Burned-down House is Government’s Fault

Liberals have been beside themselves over an incident in Obion County, Tennessee where firefighters allowed a small home to burn to the ground because the homeowners had failed to pay a $75 annual fee for fire protection; an option given to each resident of the county. In typical fashion, the blame for this has been summarily placed on conservatism, libertarianism, and even Ayn Rand. The real culprit here is the government, not the private sector.

 Most people expressing anger over this unusual incident have not been honest with the details about this incident; and their demagoguery is not going to rebuild the home that burned down. 

The homeowners did call the fire department once they realized the blaze could not be put out with a garden hose; the call was ignored. Firefighters did respond to a call from a neighbor, who had in fact paid their fee, once the flames threatened their property. By this time, the fire had consumed most of the non-payer’s home.

Here are the facts that seem to have been ignored by many on the left. The fire department was not privately owned. It was contracted by Obion County from the City of South Fulton. This is a government-run monopoly, not a free-market enterprise. These firefighters were following the policies set in place by the local government, not edicts laid down by arguably uncaring capitalists.

This is not a failure of capitalism or of limited government; it is a failure of government. As Thomas Firey, managing editor of the Cato Institute’s Regulation magazine, notes, a private company would have likely put out the fire and sent the homeowner a bill.

While there is a legitimate argument to be had for local and county governments to provide services such as these, paid for by whatever taxes they choose, the unfortunate incident that took place in Obion County, Tennessee cannot fairly be laid at the feet of limited-government advocates.

130 comments Add your comment

skydog

October 20th, 2010
6:16 am

zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Get a job Bob.

Eric

October 20th, 2010
6:22 am

Actually, the fault can be laid at libertarian types who hold positions in government. It’s a little of both, Bob. The choice to pay or not pay for fire protection services never should have been given in the first place.

Eric #2

October 20th, 2010
6:32 am

I thought the government (federal, state, local) was supposed to protect people. With all the expansionary taxes, I can’t believe Obion County couldn’t afford to help ONE of its citizens. It’s not like there’s wide-scale fires everyday. Thanks for nothing!

bo

October 20th, 2010
6:47 am

Barr couldn’t be more wrong. This is a perfect example of a citizen being allowed an opportunity to divorce himself from big bad government, to make the payment for and use of government services optional. Since Barr is placing blame, the only one at fault is the guy who refused to pay the fee.

Realist

October 20th, 2010
7:10 am

Spot on, bo. As sad as it may be now, the homeowner had a “choice”, HE made the “choice” NOT to have fire protection in the event of a fire. HIS choice is the mistake here.
I do agree with Bob, had the fire services been with a private company, I believe they would have helped the homeowner, and sent them a bill.

GB

October 20th, 2010
7:12 am

Interesting fact, that the fire department is a government owned entity. But the essential question remains: was this “failure” really a failure at all?

Whether the department was public or private, the key fact is that the homeowners did not pay the required fee. If the fireman put out fires for peope who have paid no fee, why would anyone pay the fee? Lots of people would try to get a free ride, there would be little money to fund the service, the service would cease to exist, and no one would have fire protection.

carlosgvv

October 20th, 2010
7:29 am

It seems obvious this kind of option should never be offered to anyone. Some Government protections must not be optional because if they are, disasters will follow.

Smart like a Fox

October 20th, 2010
7:38 am

if 7 dollars was added to everyones monthly power bill, as a fire protection charge this would never have happened. please please….Got Brains?

Dave Briggman

October 20th, 2010
7:39 am

Eric, all citizens pay for fire protection services either through real estate taxes or directly, through the $75 fee the city government charged county citizens. Realist and GB are both quite correct with their statements.

Duh

October 20th, 2010
7:44 am

Are some of you folks really saying that fully competent adults should not have a choice about some of the services they want or do not want? Really?!?
That being said, if the fire dept had an idle truck that night they should have put out the fire – it’s just the right thing to do.

Buford Sowega

October 20th, 2010
7:47 am

Quite frankly, this is a case of poorly functioning government (that happens to be managed by those who think they understand conservative principles) and a place that doesn’t quite seem to understand the true meaning of community.

