“I’ve been convinced by conversation with some smart libertarians that the policy itself may be untenable. In short because fire protection is contingently — that is, in this instance — a non-excludable public good. In all but the most diffuse populations, government services really need to be geographically contiguous to be coherent. (Imagine a pocket of ten non-fee-paying houses encircled by ten fee-paying houses. Would anyone — fee-payers or firemen — really want to let a blaze encompass all ten freeriders before acting?)
“My moral argument hinged on a reasonable expectation that the free-riding homeowner would (or would be compelled to) reimburse the fire department for its costs after the fact. The argument from non-excludability suggests a policy that doesn’t leave fire protection optional: Obion County should either levy a tax to pay for fire protection for all unincorporated lands, or South Fulton should cancel its opt-in service for unincorporated properties altogether. But neither argument forgives free-riding.”
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