Libertarian dreams up in smoke along with house


11:45 am - October 5th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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Political bloggers are frequently harassed by libertarians who claim the best kind of society is one without taxes, where people opt-in to pay for whatever service they want.

Well, this is what libertarian-land gets you:

Firefighters watch as home burns to the ground

OBION COUNTY, Tenn. – Imagine your home catches fire but the local fire department won’t respond, then watches it burn. That’s exactly what happened to a local family tonight. A local neighborhood is furious after firefighters watched as an Obion County, Tennessee, home burned to the ground.

The homeowner, Gene Cranick, said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late. They wouldn’t do anything to stop his house from burning. 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.

Friends and neighbors said it’s a cruel and dangerous city policy but the Cranicks don’t blame the firefighters themselves. They blame the people in charge. “They’re doing their job,” Paulette Cranick said of the firefighters. “They’re doing what they are told to do. It’s not their fault.”

To give you an idea of just how intense the feelings got in this situation, soon after the fire department returned to the station, the Obion County Sheriff’s Department said someone went there and assaulted one of the firefighters.

Ouch. I expect the fire-fighters subscription service won’t stay like that for long.

Update, now with video coverage! (hat-tip Paul Canning)

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


“I expect the fire-fighters subscription service won’t stay like that for long.”

Or lots more $75 payments to the county. You understand the principle of insurance don’t you?

This is hardly a case of the libertarian dream going up in smoke, since the libertarian dream would allow that the houses of those who do not want to pay tax to ensure their houses do not burn down can in fact burn down. I would suggest this is the libertarian dream in action – and people having to live with the consequences of their own decisions.

The best bit from the source is this: ‘”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.’ So basically it was a case of thinking you could get a service for free when others were paying for it which cost him – he was aware of the fee and chose not to pay it.

What I would suggest is that as with car breakdown cover here any such scheme should have an opt-in at any point (obviously at higher cost), so that you can call the fire service out, but I can’t see anything wrong with the scheme otherwise (assuming it was free to those who could not afford it). I’d just (like all of us I presume) ensure I paid the fee, as the fire service is a government service that I am happy to pay for.

Seems fair enough, and I think this reinforces the belief in this kind of society.

Reminds me of the onion headline “libertarian calls fire brigade”

I was furious that Direct Line wouldn’t replace my stolen car.

You won’t believe their excuse – I hadn’t taken out a policy.

I ask you. What is the world coming to?

“You won’t believe their excuse – I hadn’t taken out a policy.”

Been driving without insurance have we? ;-)

7. margin4error

Fair play to the fire service. Why risk their lives to help out a guy who didn’t think their wages were worth paying?

Tangentially, I think the libertarian dream may have limits. How does this work with terraces or semi-detached houses for example…

The car insurance market works well because it is compulsory. The point is it is not compulsory for your own good but because of the damage you could do to others. The same reason for having a public fire service. Some fires would only destroy one property but many would if not extinguished spread to others. Oh shit, what can be done about it? I know the solution. Lets have a public fire service that puts out all fires.

10. FlyingRodent

I think this thread is likely to be a far more damning indictment of the One Mistake And You’re Fucked, Parasite Moocher tranche of right wing politics than the linked article, myself.

“Tangentially, I think the libertarian dream may have limits. How does this work with terraces or semi-detached houses for example…!”

Tort law.

But requiring some level of insurance to drive on public roads, or to reside in shared housing, isn’t a terrible infringment on liberty (so long as private roads and detached residences are permitted).

This guy made a very obvious mistake for which he has rightly paid a hefty price.

Interestingly, private sector fire departments are quite common.

http://reason.org/news/show/122159.html

Including just about the entirety of Denmark actually (where the same private company runs the ambulance services as well).

As I keep trying to point out to people, those Nordic social democracies are in many ways a great deal more libertarian/classically liberal than we are.

I was shown round a house this summer that was built in 1700. On one wall you can still see the plaque that 18thC fire services gave to households that subscribed. No plaque, no rescue.

TimJ makes the point quite nicely.

The Libertarian clowns want to take us back to the 18th century.

15. Luis Enrique

how wealthy was this family? did they get sent lots of reminders?

16. Luis Enrique

why can’t the fire department run a policy saying we’ll put out your fire for free if you’ve paid $75, or for $10,000 if you haven’t? (or something like that).

Surely the problem is that too many people believe we live in something called a community – and that our interests are wrapped up with those of our neighbours and the wider community. Imagine that!

Yes what would happen if one house in a terrace caught on fire and that house hadn’t payed? What about the case of an old person who simply hadn’t known about these payments? Or had simply forgotten (it happens)? Or what about someone with a learning disability who hadn’t known to pay? Do we just let them burn to the ground? Or do we think that living amongst others in a community also charges us with protection of others in a community who may not be able to do everything entirely by themselves?

barry – nothing stopping you from paying for someone else’s insurance if you want to. That is what ‘community’ actually looks like. I heartily recommend participating in it.

I keep telling you there is no such thing as libertarians. They are all fake. When Rush (Lie like a drain) says that there should be no more corporate welfare and the military industrial complex should be destroyed I might take him seriously.

Let’s give these people their proper name……..greedy selfish bastards.

barry,

I assume that any such fire fighting proposal is managed through taxation since it is still a state-run service (private fire insurance sounds a bit risky to me – although private operators tendering for state contracts would be fine). And taxes tend to be deducted automatically, unless you’re self-employed or the like, when you have to do a return, where no doubt this fee would be listed.

And therefore it is difficult to forget once you’ve agreed to pay the fee, you will presumably do every year. And the mark of a caring society (and libertarian societies should be caring – none of the faceless authoritarianism of state control) would be that those who cannot afford to pay the fire premium get it free, as they pay no taxation. I think you are confusing libertarianism with unbridled capitalism, which is in fact a very different beast and which might abandon the poor.

That scratching noise you can hear is George Osborne writing notes about how this policy would work in Britain on the back of a fag packet.
@9 @10 and @14 have it spot on. Fire insurance was infact the first type of insurance in this country* after the Great Fire of London showed the need for some sort of protection, of course if you couldn’t pay then your house went up in smoke just as with this chap in the OP. Pre-Victorian thinking, it’s nuts. “Sorry you lost your children Mr X but you didn’t pay your subs this year”

*Excluding maritime insurance which I think dates back even earlier.

Seems fair to me – make a stupid decision and suffer the consequences. If anybody else suffers as well then they’re entitled to make you pay.

sally,

Rush Limbraugh is a social conservative, with a bent towards economic freedom, not a libertarian, whatever he might claim. A libertarian would not oppose abortion for example.

And libertarians are against the military-industrial complex, because it takes advantage of people (don’t get me started on how stupid that supreme court ruling in the US is that says that companies have legal personalities like people…). But we also tend to be against loud-mouthed social authoritarians who confuse libertarianism with conservatism (that is not entirely a left-wing sin).

We also tend to be against each other, but that’s the fun of being an intellectual movement that demands total freedom of thought – its like trying to organise anarchists!

To all those harking back to history and fire insurance, a quick question. What do we have now if not compulsorary state-controlled fire insurance? If you check, the local fire authorities even produce budgets so you can see how much your insurance is (I think this is listed on council tax bills – can’t be bothered to find mine to check though. Sorry – horribly lazy).