Fire is much like invasion or earthquake or floods. You do what needs to be done to contain the damage and help your neighbor, then sort out all of the causes and liabilities afterwards, when heads are clearer and cooler.

Community cost? What about fire insurance rating? What about the potential for more widespread damage if you can’t contain the blaze? And what about trust between citizens, that once lost, is very hard to regain?

Malti-Poos Rule

October 20th, 2010
8:01 am

And when conservatives get blamed for stuff, Bob gets all uptight. My gosh.

Skip

October 20th, 2010
8:02 am

Buford. you describe a great country, I wonder if it ever existed?

sharecropper

October 20th, 2010
8:04 am

Normally, though you are a right wing quack, I give you some credit for intellectual honesty. But this is a depth of shallowness I’m not accustomed to. You nut jobs don’t want to hold anybody responsible for anything. Who the hell do you think is “the government”? It is us. And somebody in Georgia is not responsible for a truly ludicrous personal decision made in Tennessee by somebody sworn to protect and serve. The fellow was right: get a job. And stop blaming “the government” for fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and bed bug infestations.

Buford Sowega

October 20th, 2010
8:09 am

Skip, I doubt if it ever existed, but I’ve seen bits and pieces of good communities, with governments that do more to provide services the best that they can. I’ve also seen trust between members of a community be broken and never recover, well not in my short lifetime.

Just because the notion of community might be idealistic doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work hard to build it. That makes me an optimistic fool, but hey, I gotta be me.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

October 20th, 2010
8:11 am

I fix responsibility with the home-owner who, exercising his free right of contract, chose to not so contract. There is no bad guy here – simply a bad choice, and the consequences of that choice are visited on the decider.

The mirror of the same evil exists in ObamaCare, wherein the government now determines that we have no right to not contract. Thus we surrender freedom to the judgment of the overlords, personal choice gone forever.

EDIMGIAFAD

October 20th, 2010
8:11 am

Duh – Wrong. Your concept is that YOU do not have topay for anything until YOU need it. The setup and maintenance costs appy to everyone else but not YOU. YOU do not need to pull any weight until YOU need the help. While I do agree with YOU on the first paragraph, YOUR second paragraph serves as the MO for too many people in this country – it’s all about YOU.

P.S. – One of the more liberal counties in the US, Pima County (Tucson, AZ) operates in just this same matter and the fee is $500/year, not $75.

interested observer

October 20th, 2010
8:15 am

No Bob, it is not a failure of government. It is a failure of the individual to take responsibility to care for his or her property. The property owner chose not to avail himself of the government service. Then he faced the consequences.

It’s a tough call, but the government has a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens as a group. Providing services for those who refuse to pay is detrimental to the whole. That’s not the ideal way to fund fire protection, but consider it fire insurance. Try not paying your premium to State Farm and see how much sympathy you get when you have a claim.

Common Man

October 20th, 2010
8:22 am

I wonder if he chose the option to insurance his house? Sometimes it just takes common sense to come in out of the rain.

PR

October 20th, 2010
8:22 am

Bob Barr is an angry old man who is clueless. Once he got thrown out of his cozy, cushy job in Washington DC where he was ripping of the taxpayers while posing as a U.S. Senator he got pissed off and wants to blame the govenrment for everything. Bob, you need to go back to the elderly rest home and get back on your medication.

David

October 20th, 2010
8:24 am

Consider places out west where there are counties and areas that 2 or three houses for 100s of square miles … there are areas that people choose to live that cannot be protected by the almighty govt. and Obion county is one of those places. There is not enough people to tax to the point they can create their own FD, so the only option is “Pay to Spray” from a neighboring jurisdiction.

I’m sure Obion has held their own meetings and “the people” chose to operate this way. The people of Obion are their own govt. and they set their own rules.

Though I would have made the residents sign something that said “I fully understand that not paying this fee … yada yada yada”

PinkoNeoConLibertarian

October 20th, 2010
8:26 am

The problem here was that the government was allowed to charge an added fee for what is one of the very few services they should be required to provide. The main function of a government is to provide for the safety of its citizens at home and abroad. This is not optional. That is exactly what taxes should be paying for.

