For those who aren’t aware, recently inTennessee, the Fulton County Fire Department stood by and watched as an nonclient citizen’s home was burnt to the ground. This has sparked much debate on the blogosphere as an example of the “free market” or TEA Party USA (as Keith Olbermann puts it) at work, implying, as I can only assume, a world where essential services are left to whims of people’s ability to pay.
First off, a little correction is needed in that this was anything but the free market at work. The fire department was not a private company in Fulton County, but a government service. The difference is that they charge a fee where most other fire departments in America do not and this “pay to spray” policy was passed by the city’s government back in 1990. When you think about it, it’s fairly disturbing that the city would permit itself a monopoly in firefighting and then refuse service. This sounds to me very reminiscent of all the arguments against the free market by anti-monopolists, yet this was the government at work.
However, for the sake of argument, let’s assume it was a private company and the government provided no fire services in this town. What would happen in a free market situtation? (This is assuming minarchism, not anarcho-capitalism, but I’m open to examples of an anarcho-capitalist solution.)
The first thing we can assume is that there would be more than one fire fighting company in the area. Thus, one company ignoring a fire (they literally showed up at the house and still did nothing) will not garner any customer appreciation and they’ll likely lose business to competitors who don’t let people’s houses burn down, therefore greatly decreasing the chances that they’ll stand by and watch it burn. It’s important to remember that in this situation the homeowners actually offered to pay on the spot but were still denied service. No fire company with competitors could afford to do that.
There is also the possibilty that, had the person been unable to pay at the moment of the fire, they would simply put it on a “tab” in order to be paid later. If they refused to pay, then they would be forced to obey the contract by the government.
However, the most likely outcome is that the homeowner’s insurance company would have its own fire department or one they partnered with, and thus the fee for the department is in the homeowner’s insurance premium itself.
These are several ideas for what a real free market would look like right off the top of my head, but it seems that a fair amount of bloggers couldn’t even discern the difference between the market and government policy.
For all of government apologists’ shortcomings, they do excel in shifting blame.
Anyway, here’s a video:Published in