Any fire service is either a charity or an insurance system. So unless you want to claim that our fire cover is a charity, we seem to be paying insurance for fire cover still.

*Excluding maritime insurance which I think dates back even earlier.

Roman times. Some of the principles (General Average for example) remain almost unaltered.

“I assume that any such fire fighting proposal is managed through taxation”

So let me get this straight – they’re collecting taxes and then distributing this to different bodies, one of which is the fire service, which then uses the tax money to go about its duty? Where did such a revolutionary idea come from?

“nothing stopping you from paying for someone else’s insurance”

What about the fact I can’t afford to pay for the sheltered housing block beside me? Should all essential services be funded through charity? What about just adopting the radical idea of taxing everyone’s earnings and then subsidising those who can’t afford or are likely to not pay’s protection?

“which might abandon the poor”

So what is it – charity for those who can’t pay or exemption from paying?

“And libertarians are against the military-industrial complex”

No they are not, because there is no such thing as libertarians. They are all like you , fake. You all dream of this so called libertarian utopia but it is all hot air. The first sign of trouble and you want the state to bail you out.

barry,

“I assume that any such fire fighting proposal is managed through taxation”

So let me get this straight – they’re collecting taxes and then distributing this to different bodies, one of which is the fire service, which then uses the tax money to go about its duty? Where did such a revolutionary idea come from?

No idea. But I think you’re confused – the point of view behind this idea is that there are some services only the state should provide (because unbridled capitalism in the fire insurance market would benefit from arson) but which people can select whether they want.

nothing stopping you from paying for someone else’s insurance”

What about the fact I can’t afford to pay for the sheltered housing block beside me? Should all essential services be funded through charity? What about just adopting the radical idea of taxing everyone’s earnings and then subsidising those who can’t afford or are likely to not pay’s protection?

I can’t answer for Nick, but I think that the owner of the housing block is responsible for its protection, and I can’t see any grounds for not requiring fire protection if you accomodate others (that is taking risks with the safety of others for your own profit – a libertarian no-no). The same would presumably (or should, anyway) apply to rented accomodation (which admittedly causes problems with the tax system as presently constituted, but then again I favour local income tax anyway).

I have to say that charity is rather a weak net here – there is a role for government. But the role you envisage for government is telling everyone what to do, including those with the means to make their own decisons about what to pay for (and suffer the consequences).

“which might abandon the poor”

So what is it – charity for those who can’t pay or exemption from paying?

Well, I’d say an exemption from paying – the money being made up from state spending on welfare (exactly as it is now in fact). But others might argue charity would work – I’d like to see the evidence myself before committing to anything so radical. Neither view incidentally is exclusively libertarian or capitalistic, so I am not sure why you have tagged the question to my closing remark there.

@24

There is a reason why NI stands for “national insurance”…

The massive difference is that if you are can’t or won’t pay council tax the fire brigade still has a duty to come and put the fire out. You could argue that those in the latter group don’t deserve saving but I’d argue it’s a price we pay for living in a civilised society (and council tax avoiders always get caught – unlike the tax avoiders of a *cough* “better” class).

30. Dick the Prick

@27 – hot air? It’s the burning issue of our time, a tinder box of polemic, a crucible of controversy. Someone should hose down the extremists and match through compromise otherwise they’re just fanning the flames.

sally,

No they are not, because there is no such thing as libertarians. They are all like you , fake. You all dream of this so called libertarian utopia but it is all hot air. The first sign of trouble and you want the state to bail you out.

Logic fail – unless you want to deny there are socialists also.

But since I believe that one of the key functions of the state (libertarians do allow these) is alongside policing and defence to ensure that there is a welfare safety net, I do not see any logic problem with being bailed out. Or with the state paying for those in need of this safety net to have fire protection.

If you however mean bailing out businesses, libertainism is quite clear that that is unacceptable. The state existing to serve business interests is what I refer to as unbridled capitalism (it is in fact a feature of facism, and to some extent state bail outs can be associated with socialism also). As far as I am concerned, the banks should have been allowed to go bust. The state is there to protect people, not commerical interests. If the only way you can disagree with me here is to assert I don’t actually believe this then you may not have a winning argument.

Man doesn’t pay government, doesn’t get service.

LOL LOOK AT THE FREE MARKET.

“And libertarians are against the military-industrial complex”

No they are not, because there is no such thing as libertarians. They are all like you , fake. You all dream of this so called libertarian utopia but it is all hot air. The first sign of trouble and you want the state to bail you out.

Sally, this is utter nonsense. I, for one, am utterly against the military-industrial complex.
Bailing out by the state? What State? In my ideal society, there is no violent monopoly of force that threaten people into submission.

S. Pill,

There is a reason why NI stands for “national insurance”…

Well yes, but that was not levied for fire protection. Hence the fact that that is raised by national government whilst fire protection money is raised by local government… But I see you admit we are still using insurance then.

The massive difference is that if you are can’t or won’t pay council tax the fire brigade still has a duty to come and put the fire out. You could argue that those in the latter group don’t deserve saving but I’d argue it’s a price we pay for living in a civilised society (and council tax avoiders always get caught – unlike the tax avoiders of a *cough* “better” class).

I assume ‘better’ here refers to the standard of the accountants employed, since when I had to use them, mine never came up with tax avoidance schemes (other than buying computers and repairing the car). But that is simply an artefact of a stupid tax system – anything that complex will allow evasion.

Anyway, our fire service is indiscriminate, agreed. But if you had a choice, that is a different matter – would you want to reward those who feel like gambling on their property’s invulnerability? Seems a bit odd to me – let people opt out if they think that they can find a better use for their $75 or whatever. It’s their cremation (sorry…).

“but which people can select whether they want.”

My point is about people who through no fault of their own don’t pay and people who choose not to pay and through this put everyone else at risk. It’s impossible to protect individual houses from fire in a terrace – the whole street needs covering and if one house doesn’t have that protection everyone else is at risk. This is why having a general fire protection for everyone regardless is the only sensible option.

“think that the owner of the housing block is responsible for its protection, and I can’t see any grounds for not requiring fire protection … The same would presumably (or should, anyway) apply to rented accomodation”

So the owner of the housing block has no choice but to pay? And what if I find that my landlord has refused to pay? How is this a better method of protecting than just using general taxation?

“But the role you envisage for government is telling everyone what to do, including those with the means to make their own decisons about what to pay for (and suffer the consequences). ”

Except that those suffering the consequences aren’t necessarily the ones making the decisions.

I think this comment thread is getting bogged down in the false dichotomy of for-profit companies vs generally taxed services.

That’s not the only options. Is it truly inconceivable that, in a free society, people won’t organize in such a way as to guarantee fire services on a mutual or cooperative basis?

This whole dichotomy of “Free, govt services” and “for-profit private business” is horse shit. Nothing less.

37. James from Durham

This guy, Cranick is clearly a complete tosser. I wonder if he paid home insurance. I assume that paying fire brigade would be a condition of being insured. who doesn’t insure their home?

That said, I can’t see how a private system can be better or more efficent than a state one. You don’t want competition between different brigades. You do want to be sure that your next door neighbours house won’t burn down and affect yours. I imagine that is why the fire brigade came, not just to watch Mr Cranick’s house burn down for a laugh but to ensure that fee paying citizens houses were protected.