I’m guessing that a lot of these folks here that are defending the government in this case would also agree that it would be just fine to make police protection “optional” as well. You just got mugged/assaulted/raped/whatever? Did you pay your protection fee? No? Oh well, take two aspirin and call someone who cares.

David

October 20th, 2010
8:27 am

@Common Man … tha man said he was insured when the article came out.

analogy time

October 20th, 2010
8:28 am

Seems to me this imposed annual fee to cover fire protection is analogous to the Federal requirement to have health care insurance. So I guess those opposed to that system are o.k. with more houses burning down?

skydog

October 20th, 2010
8:34 am

You righties do realize if Bush had gotten his way and privatized Social Security we ALL would have lost trillions. The only place to put our money would have been the stock market which crashed within months of Bush plan.
Big government is bad, thieving pirates like Bush are worse.

This man in Tenn. took a gamble and lost.

If we were given our SS, we would have lost.

John

October 20th, 2010
8:42 am

Bob,

Please name the liberals that have claimed the fire department was privately owned. I have watched this story unfold and not once heard anyone make this claim. What I have heard was the truth that the county provides this service for a fee for those residents. I have heard liberals say government services should not be only rendered for a fee…these should be provided for via taxes. For instance, we should not have cafeteria services where we choose protection such as fire, police, emt service where we pick and choose what services we want and pay a fee for each we choose.

And conservatives such as Glen Beck claim the system worked…that if you don’t pay the fee, you don’t get the service. According to Glen Beck and others, who favor privatization, it wouldn’t be fair to respond to a call to someone if they didn’t pay the fee, even if the person is willing to pay after the fact. Think about it, how would a private fire department survive if everyone chooses not to pay for a contract and only choose to pay for the service after it’s rendered? Would a private company be able to survive and pay their bills if everyone choose not to take out a contract and the number of fires is extremely low?

David

October 20th, 2010
8:42 am

The govt is required to provide protection for the people, NOT THEIR STUFF.
The owner has said when the call was made to 911 he said that there was no one in the house, and in turn the FD has said that if anyone WAS in the house, of course they would have made all effort to save the person.

THE DUDE ONLY LOST STUFF BECAUSE HE CHOSE NOT TO PAY.

skydog

October 20th, 2010
8:43 am

Ragnar said,
“The mirror of the same evil exists in ObamaCare, wherein the government now determines that we have no right to not contract. Thus we surrender freedom to the judgment of the overlords, personal choice gone forever”

Not true Rag. If you don`t have insurence and get sick, WE pay through higher emergency room prices, higher insurence, or state/local taxes.

If your house burns down, we just look over at your tent and say what a dummy you are. Big difference.

John

October 20th, 2010
8:54 am

@David

“THE DUDE ONLY LOST STUFF BECAUSE HE CHOSE NOT TO PAY.”

3 dogs and 1 cat were killed in that fire. Should the department or those making the decision for letting that house burn face charges for animal cruelty?

bo

October 20th, 2010
9:00 am

there is a big difference with health. if you need emergency care, you will get it no matter what–it would be malpractice for a doctor or hospital to do otherwise.

Mike

October 20th, 2010
9:14 am

Burned-down House is Government’s Fault get ridd of all this Gov.
They only look out for there self.

Kingston sets date for layoff

With Kingston city administrators at odds in matters of finance, the council acted on their concerns Monday for the financial stability of the city by voting in favor of layoffs. Initially a vote was taken effective immediately before a revision was made to delay the decision.

Approving a decision that has been debated in recent meetings, the city council voted to get rid of two full-time maintenance workers and move two police officers to reserve status. The motion was made by Councilman Miklas and approved despite the reiteration by Mayor Jones that financial matters are stable and the confusion is a result of improper bookkeeping.

“In a short time, the city is not going to be able to pay the bills,” Miklas said. “If we continue to transfer the money unabated we will deplete our water accounts. Then if a major breakdown occurs in our water system, there will be no money to make the repairs promptly. This will create a severe hardship for the people of Kingston. In addition, in just two and a half months, the city council will be faced with approving a new budget for 2011. How are we going to approve this new budget when both accounts would be depleted? It is obvious the city is overstaffed and underfunded. The expenditures exceed the incoming revenues by a substantial margin.”

