'Pay-to-Spray' Fire Fighters Let House Burn Down

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Last week in Obion County, Tennessee, an NBC affiliate station reported that the Cranick family watched their house burn to the ground while firefighters refused to put out the flames. The local fire department in question apparently stood firm to their policy that residents must pay $75 if they want protection. Even though Gene Cranick, the homeowner, offered to pay the sum while the house was on fire, the fire chief wouldn't make an exception. "I thought they'd come out and put it out, even if you hadn't paid your $75, but I was wrong," Cranick told the station. While the effects of the fire were devastatingly real for the family involved, Cranick's gamble was spotlighted by national media outlets for other reasons. Namely, some saw it as an illustration of how society could look if governed by the some of the stricter tenets of libertarianism.

  • Now You See What Happens Paul Krugman had this to say about the scenario: "This is essentially the same as denying someone essential medical care because he doesn’t have insurance. So the question is, do you want to live in the kind of society in which this happens?"
  • Perfectly Epitomizes 'Conservative Vision' reports Zaid Jilani. Here are the competing visions: "One, the conservative vision, believes in the on-your-own society, and informs a policy agenda that primarily serves the well off and privileged sectors of the country. The other vision, the progressive one, believes in an American Dream that works for all people, regardless of their racial, religious, or economic background. The conservative vision was on full display last week in Obion County, Tennessee."
  • Sad, But Will Probably Save Houses 'In the Long Haul' figures Jonah Goldberg at The National Review. "I know that if I opted out of the program before, I would be more likely to opt-in now. No solace to the homeowner, but an important lesson for compassionate conservatives like our own Dan Foster (Zing!). As Edmund Burke said, example is the school of mankind and he will learn from no other."
  • The Fire Department Is Treated As Though It's Done Something Wrong writes The National Review's Kevin D. Williamson. He explains: "The city of South Fulton’s fire department, until a few years ago, would not respond to any fires outside of the city limits — which is to say, the city limited its jurisdiction to the city itself, and to city taxpayers. A reasonable position. Then, a few years ago, a fire broke out in a rural area that was not covered by the city fire department, and the city authorities felt bad about not being able to do anything to help. So they began to offer an opt-in service, for the very reasonable price of $75 a year. Which is to say: They greatly expanded the range of services they offer. The rural homeowners were, collectively, better off, rather than worse off. Before the opt-in program, they had no access to a fire department. Now they do."
  • 'I Don't Have A Problem With This' blogs Ron Beasley at The Moderate Voice. "We on the left insist that people should pay for the services they receive, normally taxes. Since Mr Cranick did not live in the city he was not paying taxes to support the fire department but he was given an opportunity to buy into fire protection and he declined – bad choice."
  • Our Health Care System In a Nutshell Hot Air's Allahpundit makes the connection:
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.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.