But remember, in a libertarian system or a state system, freeloaders like Mr Cranick always end up costing everybody else money.

Freeloaders include tax evaders as well as benefit cheats and simple twits like Cranick.

@34

Well yes, but that was not levied for fire protection. Hence the fact that that is raised by national government whilst fire protection money is raised by local government… But I see you admit we are still using insurance then.

Yeahuh – but the point is it’s insurance on a grand scale and with the protection of all of society at its core, as opposed to private insurance which is by definition self-interested. (And yes I’m aware NI isn’t used for fire protection, just using it as an example).

I assume ‘better’ here refers to the standard of the accountants employed, since when I had to use them, mine never came up with tax avoidance schemes (other than buying computers and repairing the car).

[Emphasis added] Heh, they still managed something then? I don’t know any way anyone could get out of paying council tax, like I say even if you avoid/ignore it they eventually catch up with you. Personally I’m in favour of a local income tax (not sure what happened to that good Lib Dem policy) and tightening up tax rules. Different debate, though…

But if you had a choice, that is a different matter – would you want to reward those who feel like gambling on their property’s invulnerability? Seems a bit odd to me – let people opt out if they think that they can find a better use for their $75 or whatever. It’s their cremation

For the same reason why we normally attempt to stop suicides from jumping, or people running in front of traffic, etc, it’s plain daft to allow a house to burn down (with potential deaths) simply because someone hasn’t paid up. Say we had fully privatised health insurance – would it be ethical to let someone die because they had taken a risk that they wouldn’t get sick? Or do we have a duty to step in and care for them? I’d argue the latter from a moral and ethical standpoint; and at which point the line between opting-in or otherwise becomes blurred and the case for universal coverage funded by taxation is overwhelming.
The alternative view is obvs from an ethical viewpoint the only duty one has is to oneself – which goes against all social norms and is quite anti-society (by definition).

39. FlyingRodent

So, to summarise – if you make a screw up, large or small then you’re toast and if, say, your family is sleeping rough in October as a result, then also fuck you, parasite looters.

I want to hear more about this wonderful ideology of personal responsibility and the many, many circumstances in which the Lexus-deficient classes will be forced to face the consequences of their actions in brutal, Darwinist style.

I’d be grateful if these details could be conveyed in layman’s terms, so that the average voter in the street can fully appreciate the implications of these beliefs and any policy proposals that might flow from them. I’m very, very keen to see those espousing such beliefs reaching as wide an audience as possible.

“I want to hear more about this wonderful ideology of personal responsibility and the many, many circumstances in which the Lexus-deficient classes will be forced to face the consequences of their actions in brutal, Darwinist style.”

Sorry, they’re too busy being protected by the State.

Seriously, you’re thinking purely about the cato-institute, Capitalism forever crowd of libertarians. Yes, they suck. But libertarianism is so much wider than that.

Questions for Libertarians-

The state creating private property- good or bad?

The state enforcing private property laws- good or bad?

42. FlyingRodent

…libertarianism is so much wider than that.

Oh, I know – I’ve been reading about the various sub-strata for years, from some of their most ardent advocates. That’s why I’m very, very keen that the public should be made aware of both the key tenets of the philosophy and its various real-life applications, especially in circumstances similar to the ones referred to in the post.

43. Chaise Guevara

@22 Richard

“Seems fair to me – make a stupid decision and suffer the consequences. If anybody else suffers as well then they’re entitled to make you pay.”

Fair enough. After any young, elderly or otherwise vulnerable people burn to death in your house because you didn’t pay for fire insurance, they can sue you. There is literally NOTHING wrong with this system.

The firefighters that refused to help this family are employed by the state. They are not a market organization. The state does not respond to market incentives. It doesn’t have the capacity to accept a higher fee for last-minute service. Market organizations do have that capacity. Airlines don’t make you wait two weeks to fly, they just charge more if your need is urgent. Gas stations don’t only offer one kind of gas. They just charge more for the higher quality ones.

Libertarians want market organizations to provide services with free and open competition. I am a libertarian who is not in favor of a state-run fire brigade such as this. I find it utterly stupid and self-destructive of them to not save this house. The fire brigade is short of funds. Imagine their windfall from situations like this! Instead of a measly $75 per house per year they could charge $2,000 to save a house on the spot. If I ran a fire brigade, I would save his house just so I could get him as a customer. If I didn’t, a competitor might.

I hope the people of Obion county, Tennessee don’t demand more services from their local governments. Do you really want more of the same? Their best hope lies in forming a volunteer firefighting department. We are the solution we’ve been waiting for. The state has no magic wand to do anything we can’t already do.

This isn’t a libertarian situation. It’s the authoritarian reality we face today. Authoritarians like to have monopolies. They tout their zero-tolerance policies. Buy our service the way we say, or you get nothing at all. That’s dumb. That’s the state.

45. James from Durham

I suggest the libertarians go back to barracks and wait for a battle they can win. There is no way that a free choice do-it-if-you-feel-like-it approach will work for fire protection, especially in a more urban society like ours.

So, let’s recap.
A service provided by a monopoly provider, protected by law from competition, refuses to serve a place because they didn’t pay taxes.

Typical libertarians.

A (mildly) interesting wrinkle to this story. Apparently, the previous policy was that the South Fulton City Fire Department was just that: confined to the city. If this had happened last year, the house would just have burned down anyway.
A new policy was that, for a small annual fee to defray costs, fire protection would be extended to those outside city limits. The administration of the city and the county are different entities, so rural inhabitants are basically chartering the facilities of the city as and when they need them.

So this story isn’t really a ‘libertarian’ one at all. It’s a ‘moral hazard’, ‘free rider’ one.

48. Sevillista

@timworstall

Your Denmark example is completely different to this one – local authorities commission the private sector provider to provide a public service that the state funds and pays for. There is no opt-out.

Interesting model though – but I’m sure the FBU will never wear it though (savings are via voluntarism and pay and conditions erosion) and firefighters tend to have big public support that will dissuade Government from picking a fight with them in a time when they have so many other fights they are picking.

Each year, Obion County residents must pay $75 if they want fire protection from the city of South Fulton.

The city of South Fulton gave their residents a choice as to whether they paid or not. In retrospect, this man made a seemingly poor decision but at least he was afforded the freedom to make it.

Here there is no choice. Don’t pay your council tax and they won’t let your house burn down.

But they will put you in prison.

at least he was afforded the freedom to make it…. Here there is no choice.

Hooray for libertarianism! Let’s organise a march in defence of the universal human freedom to have one’s house burnt down! And one’s family left destitute! Oh the bliss of true ‘freedom’!

John Scalzi. Has a great take down of Atlas Shrugged and all the other libertarian nerds.

Here’s an excerpt:

“[I]t’s a totally ridiculous book which can be summed up as Sociopathic idealized nerds collapse society because they don’t get enough hugs. (This is, incidentally, where you can start your popcorn munching.) Indeed, the enduring popularity of Atlas Shrugged lies in the fact that it is nerd revenge porn — if you’re an nerd of an engineering-ish stripe who remembers all too well being slammed into your locker by a bunch of football dickheads, then the idea that people like you could make all those dickheads suffer by “going Galt” has a direct line to the pleasure centers of your brain. I’ll show you! the nerds imagine themselves crying. I’ll show you all! And then they disappear into a crevasse that Google Maps will not show because the Google people are our kind of people, and a year later they come out and everyone who was ever mean to them will have starved. Then these nerds can begin again, presumably with the help of robots, because any child in the post-Atlas Shrugged world who can’t figure out how to run a smelter within ten minutes of being pushed through the birth canal will be left out for the coyotes. Which if nothing else solves the problem of day care.”