After the decision was made, the mayor and council met in executive session discussing personnel matters in the company of City Attorney . Returning after about an hour of closed session discussions, the council voted to amend their decision by adding that layoffs would be effective Nov. 9 as opposed to the immediate action voted upon originally.

Councilmen spoke of the decision with heavy hearts, expressing their displeasure in having to make such a choice. The difficult decision was expressed by the council as a necessary action to curtail expenditures.

“I think that we’ve got to do something. I don’t know the right decision to make but I know that if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re not going to make it,” said Councilman Wise.

In response to the council’s vote to layoff city employees, Jones stated again his confidence in the city’s financial strength and the common practice of transferring funds from enterprise funds. He also rebutted Miklas’ statement regarding the ability to repair the water system in case of a catastrophic occurrence with the existence of a sinking fund for such an occasion.

The concession to enact the decision at a later date was in hopes of clearing the picture on the city’s financial matters. The audit, which is months late due to improper records according to Jones, may also be available by next month’s regular meeting on Nov. 8.

“As far as the city being broke, like I’ve stated in the past, that simply is not the case,” Jones said. “We will practice different standard accounting principles in the future to avoid this situation.”

Employees to be laid off were not determined in open meeting. The reserve status of officers would place them in a volunteer position if they choose to continue serving the city in such a capacity.

The city council also voted to begin advertising an open position for City Treasurer vacated by last week.

Duh

October 20th, 2010
9:15 am

EDIMGIAFAD – Read more carefully – we’re on the same side. Fully competent adults should have a choice about the services they want or do not want. Period.
However, if I lived across the street from this guy I’d drag my garden hose over to help him out.

David

October 20th, 2010
9:20 am

@John
“3 dogs and 1 cat were killed in that fire. Should the department or those making the decision for letting that house burn face charges for animal cruelty?”

In the eyes of the law, animals are “stuff” the owner’s son burned down the house by burning leaves to close to the house. The govt is not, nor should they be, required to save your pets with no expense spared. It is emotional, but there has to be limits … what if it was a lizard? a parakeet? Dogs and cats are in the same category.

There was no animal cruelty involved, it was an accident caused by the homeowner.

Al Gore

October 20th, 2010
9:30 am

I think everyone is ignoring the real crime here. By letting that house burn, the fire department was contributing to global warming.

John

October 20th, 2010
9:33 am

@David
“In the eyes of the law, animals are “stuff” ”

So are you saying we can dispose of pets like we dispose of any other “stuff”. Say, throw them in the trash or burn them as we do with other “stuff”. Try using that as a defense in a court of law.

Jim

October 20th, 2010
9:42 am

I guarantee property taxes or other local taxes are funding the fire department on top of any $75 fee. As a homeowner, your taxes are supporting local fire and police. Not to mention the fire departments moral duty to the community. The fire department should have extinguished the fire and then sent the homeowner a bill. I am sure the homeowner would have been happy to pay a $1000 fee after the fact.

retiredds

October 20th, 2010
9:47 am

when all else fails, blame the nefarious government

David

October 20th, 2010
9:52 am

The animal were not thrown away nor were they abused, they died in an accident.

But as far as them being seen as “stuff” … If someone accidently at fault killed your dog, purely accidently, you could sue for the retail value of the dog, you would receive no emotional loss compensation, nor should you.

But in a sense also, yes, if your dog accidently dies in your care, you can legally dispose of them as you wish, burn ‘em, bury ‘em whatever the almight govt allows. It is your emotional choice.

You can’t cruelly kill or destroy them, there are local laws against that, but this was an accident and the “stuff” was susequently destroyed.

skydog

October 20th, 2010
9:52 am

Duh,
If fire services are readly available, what duha$$ would decline?

Nobody. So why make it an option? Would you also make police protection an option?

If you are THAT afraid of socialism then be consistant and stay off the interstate roads.

Jefferson

October 20th, 2010
10:01 am

Watching a young girl being molested because they didn’t pay protection money wouldn’t be nice. Gov’t should be FOR everyone, thats called civilization.

