Video: Firefighters let home burn to the ground because owner didn’t pay annual $75 fee

posted at 9:24 pm on October 4, 2010 by Allahpundit

Via Dan Foster, who looks upon the libertarian paradise and shivers.

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…

“I thought they’d come out and put it out, even if you hadn’t paid your $75, but I was wrong,” said Gene Cranick.

Because of that, not much is left of Cranick’s house…

The Cranicks told 9-1-1 they would pay firefighters, whatever the cost, to stop the fire before it spread to their house…

It was only when a neighbor’s field caught fire, a neighbor who had paid the county fire service fee, that the department responded. Gene Cranick asked the fire chief to make an exception and save his home, the chief wouldn’t.

I’m guessing 95 percent of our commenters will say, “Right on, let it burn. A contract’s a contract!” And yet 95 percent of those same people, upon finding themselves at the scene with a hose and a truck full of water, would have done the moral thing and tried to put it out notwithstanding the free-rider problem created by the Cranicks. That’s America’s health-care dynamic in a nutshell, no? No one’s getting turned away from the ER, even if they can’t afford to pay; thus, we need a mandate to force everyone to pay up front in order to shrink the pool of free-riders and help absorb the costs of those left in the pool. Which is to say, why not simply levy a $75 tax on everyone to force them to pay for fire coverage? Or, as Foster notes, if they’re willing to pay anything once the fire’s consuming their house, why not let them opt in after the fact for a vastly increased fee? It would have to be many times larger than the $75 service charge, obviously, partly in order to deter others from opting in after the fact and partly because the service charge helps cover the fire department’s expenses going forward. If everyone opted out of the service charge on the assumption that they’d pay the larger after-the-fact fee if/when a fire broke out at home, the department would start the year with zero funds; but if the after-the-fact fee was large enough, some of the surplus revenue generated could be carried over from one year to the next so that there’d always be funding for operations. There must be some amount large enough that the after-the-fact fee would make putting out the fire the efficient, cost-effective choice for the department. The question is, is it so large that realistically no one could afford to pay it? Exit question: Admit it, you’d try to put the fire out. Wouldn’t you?

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