I wonder what a libertarian would say about the effect the incident no doubt had on the prices of nearby houses, owned by people who may well have paid their own subscriptions.

51
Well they can sue. But of course the guy has no money now because he has to buy a new house. So they will just have to put up with. It.

The next thing you will get is vigilante libertarians marching around their neighbourhood , armed to the teeth demanding to see if their neighbours have taken out fire protection. No doubt this will be defended by our libertarian trolls as ‘community spirit.’

Watchman: “I think you are confusing libertarianism with unbridled capitalism, which is in fact a very different beast and which might abandon the poor.”

One of the biggest flaws in libertarianism to me is the apparent impossibility of separating rule of the free market from rule of the free market owners (i.e. corporations).

The fact is that the profit incentive leads corporations to seek political power. Any free market has rules and laws – and if those rules and laws are favourable to a corporation they stand to make a good deal more money than they would otherwise. Influencing the government is a no-brainer. They spend plenty on it already (not unsurprisingly, funding libertarian think tanks is a favourite).

If you place nearly all decision-making power in the hands of the ‘free market’ (as libertarianism requires), in the process you inevitably make the big players in that market more powerful than the shrunken democratic institutions. They will then use that superior power to maximise profits, tilting rules and laws to favour their bottom line at the expense of all else. The result may not look very like a free and open market, given that corporations can also increase profits by using laws to restrict competition in their market.

In short, I don’t see how you can give total control to free markets in all other spheres without ending up with a free market in political power, rather than a democracy.

“The fact is that the profit incentive leads corporations to seek political power. ”

Yup, Adam Smith warned about this. Later exponents have been people like James Buchanan who won the Nobel for explaining public choice economics.

And the answer is: don’t let government be the people who decide who makes a profit or not, otherwise you’ll end up with government being bought by those who seek to make a profit.

That is, you know, small government?

56. the a&e charge nurse

[54] so would Adam Smith pat the fireman on the back while the house burned down?

57. Charlieman

@46 Tim J: “So this story isn’t really a ‘libertarian’ one at all. It’s a ‘moral hazard’, ‘free rider’ one.”

Which indeed it is. Scanning previous posts, I am startled by the absence of serious discussion about how fire services were delivered in the UK before they became public provision.

1. You insured your property or trusted to the good will of your neighbours to run around with buckets of water.

2. If your property caught fire, you sent a runner to the fire service. If your property did not carry an insurance company marker, the fire service would not intervene.

3. If your property was insured and adjacent to a burning one, the fire service would attempt to protect your property. This might mean that the free loader had his/her property saved.

4. It is incorrect to believe that urban density was low. City streets were narrower and properties were constructed upon one another in ways that would be prohibited today.

I am a liberal not a libertarian, but I doubt that few of them would disagree with the following:

1. Urban density today is different. We have more multi-storey buildings and our streets are filled with vehicles stuffed with inflammable liquids. Homes are fuelled by gas pipes. Some people have oxygen cylinders in their homes owing to ailments.

2. Compulsory third party fire insurance in urban Britain is unavoidable. It is rarely practical for the fire service to stand on one side while a building burns. Insurance is paid via the Council Tax, and I will leave it to libertarians to argue about whether the mechanism is fair.

3. When you pay your Council Tax, you have not purchased a guarantee from the fire service. If the public good is served by allowing your home to burn down or to be swallowed by a sink hole, the fire service will stand by. Which is why you should have separate, private insurance to cover contents and/or reconstruction.

58. FlyingRodent

I see no need for “serious discussion”, really. If a bunch of Tories* want to take to the internet to offer a graphic demonstration of the chuckling viciousness of their headbanging, fuck-you-moochers ideology, who am I to intercede to protect ‘em from themselves?

US political round-up here, for those who want to know how this goes when there aren’t any bleeding-heart liberal wusses around to spoil everyone’s fun with appeals to common humanity… http://tinyurl.com/38d5uf7

*Sorry, “libertarians”.

59. Bill Fuffkas

Bloody good job they let his house burn down, bloody freeloading parasite! Let that be a lesson to all workshy layabouts thinking of skipping on payments and expecting “common humanity” to bail em out the shit afterward.

55
‘And the answer is; don’t let government be the people who decide who makes a profit or not’
LOL Tax credits – Smith would be spinning in his grave.
And he was surely right about government being bought by those who seek to make a profit.
That’s why most people on the left are against private education and healthcare, and, not least, Fire Services plc.

Fun fact about this “libertarian, free market” fire department.

http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2010/10/bizarre_salon_a.html

“It turns out, though, that the fire department in Tennessee was not a private for-profit fire department. It was a government-run fire department. You read that right: the fire department that refused to show up and refused to name a price at which it would show up was run by the government of South Fulton. “

It was a government run fire department.

So do we score this as a win for government?!!

63. the a&e charge nurse

[61 + 62] I’d be very surprised if this wasn’t an out-sourced service?

Perhaps the promise to watch houses burning down was a unique selling point when the bid went in?

The sharks are circling the NHS so although services nominally remain ‘public’ the ethos of private providers is usually shaped by penny pinching and dumbing down.

61 62
You are confusing government with welfare state.

@63 – prepare to be surprised.
It isn’t outsourced.

The city offers the service to residents who live outside the city – who thus do not pay city taxes – for a fee.

City residents are fully covered via their taxes.

http://www.ucmessenger.com/news.php?viewStory=46801

“the ethos of private providers is usually shaped by penny pinching and dumbing down”

No wonder Europe, with its insurance based systems and mixed provision, gazes at us with envy!

Erm….

67. the a&e charge nurse

[65] @63 – prepare to be surprised – It isn’t outsourced.

OK, thanks for the link, but according to this item services were ONLY available on a subscription basis in the area were the fire broke out.
http://thinkprogress.org/2010/10/05/after-firefighters-obion-expands/

Services were in fact outsourced (even though it was through a public provider) in other words it was a classic two-tier system determined by post code, and one that did not overly concerned with ability to pay.
“According to documents prepared by the county in 2008, a paltry 0.13 cent increase in property taxes on each household would be all it would take to fund fire services for the towns within the county” (same source).

68. the a&e charge nurse

[66] “No wonder Europe, with its insurance based systems and mixed provision, gazes at us with envy!”.

Certainly heath has ALWAYS cost far more in France, Germany and Switzerland (when calculated as a % of GDP) at least until fairly recently, so perhaps the astonishing thing is how well the NHS has performed despite chronic underfunding?

… one that did not overly concerned with ability to pay.

It works out to 6 bucks and 25 cents a month or just over 20 cents a day. In working out what they can and can’t afford to pay, I wonder what non-payers have prioritised over fire protection.

70. the a&e charge nurse

[70] “I wonder what non-payers have prioritised over fire protection” – food for their children?

