Insurers Sent in Private Firefighters to Protect Homes of the Wealthy

Your Grim Meathook Libertarian Endgame:

"Consumer advocates say programs mean rich get better protections."

Increasingly, insurance carriers are finding wildfires, such as those in California, are an opportunity to provide protection beyond what most people get through publicly funded fire fighting. Some insurers say they typically get new customers when homeowners see the special treatment received by neighbors during big fires.

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17 Responses:

  1. Frank Miller says:

    Its easy math. They can pay a group of firefighters quite a bit to protect these very expensive assets or they can pay out the multi-million dollar claims after the structures burn to the ground. Its totally logical from the insurers point of view.

  2. Aaron says:

    That's within epsilon of being as awful as people buying extra private medical insurance over and above what a national health service offers. Grim libertarian meathooks, indeed!

    • Ben Rosengart says:

      Yeah, it’s totally normal that health care should be rationed on the basis of ability to pay. Rich people are simply more important than the rest of us, and their lives are more worth saving.

    • phuzz says:

      Surely if you're going to your private doctor, and getting treated at your private hospital, then you're not using public resources that can be used on someone more needy?
      Presuming of course that the government don't say "well the richest 5% of people aren't using the NHS, so it can have 5% less funding".

      • Aaron says:

        If you're using private insurance for everything, then sure. If you're only using it to cover things the NHS won't, then you're using the NHS, too. I get the sense that's by far more common than paying for all the things.

        • tfb says:

          I'm sure there are private hospitals (in the UK) with accident & emergency departments. Just not many. Private healthcare (again, in the UK) is largely a parasite on the NHS.

          • Aaron says:

            "Parasite" is a strong word. I'm not clear on why it is accurate here. Will you explain?

            • The logic is that that private healthcare facilities in, e.g., Ireland, only provide services that make a healthy profit, leaving lossy services (like emergency medicine) to the public system. Private facilities also offer greater comfort, shorter waits, and often newer more expensive less proven treatments.

              I'm not saying there anything wrong with this. I'm certainly not saying I'm against using the rich as lab rats for experimental treatments at their own expense. Just explaining the situation.

  3. art says:

    This almost makes a little bit of sense. In a wildfire, the public firefighters, in general, are not putting out structures which are on fire. They are attempting to make the fire not spread to other places. That's why you hear a lot about "containment" but never about the number of burning structures that were subsequently saved.

    If you look at the history of wildfire fighting in america, it has been developed around a policy of Protecting our Nation's Valuable Lumber Resources. It's only recently that a vast number of people started living in places that routinely burn, and building extremely expensive inflammable things there. And firefighting strategy is still working out what to do about it.

    There's increasing agreement that the current policy of "evacuate everyone immediately" is probably not the best strategy. In the '91 Oakland fire, the majority of people who died died in their cars trying to evacuate. In places where there's a stay-and-protect-your-own-home policy -- australia, for one -- there are significantly better outcomes as far as property damage. In some ways, this private fire fighting seems like an initial end-run around the forced evacuation and near-certainty of destruction which is current policy.

    • Paul Rain says:

      Australia is pretty much forced to have a 'stay and protect your own' policy because there are a heap of regulations against cutting down eucalyptus trees in many residential areas. Eucalyptus trees are basically just natural tinder, many of them primarily regenerate following fires (which start because they generate a lot of dry mass which gets lit through natural means).

  4. Jacob says:

    Everything old is new again. Early fire insurance companies in England learned this lesson around 1700, and provided plaques to mark houses protected by those insurance companies. They would either provide a bonus to a fire department which responded to a fire, or send their own private fire brigade. Fire marks from the Ben Franklin era are still on some old buildings in Philadelphia.

  5. Jered says:

    I'm getting really pissed off about this constant obnoxious libertarian battle against ethical and social behavior. Peter Thiel's zombie disciple army won't be happy until you pay a private company for every breath of air you take!

    Also, Exhibit A:
    Why Don't We Have Pay Toilets in America?

    Exhibit B:
    Toilets that you have to use an app to get into

    • Aaron says:

      I don't think there is anything tremendously libertarian about that second one. It reads to me like just another example of San Francisco's general disinterest in the local sub-elite, save possibly as nonrenewable but still ecologically favorable feedstock for some sort of Fischer-Tropsch-style biofuel.

      (Not a lot of people here in Baltimore who give a shit about homeless folks, either. But we do at least have the grace not to pretend we're actually saving the world.)

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