David

October 20th, 2010
10:05 am

@skydog “Duh, If fire services are readly available, what duha$$ would decline?”

1) there was no local fire service available, it would have added thousands per year per resident for this county to have their own.

This sparcely populated COUNTY had (by the residents choosing) contracted with an underfunded “volunteer dept” from a neighboring jurisdiction.

The residents are the govt and they make the rules.

2) this duma$$ declined

Duh

October 20th, 2010
10:30 am

Thanks David, didn’t get back here in time to respond to SD.

John

October 20th, 2010
10:38 am

Notice how all conservatives have jumped to the conclusion that this “duma$$” man declined coverage. Have any of you watched interviews with this man. According to him, he didn’t decline the coverage and unwillingly not pay the fee. He claims he overlooked the bill and forgot to pay it…nothing more. It wasn’t that he was against the fee. I guess conservatives have never overlooked a bill but have always paid every single bill on time. The electricity company may cut someone power if they hadn’t paid their bill and then charge a fee to cut it back on. This man offered to pay whatever it would cost to save his home. His neighbors also offered to pay…but the fire department would not accept it.

Now his insurance will pay for the damages and then potentially will raise premiums on everyone’s insurance to cover the cost and spread it to all policy holders.

skydog

October 20th, 2010
10:51 am

I`m ok with an option in rural areas where it may be too expensive. Then you roll the dice.

Are ya`ll saying this option should also be available in areas that have established fire protection at reasonable prices?

Like Jefferson said above, that`s not socialization, that`s civilization

JohnC

October 20th, 2010
11:29 am

I think David is the only one here who understands that the homeowner lived in an unincorporated area of Obion County which has no fire department. He had an option to pay a city government to provide fire protection services even though he lives outside of the city limits and does not pay taxes to the city. This is a very rural area of the state and I’m sure both the city and county operate with very limited budgets. The city simply can’t afford to provide services to the residents outside of the city limits without the funding that comes from the $75 fee.

Gomer

October 20th, 2010
11:32 am

“Mr. Insurance man…my house burned and you should pay up. Please ignore the fact that I forgot to pay my bill and the insurance lapsed. I just over looked it.”

What a world we live in

October 20th, 2010
11:32 am

While we all sit and type out our theoretical/political arguments and take positions based on “what ifs” and such, where in the hell did common sense and just plain decency go? If the fire had been put out, the guy could have paid the $75 right after. He tried to pay it while they were there. The slippery slope argument, the one where others would not pay since this guy got a free pass(which again he offered to pay) is weak. This would have been a better wake up call to the neighbors without all the harm, death, and bad blood. I don’t care that he did not pay on time, I care that the firefighters we deified in 2001 sat there and did nothing to help a fellow human. Once all of you get of your high horses and quit trying to be the next big political thinker, just ask yourself if you would have helped the guy. Would you have stood there, hoses in hand and not done anything because of a 75 dollar fee? Would you be able to look him in the eye as you see him in the grocery store? Church? Wherever? Lord help you if you answer yes. This makes me sick no matter what side of the left or right you argue. There is right and wrong and that is more important than limited gov’t or heavy handed gov’t. Go to church and and ask your pastor or rabbi or leader what should have been done. I hope the power/lord/god I believe in looks at this with a shaking head wondering where his creations went so wrong.

What a world we live in

October 20th, 2010
11:43 am

Oh, and has anyone taken the time to figure out that it costs more than 75 bucks to send out trucks, pay the firemen and all the things that go into putting out a fire? Say you had 3 in a year? But all you have to pay is 75 a year. So it has to be subsidized in some way, correct?

Mr. Spock

October 20th, 2010
11:59 am

If the guy didn’t pay his $75 but offered to pay it on the spot, then why should everyone else pay their $75? They can just wait until their house catches on fire and then pay the $75 when they need to actually put out a fire. Then no one would pay.

Jawga

October 20th, 2010
12:03 pm

Why can’t we do the same with health care (i.e., if you don’t have health insurance, don;t expect to get treated in the ER when you are injured or think you are sick)?