71. the a&e charge nurse

I meant [69] obviously

Well, it would be interesting to know for sure, rather than imagining (1) he couldn’t afford to pay, and (2) he couldn’t afford 20 cents a day, wouldn’t it?

@67.

This is because the fire services is provided by the city government of South Fulton. Towns elsewhere in Obion County (outside South Fulton) have the option to subscribe. It’s not surprising the city only does this on a subscription basis – should they instead put taxes up on their own residents to fund fire services outside the city limits?

74. the a&e charge nurse

[72] personally I think Fire crews watching a house burn down is too high a price to pay so as to be certain nobody holds out on $75.

75. the a&e charge nurse

[73] “should they instead put taxes up on their own residents to fund fire services outside the city limits” – no, taxes should be distributed amongst all those in receipt of service.

Let’s try to get some of the history straight.
The first fire brigades* in the UK were provided by the Insurance companies and each put out fires in the houses their company insured. They had a motive to be efficient because their employers paid for the damage and because the better they performed the more customers they got. There was competition and the best fire brigades prospered. After about 150 years, the various fire brigades in London merged to form the London Fire Engine Company as the spread of the capital to absorb outlying villages meant that it was more efficient to have the nearest team attend each fire rather than that of the insurer which could be half-an-hour’s drive away.
The very first fire brigade was created by a ruthless capitalist called Crassus whose behaviour was the complete opposite of South Fulton City – he negotiated with the owner while the building was on fire and put it out if he got a deal.
So what lots of posters are claiming is heartless capitalism is the opposite – a decision by City bureaucrats to refuse to accept payment after the deadline.

*From mediaeval times some parishes had semi-organised voluntary arrangements in fighting fires, but these were amateurs co-operating when needed not full-time professionals.

77. the a&e charge nurse

[76] haven’t we have moved on from how services used to be configured (some 150 years ago) – certainly few would still fly the flag for a 1st century Roman profiteer like Crassus?
http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/people/a/crassus.htm

Nowadays progress involves highly trained fire personnel standing by while property burns to the ground (all for the sake of $75) – yes, things are certainly better than when the immoral Marcus Licinius Crassus was around ……. aren’t they?

And the answer is: don’t let government be the people who decide who makes a profit or not

And how, exactly, is this to be achieved? Pretty much all government functions have some bearing on who makes a profit or not, not to mention the fact that there’s quite a lot of profit to be made from government itself.

[73] “should they instead put taxes up on their own residents to fund fire services outside the city limits” – no, taxes should be distributed amongst all those in receipt of service.

So, hypothetically the guy who can’t afford 20 cents a day to get the optional service will nonetheless be able to find 20 cents a day for the tax?

@ 77 Who is flying the flag for Crassus, who was greedy and ruthless, except Gene Crannick (I don’t suppose Luis Enrique is advocating a Crassus-style profit margin)?
Well, some of us have moved on in the last 300 years, but not Fulton City Hall whose actions are not only *less* public-spirited than those of Sun Fire and its rivals who put out fires*before* they spread to insured properties not *after*, but irrationally so as the damage to the neighbour’s property was almost certainly more expensive that preventative action would have been.
In theory monopolies should be better when run by public-spirited public servants rather than greedy capitalists; however this is not the example of the evils of capitalism that you and others seem to think – it is an example of the callousness of government officials when dealing with an unco-operative individual.

81. the a&e charge nurse

[80] yes, if he was working and had the means, otherwise it should fall under the purview of welfare system (for those who are unemployed, disabled, on very low wages, etc) – they do still have welfare in America, I think?

@ Nick

““Tangentially, I think the libertarian dream may have limits. How does this work with terraces or semi-detached houses for example…!”

Tort law.”

Tort law? Seriously? Presumably you mean damages after the fact?

So hypothetically, someone has not paid their fire insurance in a terraced row, several other houses burn down, irreplaceable sentimental property is destroyed, several people are injured, several more killed. And you think compensation is a satisfactory way of resolving that?

80
I can’t talk for other commentators on this thread but imo it isn’t ‘greedy capitalists’ who are at fault, it is the system. And the term ‘government’ does need to be divorced from the ‘welfare state’ these are totally different beasts.
Capitalism works on the basis that there is a simple demand and supply chain, so I supply to you and you pay me, it doesn’t take account of the fact that you want to purchase several tons of explosives to make your own fireworks and you happen to live in a row of terraced houses.
The system of capitalism led to the most disgusting polution in the 19th century, which threatened the health of all within the environment, it took government action to address the squalor. And it wasn’t beyond the realms of capitalism to address it, we now have several privately owned water companies in the UK.
Capitalism most often fails because it cannot absorb the notion that acting in your own interest does not always serve your own interest.

@ 82 You are off-topic
Of course compensation would not be a solution, but when there was a set of private fire brigades they stopped the terrace burning down in order to protect the insured properties, so it is a non-solution to a non-problem. The private fire brigades did this by tackling the fire before the insured houses caught fire.
I consider that universal fire insurance and protection funded by value-related property taxes or the UK system universal protection in the form of government-run fire brigades with risk-related insurance premiums are the only sensible solutions.
However the original post is about the callousness of local government bureaucrats

85. the a&e charge nurse

[80] “however this is not the example of the evils of capitalism that you and others seem to think – it is an example of the callousness of government officials when dealing with an unco-operative individual” – yes, I think that’s fair enough, I agree private firms do not have a monopoly on acting unreasonably, the state is also culpable in many instances, and this seems to be one such example.

My only proviso is that outsourcing it is more likely to contribute to the type of situation that arose South Fulton and it is not a development that I would like to see happening more widely here (although I think outsourcing WILL continue apace in the NHS).

@ steveb I do hate pontificating on economics but that isn’t what capitalism is about – you can have a supply and demand chain without capitalism
Capitalism is about investing capital in a business and gaining some reward from doing so, like the miller in mediaeval England, or the early fire brigades who had horses pulling tanks of water and used stirrup pumps instead of running to and from the Thames with buckets, or modern ones who have built offshoots from the mains water supply to a network of fire hydrants so that they can use pressure hoses.
Incidentally the large majority of water supply companies were private but in my youth (and probably for many years before that) their profits were limited to merely covering the cost of capital. The most famous was the New River Company founded in 1613 to supply clean water from Hertfordshire to Islington which involved a massive amount of capital investment (because they actually built a river). The municipally-controlled water boards which came later were fewer in number. Secondly capitalism contributed a minority of the UK’s 19th Century pollution – a majority was domestic waste. That does NOT mean that I am defending pollution caused by factory waste from the 18th to the 21st centuries which an informed and enlightened government would have required them to clean up, just that pontificators are expected to get things right.

@ John77 [84]

I was responding to a specific post, to a specific proposition by someone else – I don’t see how that is OT. I’m trying to have a conversation with him about methods of restitution in a libertarian society. If you don’t want to contribute or pay attention, you don’t have to.

The original post isn’t “about the callousness of local government bureaucrats”. If we lived in a libertarian system which requires fire insurance to get fire fighters to put out fires on private property, this might well be what happened. That the actual system being described is a local government system is not the point of the original post.

“The system of capitalism led to the most disgusting polution in the 19th century, which threatened the health of all within the environment, it took government action to address the squalor.”

