HOW WOULD A FIRE DEPARTMENT WORK
© by G. Edward Griffin 2010. Updated 2010 September 19
Here is an interesting question I received last week from Johnny Garza. I like questions like this because they show that someone really is focusing on the ideology of individualism and is exploring how it effects human behavior in everyday life. Johnny writes:
“I would like to ask Mr. Griffin a question that is posed to me often by liberals, that is: “If you as a libertarian believe in small government, then what would you do if a fire broke out in your neighbor’s house and they didn’t have the money to pay for the privatized fire dept to put out the fire? In other words, where do the commons begin and where does it end in the Libertarian view of our government, and who is it that makes this decision if not a group of individuals seeking what’s best for the majority of people?
HERE WAS MY REPLY:
I would help my neighbor even if he did not contribute. That is the instinctive and right thing to do, and the great majority of people would respond in the same way.
The same is true in other areas of need as well. In the days prior to socialized medicine, if a person was ill and could not pay for medical service, doctors and hospitals routinely allocated a portion of their resources to help them on the basis of genuine charity. Very few really sick people were turned away until government took over. After people were forced through taxes to pay for government-organized social programs, they began to feel they were already doing their share, and only then did they begin to say, as Scrooge did when asked to help the less fortunate at Christmas, “Are there no poor houses?”
If I were organizing a private fire service or a private police service, our company would do its best to protect everyone we could, even if they were not subscribers. Naturally, we would put our customers’ interests first, because that would be our primary obligation, but after that, we would help anyone in need.
Not only is that the right thing to do, but it also would be good for business. It would generate good will and, inevitably, would lead to more subscriptions. Most people will gladly pay a reasonable fee for protection of their life, liberty, and property. Competition with other firms offering the same service would keep quality high and price low. If needed, fund-raising drives, such as now are conducted for charitable organizations, would be well supported by a grateful public. In fact, in many small communities, volunteer fire departments are operated on a model almost identical to this, and they work very well.
Freedom-of-choice always is better than coercion – even with fire departments.
IT REALLY WAS THAT WAY
Dear Mr. Griffin,
It is true what you say in your response to that first question. My Uncle was a reputable doctor and surgeon. I remember hearing at the dinner table from one of his brothers that one-third of the patients where unable to pay him. That is how it was then. He loved his work, and he had a great reputation far and wide. After many years eventually he retired...due to the fact that malpractice insurance was way too high.
Peace & God Bless You.
COLLECTIVIST FIRE DEPARTMENT NOT SO HOT
A quick comment from experience: I live in a rural neighborhood that has not been able to incorporate, despite being the largest population center in our county. We were told that in the event of a fire, emergency services would not put out a fire at our house, but would respond to prevent that fire from spreading. My safety, including my property, would be of no concern to the collectivist fire protection agency (hopefully someone on the FD would have mercy if the situation demanded it). But this does little to comfort me when the possibilities are so "alarming". Makes me want to fire the state.
THEORY PUT TO THE TEST. IT WORKS!
(From the website of Rural/Metro, a real company: www.ruralmetro.com/index.asp.)
Rural/Metro's history goes back more than 50 years, when founder Lou Witzeman became concerned that his neighborhood didn't have fire protection. So he pooled together some money, bought a fire truck, and asked his neighbors to subscribe to his fledgling company.
With the company was also born a new way of thinking about health and safety services. As a private sector company, Rural/Metro is dedicated to finding the most cost-effective ways to deliver the highest quality ambulance transportation and private fire protection services.
In 1969, Rural/Metro began operating ambulance services independently of its fire operations. Today, Rural/Metro has become one of the largest ambulance companies in North America, providing "911" emergency and non-emergency medical transportation services, as well as a variety of private fire protection services.
Today the company offers a wide range of medical transportation and safety services, not only to communities, but also to the private sector. Among the services we provide are:
• Emergency medical transportation
• Non-emergency medical transportation
• Private fire protection services, including community, airport, industrial and wildland specialties
• Emergency training services to private and commercial enterprise.
What began with one man's vision has grown today into a company with approximately $500 million in annual revenues and more than 8,000 employees who provide health and safety services throughout the United States. Annually, Rural/Metro's employees respond to more than 1 million calls for assistance.