Thursday, 14 October 2010

The Cranick Fire and What Government Must Do

Last week a man in Tennessee called the fire department to report a fire. The operator asked his name, checked a list, and told him the firemen would not be coming as the man, Mr. Cranick, had neglected to pay a $75 fire subscription fee.

He offered to pay it right there and then, just come and put some water on the fire that was consuming his home, please. The operator refused, on the principle that if they put the fire out, no-one would bother to pay the subscription fee upfront.

Mr. Cranick's concerned neighbour offered to pay $500 then $5,000 for the fire department to come and put the fire out, but they only budged once the neighbour's house caught fire, and then they only doused his neighbour's home up to the fence line; his name was on the list.

Mr. Cranick's home burned to the ground for the good of the community, according to the local fire chief; everyone will pay their $75 subscription fee knowing that the local firemen are the pawns of faceless bureaucrats who operate purely on capitalistic principles; human decency can take a back seat - they will do their duty when the correct paperwork had been filled out.

Mr. Cranick lost his dog, his cat and his family home, as well as every possession not made of fire-retardant material.

This is an example of poor capitalist governance: from time immemorial fire has been THE principle threat to communities everywhere; a thatched roof catches a spark from a blacksmith's iron and the whole community can lose everything precious to them in a matter of minutes. Civilised government provides, if nothing else, three things: policing, organised defence and fire fighters. The reason for this is that successful, powerful, well-off people don't want to live in places where criminals have free rein, or that might easily be pillaged or where fires can start and won't be stopped.

If it is in the wealthy man's interest AND in the interest of everybody else in the community, you can guarantee it's good policy. The subscription fee for a fire department is an outlying crackpot capitalist notion, conceivable only by barely sentient, obese, complacent, utterly blind, unimaginative luddites, unable to count the words "Good social policy", let alone spell them or have any conception of what they might refer to; in short - only in America.

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