I find it very difficult to blame capitalism per se for that level of pollution. The only place I’ve been where there was 19th cent levels of industrial (as opposed to domestic) pollution was parts of the former Soviet Union. And while I’ll blame their problems on may things an excess of capitalism isn’t among them.

We can also look at the concept of environmental Kuznets Curves: the idea that when you’re poor getting rich is the prime motivating drive, who gives a shit about the environment and the surroundings. Once we are rich (and here the definition of rich given is often something in the range of GDP per capita of $3,000 to $6,000 a year, meaning that all of Western Europe is rich while say rural China or India aren’t yet) we find that a clean environment is one of the things that we demand from our new found riches.

So in the course of development we spew pollution all over the place and then gradually clean up as we move from developing to developed.

Quite independent of the socio economic system used to lead to that development….well, OK, but with one proviso. We’re not really sure of any socio economic system other than some form of capitalism which leads to development in hte first place (using a wide definition of capitalism, to be sure).

89. Matt Munro

Textbook defintion of a freerider.

Just like those Northerners who “couldn’t afford” insurance but then wanted the taxpayer to replace all the stuff they could afford to buy when their houses flooded thanks to prezza building on a flood plain

90. Planeshift

Also the textbook definition of “information problem”, “flawed perceptions of risk” and “short termism” that effects insurance.

86
Whenever there is a debate about modern capitalist countries, most of it’s defenders seem to refer back to another time, usually pre-19th century. Adam Smith is often a good starting point but others will go further back. They go back to a time when no city had reached a population of l million, where small village communities lived an almost communal existence and when exchange usually meant material goods. Suppliers dare not risk deliberately giving shoddy good/services and neighbours would not risk damaging each other’s homes and land, as mobility was almost unheard of, so such actions would bring retribution which would last a lifetime,
This unrealistic stance of comparing the economic activities of the mediaeval village with modern societies and the even more complex technology, which now facilitates exchange, is a source of great amusement to many, Indeed I’ve spent many a pleasurable evening at my local hostelry drinking tankards of John Smiths and complaining that things aren’t what they used to be.

@ 87 Thomas
If you are replying to an OT comment you are still OT.
Please read:
“Friends and neighbors said it’s a cruel and dangerous city policy but the Cranicks don’t blame the firefighters themselves. They blame the people in charge.”
So is this about the callousness of the Fulton City bureaucrats or about your alternate-universe views of how you think a libertarian society would work?
Are you saying that the point of the original post is to attribute to a notional private enterprise libertarian system the fault of a government-controlled system despite evidence that the private-enterprise fire prevention systems were, throughout history, devoid of this particular fault? So Sunny Hundal is really just a pseudonym for Winston Smith?

88
Whose the ‘we’ in ‘we move from developing to the developed’?
And Tim, I never buy the argument that ‘our system is bad but so is the other one’.
And you’ll find that most people, who would like to see the end to capitalism, are not yearning for the conditions which existed in the Soviet Union,

89
Is this randomness week?

@ 91
I was not defending capitalism as such, merely trying to explain in simple terms what it is. John Smith’s Tadcaster Brewery is an excellent example as it involved many day’s work to build but the brewery has been used for many years since it was built. On the other hand the reference does raise questions about your taste.
The complexity of modern society affects the details of transactions but NOT the fundamental concept of making an investment and subsequently receiving a benefit for the money or hard work that was put in. Marxism condemns rentiers who are receiving a deferred reward for past labour or a reward for deferred gratification from past earnings. How does the complexity of society alter these two outlooks? Not one iota!

This has been very interesting to watch. All the ‘family values’ people and the “lets have civility and decency and common sense,” think it is just fine to watch as a families home goes up in smoke. Let the children just scream as all their possessions burn to ash. And then call their dad a freeloader.

And these same people get all hissy when I call them brown shirts. Fucking scum brown shirts is more accurate. I really hope these people get all kinds of pain in their lives which they can’t sort out themselves. And then I hope someone tells them to go fuck themselves.

This loons have now taken over the asylum.

@ 96 sally – try reading what I said. “I consider that universal fire insurance and protection funded by value-related property taxes or the UK system universal protection in the form of government-run fire brigades with risk-related insurance premiums are the only sensible solutions.”
Or don’t you care about the truth?

95
Much appreciate you describing capitalism in simple terms but unfortunately the simplicity of your argument;-that exchange is fundementally the same is, well, simplistic. There are and have been so many ways of producing and exchanging goods, And I can’t remember reading about pyramid schemes in my mediaeval history book, but hey, no doubt you can give me a reference, possibly Egyptian maybe.
And who mentioned Marx? It is the environment which is the most important, not particularly the exchange of goods/labour cos it aint done in a vacuum, just saying.
And John77, has no-one ever told you that ‘the devil is in the detail’

@ 98
If you have descended to completely mis-stating what I said in order to attack it because you do don’t want to make the effort to counter my actual arguments then you have admitted to yourself that you have failed. I did not mention exchange once (because that does not depend upon capitalism or even money).
I mentioned Marx as the most famous advocate of a contrast to capitalism to make things simple for someone unable to understand the complexities of modern life. The divide between (on one extreme) unreconstructed Marxists like Pol Pot, and reconstructed Marxists like Lenin, Nye Bevan or Willy Brandt, and supporters of Adam Smith like Blair or Thatcher and (on the other extreme) libertarian capitalists like Crassus or the “Tea Party” does not depend on the complexity of the system but on the personality and the views of the individual. Now, if you think that these have been changed by the use of computers and the internet, then I must ask you whether you think that the invention of the friction match changed the nature of fire.
“The devil is in the detail” when I am ploughing through the 3000+ pages of new IFRS but not when comparing day and night or when asking whether I am alive or dead or whether the City of South Fulton is a local government or a greedy capitalist. I am alive and the post is about callous bureaucrats.

99
This post is nothing but a smokescreen (excuse the pun).
Where have I mis-stated what you have said?
And surely your post contradicts what you have said in@95, there are all manner of ways that people produce and exchange goods as you have noted. And there are all manner of means of producing and exchanging, which isn’t capitalism, as you say in @86. You then say in@95 that transaction are fundementally the same just the details of the transactions.
I’m off for a few pints of JS, perhaps your aguments will become clearer when I get back.

@ 100:

“And there are all manner of means of producing …(…).. which isn’t capitalism”

Correct, for capitalism isn’t a description of a method of production. The firm, the individual, co-operation, mechanical or by hand, with or without the division of labour….all of these are descriptions of means of producing.

Capitalism is a description of who owns the assets with which things are produced. We can have the above “firm, the individual, co-operation, mechanical or by hand, with or without the division of labour” which is mutually owned by the workers, by the consumers, by the State….none of which would be capitalist systems. It’s when such organisations are owned by the capitalist, the provider of capital, that we call it a capitalist system.

“And there are all manner of means of exchanging, …(..)…which isn’t capitalism,”

Correct. We can have state directed exchange, we can have markets as a method of exchange, we can make the distinction between Polanyi’s local exchange and wide area exchange: but none of these things have anything at all to do with capitalism. For capitalism is, as above, a way of describing who owns the assets, not a method of describing the method of exchange. Nor, indeed, whether there will be exchange or not.

Igf you want to play in this game you really do need to understand the definitions. Capitalism is a description of who owns productive assets. Markets, as an example, is a description of the means of exchange.

