Sunday, May 22, 2011

Firefighting better if privatized

Firefighting better if privatized (originally published 4/21/2011)

Thank you to all the fire fighters who defeated the recent grass fires. They did an excellent job. Firefighting is an important task no matter what society you live in. It is a job that will always need to be done and be paid for. But is depending on government for this crucial service the best plan?

Of course not.

What are the alternatives? Here is a suggestion, although it is surely not the only way:

What if fire fighting companies operated on a subscription basis? Competing companies could offer different services. Perhaps if you didn't have much money to spare you could subscribe to only have fires extinguished, while if you wanted to spend a little more you could subscribe to have fires prevented, and extinguished if you had one anyway. A premium service might include a guarantee to pay for any fire-related property damage your fire company failed to prevent. Prices could also be based on how likely you are to be caught in a fire; those who fill their property with flammable junk and clutter, or who live in a fire-prone location, would pay higher fees.

Wildfires would be the concern of all area fire companies who wanted to protect their customers from damage in order to save profits and keep customers happy. It would just be good business to stop the fires before they reach homes and barns. There would probably also be freelance fire fighting teams to contract with the local fire companies in the case of wildfires.

Those who choose to pursue a fire fighting career would be winners under a plan like this, since skill and courage would be a highly sought, and financially rewarded, combination.

Some people claim this plan would encourage "free riders" who wouldn't buy fire protection, but simply count on their neighbors' fire companies to put out their fires in order to protect their subscribers. This would probably be the case, but no matter what system is in place some people will always try to scam the system for their benefit.

But consider this: if you choose to not subscribe to a fire company and your house catches fire, the fire fighters could either fight your fire to protect their customers, or they could simply watch your house burn while making sure the fire doesn't spread to their subscriber's property. If they choose to fight your fire to save your property they could then bill you for "services rendered". If you refuse to pay, everyone would know not to deal with you since you don't honor your debts. You might get one "freebie", but don't count on a second.

The bottom line is that in a free society, anything that is necessary can and will be provided by the market without forcing anyone to pay for anything through taxation.


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