Case in point: A house in Obion County, Tennessee, burned to the ground in September because the owner had not paid the annual $75 fee for opt-in fire protection. As the fire raged, the house owner told the dispatcher that he would pay the cost of putting out the fire. The fire department still refused to come. The house burned down, with four pets inside.
Libertarians point out that this is how opt-in services—as opposed to taxpayer-funded public services—works. If you don’t pay, you don’t get coverage. The firefighters can’t make exceptions without creating moral hazard. This makes sense in theory. In practice, not so much.
The firefighters showed up to protect a neighboring property. The homeowner offered to pay not just the cost of the fire protection but the full cost of the spray. A court would have enforced that contract. But because the firefighters stuck to a rigid principle of opt-in services, a house was destroyed.
Will this serve as a cautionary tale next time a rural resident of Obion County is deciding whether to buy fire insurance? No doubt. But will someone else inevitably not learn his lesson and make the same mistake?
Oh, and there’s no way my home is burning down with my cat inside if I’m on the scene already. Can you not round up your poor pets before you save yourself?
How many times do we have to go over this? The Tennessee fire department was a PUBLIC institution. The guy offered to pay them “anything they wanted” to put the fire out, but they refused. Only the government would stand by idly with such an offer.
A real private fire department would have two price structures, a lower one for “members” who paid monthly or what have you, and a higher premium price that non-members could agree to or not on the spot.