They’re very, very, different things and simply because we live in a socio economic system which is a mixture of capitalism and markets doesn’t mean that you should ignore the distinction. For to do so would lead you into gross error.

For example, the English NHS has embraced more market activity than the Scottish or Welsh: while still remaining a most certainly not capitalist organisation. The results, measured by input versus output, show that the English NHS is better than the Scottish or Welsh. That is, we get more health care for less tax by embracing markets: if you don’t distinguish between markets and capitalism then you’re not going to be able to see that, are you?

@ 100 steveb
The word “exchange” does not appear in #95 or #86 (nor in #76, #80, #84 or #92).
Other people may have discussed ways of exchanging goods but I have not.
I have discussed firefighting, bureaucrats and capitalists.
How many pints have you drunk if you are seeing words that are not there?

102
Well my few pints and your post don’t appear to have made things any clearer.
While you may not have used the word ‘exchange’ you seem to have made use of many more words and references that are quite irrelevant.
In fact you mention Marx, Pol Pot, Lenin, Bevan, and Uncle Tom Cobley. Although you do allude to ‘transaction’ which is another term for exchange in the commercial sense. Indeed it would be pretty difficult to refer to capitalism without considering exchange.
Come on John77, look at your previous posts, you’re the one who brought up the historical perspective of economic activity (capitalism or otherwise), I merely pointed-out the failures of the capitalist system.

And my thanks to Tim W for pointing-out that ownership of the means of production is a defining characteristic of capitalism.

“And my thanks to Tim W for pointing-out that ownership of the means of production is a defining characteristic of capitalism.”

So capitalism has absolutely nothing to do with markets?

105
I suppose markets are also a defining characteristic of capitalism, but why are you asking?

107. Charlieman

@96 Sally: “And these same people get all hissy when I call them brown shirts. Fucking scum brown shirts is more accurate.”

I repeat my previous offer. If you, Sally, can identify a genuine brown shirt who is associated with governance, I will cough up to charity.

@104 and @ 101
Ownership of the means of production is NOT a defining characteristic of capitalism. The defining characteristic of capitalism is a reward for investing capital (whether in terms of money or in sweat and toil and blood and tears) in a productive asset or an income-producing one. A landowner who lets out fields to tenant farmers who pay him rent is a capitalist but is a municipal council that owns allotments where people grow vegetables? No, nor is it a capitalist because it derives an income from fining motorists who have parked where they used to be a yellow line before the highways authority relaid the tarmac. Nor were the norman barons who seized land from the anglo-saxon thanes in the 11th century.
It is neither ownership nor income that defines capitalism but the reward for investment.

@ 106 markets do not need capitalism, nor does capitalism need markets (although it is only in a few cases where the economy is distorted by government action that you will get capitalism without markets – e.g. grants of monopolies to royal favourites)

just starting to wonder just how many shades of po,litical opinion can be encapsulated in Sally’s term “brown shirts”. Her dfinition seems to have nothing in common with the historical brownshirts.

@109: “markets do not need capitalism, nor does capitalism need markets (although it is only in a few cases where the economy is distorted by government action that you will get capitalism without markets – e.g. grants of monopolies to royal favourites)”

If we have capitalism without markets, by what processes are resources allocated between alternative uses?

If it’s by some central administrative fiat of one variety or another, private ownership of the means of production doesn’t count for much as the owners lack the choice as to where and how the resources they own are to be used. In that case, private ownership becomes an empty entitlement.

108 109
What you state is a fair point but, people can invest money, blood, sweat and labour into producing only for themselves, the examples you give involve exchange and for me capitalism could not exist without exchange and it is difficult to imagine how the wholesale exchange within modern societies could exist without a market unless we move towards socialism.
Your argument gets more complicated when you use the example of the municipal council, they are acting as capitalists in a capitalist economy
I don’t imagine that grants to monopolies for royal favours figure much in modern capitalist societies.
But you make my point, economic activity is far more complex than your medieaval miller example, getting a loaf of bread on the table now involves more than the miller, a buyer and a cook.

@ 103 steveb
Major progress – you have actually admitted that you were wrong on one point. Maybe Magnet Ale has improved in the last few decades.
So next you might accept that you missed all the major failures of capitalism while focussing on one failure of the community which had existed for centuries before the industrial revolution – polluted drinking water was the main cause of the spread of cholera and plague (albeit not the Black Death). The a&e nurse picked one – the enrichment of Crassus involved the partial or total impoverishment of all those whose houses caught fire. Your implied suggestion that in modern life all or most capitalists get away with supplying shoddy goods while in a village environment non-capitalist workers did not is just plain wrong – naturally I prefer to have work done by local capitalists but the solar water heating installed more than a dozen years ago by a small firm based 150 miles away has been excellent: nearly all the shoddy work has been by DVLA, HMRC, DWP and other public sector bodies.

@110:

“Her dfinition seems to have nothing in common with the historical brownshirts.”

In the mid 1930s, members of the British Union of Fascists tended to parade in black shirts. This led to the Public Order Act of 1936, which made it an offence to wear political uniforms. The Conservatives had won the general election in November 1935 with a landslide – it was the last time in Britain when the winning party at a general election attracted more than 50% of the votes cast.

The Brown Shirts is intended metaphorically here, I suspect, but the historic connection is with the Sturmabteilung in Germany, a paramilitary organisation of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturmabteilung

113
Sorry, I can’t keep up with you, there are innumerable laws and requirements to install complex technology, and I don’t suppose you paid your supplier with a bag of gold. Who researhed and developed the technology? Did you get a guarantee, did you use a credit card, did you acquire your supplier from an advert, yellow pages or the internet. How did your supplier reach you, road, rail, air, did the supplier make those panels? Where did the supplier receive the appropriate qualifications in order to be able to install said panels. Ditto the people who made said panels. Did the panels reach you by the roads built via The Highways Department, how many workers did it take to build the road, who made the transport and was it insured, taxed and moted Get my point?

116. Charlieman

The offer mentioned in the link below still stands:
http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/09/25/now-ed-miliband-needs-to-surprise-his-critics-and-supporters/

Terms of the contract:
I’ll make you an offer, Sally. I’ll give £50 to Oxfam if you can provide a mainstream media quote (academic publisher, broadsheet press, think tank publication) that names a current LibDem, Conservative or right wing Labour Party MP who controls a brown shirt street army akin to the SA.

Rules:
1. Mainstream media means exactly that. The source needs to be a reliable. respectable reference rather than 9/11 troofers or the like.
2. If I lose, my donation will be made via an escrow who we both respect (eg Sunny, Dave Osler etc).
3. Offer ends at the end of October 2010.

@ 112 steveb
“municipal council, they are acting as capitalists in a capitalist economy”
NO. They take money where they have made no investment and they make no profit where they have made investments. That is NOT acting as capitalists.
I cannot do this in words of one syllable – the best I can manage is
Capitalism is concerned with the provision of a reward for capital investment.
Markets are preferable to monopolies, but they are not an essential prerequisite of capitalism; regulated monopolies – such as water companies and toll bridges, which still exist – are less bad than unregulated ones.
Exchange is normal but not invariable – one of the less pleasant examples of capitalism is share-cropping where the landowner gets a share of the crop and gives the share-cropper nothing.

