Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Burning Down Your House*

*with apologies to David Byrne and the Talking Heads

South Fulton, Tennessee probably has a lot to be proud for. I have no idea what (since I can't seem to find an on-line version of their local newspaper - assuming they have a local newspaper anymore), but I'm sure they must think of themselves as a good, old-fashioned, blue-collar community.

Gene Cranick, on the other hand, has learned a valuable lesson this last week: pay the firefighter fee!

See, Mr. Cranick didn't pay the fee, or forgot to pay the fee, or something, and when his house caught fire and got a little too out of control for him to put out the fire himself, he called 911.

The firemen didn't show. He called again.

Still nothing. He called one more time, offering to pay "whatever it'll take" to put out the fire.

The firemen came! He was so grateful. They pulled out hoses, hooked up gear, got ready.

And stood there like statues. The house burned to the ground. The fee? $75, annually.

Cranick offered them money directly. No go. They were there to protect his neighbor's house, in case the fire spread (which, eventually, it did). The neighbor had paid his seventy-five bucks, and by God, he was going to get his money's worth.

Libertarians I have read are saying, well, the guy offered to pay - take his money or his written agreement to pay and put out the fire. On the other hand, if there's only the one fire truck and two fires at the same time (rare occurrence, but who knows?), and only one has paid, well, put out the fire for the guy that paid.

I'm waiting to see firemen walking around with clipboards stuffed with legal contracts that authorize them to fight a fire, and hold harmless the City, that requires multiple initials and signatures before they can put out your house, save your kids, etc. Probably a credit check involved somehere, since, if you can't be relied on to make the payments, you'll have to cough up a cashier's check on the spot.

(off in the distance, you hear the crackling sound of your dog burning, and, on the breeze, the smell of roasted flesh)

I'm waiting for the first pay-to-solve-the-crime police department, myself. Pay the fee, the cops show up and solve a crime, otherwise, you're on your own. It'll make murdering your spouse that much easier - just don't pay the fee!

I'm not going to use this as a metaphor for health insurance and health care, even though it's a really easy shot.

Are we truly this insane, this regressive? I'm reminded of Boss Tweed and Gangs of New York, paying for protection, and the firefighters only putting out fires if the folks have a little brass plate on the front of their building, saying they've paid their "fee". I begin to wonder if this is the future the hardcore libertarians/tea partiers have in mind for us.

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