Flutterby™! : Pay for play

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Pay for play

2006-02-23 16:22:56.195121+00 by Dan Lyke 7 comments

Notable because this is the proper libertarian response to such things: Southwest Missouri firefighters watch as fire hits nonmember (alternate):

MONETT, Mo. - Rural firefighters in southwest Missouri stood by and watched a fire destroy a garage and a vehicle because the property owner, who was injured battling the flames, had not paid membership dues.

Unfortunately, I'm also getting a vibe off this that someone might have actually told the property owner the score had he not been Hispanic...

[ related topics: Politics Libertarian Current Events Race ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2006-02-23 16:39:12.958599+00 by: meuon

While I understand the business decision, I'm hoping "Ronnie" wakes up in the ER wondering why the last thing he remembers was a bunch of people singing "La Cucaracha".

To not respond.. I can almost (but not) understand. But to respond, on site, with the capability to help and not help because he did not "pay his dues" is just plain wrong. Not racist wrong, not bubba-in-the-KKK wrong, but wrong at a much simpler more basic to your fellow human and community level wrong.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-02-23 17:09:25.693145+00 by: Dan Lyke

There are two ways to run a fire department:

  1. To force everyone to pay (ie: via taxes).
  2. To allow people to voluntarily participate.

If you go with the second option, then you have to respond (to be able to take preemptive action should the fire be threatening subscribers), but you can't take action to help out non-subscribers because there's no incentive for people to participate, and the fire department will go broke.

I suspect there were racial issues at the core of this, and had they showed up at the house of some successful white businessman who wasn't a subscriber there wouldn't have been the issue, but in general I don't have a problem with this sort of behavior.

We're about to have a similar issue in reverse out here in the San Geronimo Valley, the water district wants to put in a 10 million gallon tank, several local residents are fighting it. I really really wish that we could just take those people off of the fire response list when that rolling blackout happens during the hot times and a fire jumps Sir Francis Drake...

#Comment Re: made: 2006-02-23 17:29:02.070976+00 by: crasch

Ideally, they would've had a standard form that he could've signed on the spot, obligating him pay for membership plus a 20% "late" fee.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-02-23 17:48:47.409151+00 by: meuon [edit history]

Heck.. a 100% late fee (back payment) plus a commitment for the next XX years.. would still be a deal. I have watched WRES, Walden Ridge Emergency Services (Volunteers) answer and work hard on fires. Even if the home-owner has not 'donated'. They do ask for donations annually (via mail), and do some well supported local fundraisers.. but they don't check the list of donations when they respond, and they'll even respond outside of their immediate community.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-02-23 18:50:17.700457+00 by: Dan Lyke

I believe that to make this work your on-the-spot membership price has to be on the order of ten times your annual subscription price. It has to hurt. Maybe there's a way to extend instant credit, get a lien on the property or somesuch, but the property owner has to come out of this thinking "wow, I wish I'd paid up-front". Otherwise there's no incentive not to play the odds, and the fire department will languish.

Now having said that, if any of that fire department's budget comes from a general tax, then there's a completely different set of ethics at play.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-02-23 19:34:16.768173+00 by: crasch

I agree that it has to hurt. And I would be fine with a 10X late fee or fees for back payment. My only concern is that the "late fee" be perceived as "reasonable", or else a judge or jury charged with judging the validity of the contract might be persuaded that it was signed under duress, and is therefore unenforceable.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-02-23 22:18:26.283613+00 by: petronius [edit history]

There is an ancient precedent to Dan's on-the-spot fee plan that even DKos mentioned: the Crassus fire department in Republican Rome.

In Rome, "the fire department" was a group of slaves, carrying around these advanced (for the time) pumps. These slaves were called the Familia Publica. Since Roman fires could be very violent and widespread, the slaves were usually slow to respond- thereby guaranteeing their own safety. As a result, there was a lack of firefighting going on. Some clever and cruel businessmen, such as Crassus, made fortunes in the firefighting "business". Crassus had his own team of slaves that worked as firefighters. He and the slaves would go to the burning house, and as it burned, Crassus would attempt to buy it. As the building burned more and more, Crassus would offer less and less money. As soon as the owner relented to sell to Crassus, the slaves would put out the fire.

Of course, I didn't know Crassus personally back then.....