@ 115
None of that has anything whatsoever to do with the definition of capitalism.
My comment was merely to illustrate that you don’t need to live in the same village to get an honest job done.

Markets and capitalism may well complement each other, but they are not necessary for each other.

We can have market socialism (we have the market by the assets are owned by mutuals, worker co-ops, the State perhaps). We can have monopoly capitalism (Robber Barons tried this in the US, it’s a reasonable description of royal monopolies etc, in fact, there are those who would argue that this was what the Soviet Union was, no markets, but State Capitalism).

So we can actually point to systems that have or don’t have separately markets and or capitalism.

That the two work well together I’ll agree, but they’re not the same thing nor are they versions of the same thing.

117
My example @115 illustrates the complexities of a modern capitalist society, eg the UK as against the type of transactions which were undertaken in a medieaval village (capitalist or otherwise) eg. buying flour from a miller involved a few people and quite simplistic production methods, your technology probably involved thousands of people, who you will never meet and even more exchanges. All of those exchanges were covered by a law which governed everthing from what is made to education, employment law, health & safetly ect The point being is that there is no fundamental modern/ancient way of producing and consuming. And, reward for money investment is also ancient, it does not distinguish capitalism from any other system, and reward for labour is as old as hunter/gatherers. I have just had a quick look at wiki for a definition of capitalism and guess what:- there is no easy definition, event Tim and Bob B (who I believe are economists) are not able to do this. I will repeat what I have said @98 when I advised you that you cannot give a simplistic account of capitalism. We also have institutions such as the NHS, which is essentially a socialist idea but functioning within a capitalist society.
One of the biggest changes from the mediaval to modern is the seperation of consumption and production (industrialization) but that is not a defining characteristic of capitalism but some would say that capitalism drove industrialization.
We could go on for ever exchanging diffierent definitions, but I will go on to reiterate what was my initial point – that captialism fails, and yes, there are some nasty bureaucrats and nasty capitalists and there were nasty feudal lords, my point is that the system is highly flawed.

@ John [92]

“So is this about the callousness of the Fulton City bureaucrats or about your alternate-universe views of how you think a libertarian society would work?”

They weren’t my alternate-universe views, they were the views of a libertarian who posts here, making a point about how a libertarian society he might want would work. The post (i.e. Sunny’s post) was indeed about extrapolating from a certain facet of a government-controlled system to a libertarian private system. That is plainly obvious from reading the post. The post clearly isn’t about criticising local government bureacrats, however worth doing that might be. You can tell by looking at the headline.

Shockingly enough, I’m not tremendously well versed in the history of private sector fire services, so I’m unaware of evidence either way. I was just responding to a libertarian’s on-topic response to an on-topic question. From discussions with other libertarians I know tort gets trotted out as a solution to various problems, and I think it’s often wrong headed. I don’t know why you have to be so unpleasant about it. People who scream OT at the slightest sign of a comment thread diverting from their narrow, pedantic interpretation of a post are very annoying. Anyway, I don’t think I’ll say any more on this as the discussion we are having now, about blog ettiquette, actually is OT. I thought I should say it though, as it’s an irritating “shut up” strategy that helps blowhards to dominate online.

@ 121 Thomas
Sorry I wasn’t aware this was about tort law or that “Nick” was arguing that in a libertarian society a private fire brigade would act in direct opposition to its employer’s interests.
I thought Nick was making a flippant reply to Watchman who was arguing that the logic of libertarianism would allow someone not to take out fire insurance if he wasn’t harming others by failing to do so. In this universe private fire brigades did not allow insured buildings to burn just to spite the uninsured, so it appeared to me that your hypothesis was alternate universe.
Enough people have pointed out that this would NOT have happened in a libertarian society as the firefighters would have taken Mr Canick’s money to put out the fire. Sunny’s headline looks, like so many others, as if he hasn’t done his homework and so is blaming the callousness of South Fulton City Hall on some greedy capitalists that do not (in this case) exist.

@116 I like that as confidant as you are about Sally not being able to find an actual brown-shirt style street army, your still not quite confidant enough to offer more than 50 quid should you lose. I can easily spend more than that on a night of the lash.

124. Chaise Guevara

@116

“I’ll make you an offer, Sally. I’ll give £50 to Oxfam if you can provide a mainstream media quote (academic publisher, broadsheet press, think tank publication) that names a current LibDem, Conservative or right wing Labour Party MP who controls a brown shirt street army akin to the SA.”

Don’t be silly. Why would sally need proof when she’s get rhetoric, mindless and libellous allegations and the patience to say the same stupid thing 40 times a day?

This is not a “libertarian” system first off. This was a government system albeit local and they decided on the system.

Would there be “free rider” problems under a privatized system in a libertarian society? Possibly so, that doesn’t make the “public goods” argument any more valid.

How would a libertarian society deal with it? First, even under the current system, 90% of the fire departments are voluntary in this country.

Second, they could have charged him a fee for service (which would be much higher) and billed him later out of goodwill.

Third, the probable scenarios that would have occurred are: A)if there was still a system of property tax for real estate in tact, the annual fee could have been added to the property tax or made in payments per month, quarter, etc when the taxes are due. or B)Assuming he had insurance on his property: the insurance company would probably require paying the fee to cover their investment or they would deny him coverage or alter the policy where he understands the risk, or charge higher premiums or C)Assuming he has a mortgage, the mortgage company could require fire coverage as well. Right now they require home owner’s insurance to protect their investment.

See what self regulation is now? Also, do you insure your valuables, including real estate, automobiles, etc? I thought so!

If none of this was compulsory, and he refused to insure his home, pay fire coverage, etc, yes, I am ok with his house burning down. There is no “right” to owning a home and he is being irresponsible in protecting his investment. Can’t afford it? Go rent a place or stay with someone until you get back on your feet financially…


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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Libertarian dreams up in smoke along with house http://bit.ly/9qZxUY

  2. tom dissonance

    RT @libcon: Libertarian dreams up in smoke along with house http://bit.ly/9qZxUY

  3. Iain Tatch

    If taxes were optional: RT @libcon: Libertarian dreams up in smoke along with house http://bit.ly/9qZxUY

  4. Hot In Real Estate

    Libertarian dreams up in smoke along with house | Liberal Conspiracy
    http://safe.mn/Rj3

  5. Ellie Mae

    RT @libcon: Libertarian dreams up in smoke along with house http://bit.ly/9qZxUY

  6. Mikhail I

    Libertarian dreams up in smoke along with house | Liberal Conspiracy: Political bloggers are frequently harassed b… http://bit.ly/czWvBT

  7. Jackart

    Someone doesn't pay insurance, isn't insured. http://is.gd/fLYva @Sunny_Hundal.

  8. North Briton

    @VeryBritishDude Someone doesn't pay insurance, isn't insured. http://is.gd/fLYva @Sunny_Hundal. >>sounds like Libertarian utopia

  9. Get Political Fund » Blog Archive » Libertarian dreams up in smoke along with house | Liberal Conspiracy

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  10. The Daily Quail

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  11. Conner C

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  12. Peter Hague

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  13. Miles Weaver

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  14. Miles Weaver

    RT @DailyQuail: The Libertarian dream in action: http://bit.ly/chx0O7





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