services, preferring to let every township handle the issue differently rather than cover those outside a township. In one of the quotes, a local fire official blames the policy on the county. So it's reactionary small government attitude which created this situation in the first place.

    By the logic of this, South Fulton should only be allowed to use the amount of county, state and federal services that its residents funded directly. Which means they can only drive a few miles outside of town before they've used up their x% of roads.

    • latemodel says:

      I just wish that all Republican run counties followed the lead of South Fulton and didn't borrow my fire trucks every time their neighborhood catches on fire.

    • editer says:

      This (Republican run) county collects property and other taxes but apparently does not include fire service among it's funded services, preferring to let every township handle the issue differently rather than cover those outside a township. In one of the quotes, a local fire official blames the policy on the county. So it's reactionary small government attitude which created this situation in the first place.

      This. The county gummint in fact had a plan on the table to establish a countywide fire department to keep just this sort of thing from happening, and it opted not to act, knowing that this sort of thing had happened before and would continue to happen.


  6. edouardp says:

    "Cranick said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late."

    Free-market fail. They could have been able to charge this consumer ten thousand dollars, and thus would be able to dramatically lower the charges for their other customers.

    If I were one of the pre-paying customers, I'd be very angry at this obvious market failure. Government bad!

    (Obviously if I were also, you know, a right-wing redneck.)

  7. spendocrat says:

    18th century Liberalism feels a lot like the Bible these days: both its supporters and detractors are so ignorant about it that these debates are inevitably pointless and empty.

  8. Maybe the $75 per month was better spent on insurance that would pay for a new house instead of repairs. If the insurance co. didn't require the payment of firefighter fees maybe that was the right choice. Not enough info yet.

    • hatter says:

      If you can juggle the odds, sure - maybe there's only a million to one chance this house would require services of a fire dept. But at the point where you have to file an insurance claim, the cost and hassle involved versus any mitigation to save a tiny fraction of your expensive, irreplacable, sentimental, and immediately accessible necessities seems an easy choice to make. Plus insurance companies will have those odds analysed every which way, they'll know how much to put on your policy to offset paying the fees, so they still come out singing whether you burn or not.

      the hatter

    • Oh, yes. Let's wait to see if any insurance company will pay to replace the house.

      [Goes, gets bucket of popcorn, settles in.]

  9. xrayspx says:

    I was in Memphis and Nashville earlier this year and was surprised at how many seriously big, nice houses are in unincorporated areas of counties. I was wondering if they had to buy services or if there was some kind of contract with adjacent towns, or if "unincorporated" meant different things down south. I guess in areas where snow removal isn't a primary concern, as long as they contract with the FD and PD of neighboring towns, and keep their dues paid or whatever, it's slightly less of a burden.

    I would be entirely too sketchy about buying a house for several hundred thousand dollars knowing that, since I'm not really in a town, I could drop dead of a heart attack and no one's obliged to come get me, or the place could just burn to the ground because we didn't pay our FD contract or something.

    • asan102 says:

      Your seriously terrified of living in a place that's Not a Town? You must have very little faith in your abilities of self-preservation. I guess I am in Minnesota but around here there is no appreciable difference in basic service availability except that you might have to get it from someone else. Broadband, however...

      • xrayspx says:

        Not terrified, no, but I do know that up here I've seen plenty of stories of rich folks buying a tract of woods, plopping a house in the middle and then being shocked when the town plows stop at the town line, leaving them trapped. Or there will be a fire and they're shocked when no one comes to put it out right away, that kind of thing. People in NH tend to laugh at those people, loudly.

        I guess I'm one of those worthless communists who thinks that fire and rescue is one of those things that government is actually good for. Even when EMS services are subcontracted at least it's not up to each resident to maintain a separate contract with the ambulance company.

    • nathanw says:

      Counties can have taxes, governments, and public services, too. Nothing about being on unincorporated land makes that impossible, it's just a slightly different arrangement of the levels of government (Very inconvenient to have to have uniform rules and taxes on that distance scale, though, especially if one part is rural and another suburbanizes).

  10. jered says:

    On this topic, allow me to recommend SF writer John Scalzi's "What I Think About Atlas Shrugged" from two days ago. Among the money shots:

    "That said, it's a totally ridiculous book which can be summed up as Sociopathic idealized nerds collapse society because they don't get enough hugs. [...] Indeed, the enduring popularity of Atlas Shrugged lies in the fact that it is nerd revenge porn - if you're an nerd of an engineering-ish stripe who remembers all too well being slammed into your locker by a bunch of football dickheads, then the idea that people like you could make all those dickheads suffer by "going Galt" has a direct line to the pleasure centers of your brain. [...] Then these nerds can begin again, presumably with the help of robots, because any child in the post-Atlas Shrugged world who can't figure out how to run a smelter within ten minutes of being pushed through the birth canal will be left out for the coyotes. Which if nothing else solves the problem of day care."

    • _candide_ says:

      Homo Sapiens-Sapiens invented towns, then later cities, because it provided a major benefit over the previous hunter-gatherer existence. And even in the earlier hunter-gatherer bands, all of the members of a single band worked together.

      Or, as a wise man once wrote, "Humans build communities."

      So you are absolutely correct, sir! Ayn Rand's followers, including the NeoCons, are sociopaths, advocating ideas counter to thousands of years of human behavior.

      • editer says:

        Exactly right; Randroids don't believe such a thing as "society" or "community" exists except as an artificial construct for the purpose of subjugation.


  11. gadlen says:

    >The system works!

    The system would work better if they had a "pay with cash" option. Instead of $75/year it might be a published ala carte rate of $7,500.

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