Fark ran this story about how the Gilbert Fire Department (AZ) let a home burn down because it didn’t have fire protection. Many people on Fark expressed the opinion that the FD should have helped out. They certainly had the tools to help take care of the blaze. But ultimately, the unincorporated island chose to opt-out of fire protection, and the owners chose not to pay the monthly fee to cover their home.
As a matter of social policy the Gilbert Fire Department is not obliged to protect those that don’t pay for their services anymore than a person is obliged to give change to a beggar. A Fire Department takes money to run, it has salary, equipment, and utility costs. Fire men aren’t paid every time there is a fire, the vast majority of time they are waiting around for a fire to happen. In the long run, a Fire Department would prefer a smaller monthly fee, for a steady rate of income, rather than bursts every time a fire broke out (since people have this nasty habit of wanting something to eat about every day, or hot water, or power, etc.), which is why the $10,000 the private company charges seems so exorbitant, but it is in all likelihood fair.
If the people on the county island had their way, there wouldn’t have been Fire Department to begin with. The fact that others were enlightened enough to see a need and willing to pay for it, and through their charity, chose to ensure your personal safety is a greater credit to FD’s moral rectitude than to the people on the county island. The fact that family was a victim of unfortunate circumstances does not give them any special sanction to demand sacrifices from others.
One of the few things that I agree with Ayn Rand about is that you can’t simply honor need. The arguments of a free-market of Arizona won. They had a choice of what services they wanted. This family made a bad decision. Constantly asking society to bail people out of bad decisions is ruinous, and worse than socialism. At least with socialism you ensure everyone pays, with this willful bad decision making, you make the infrastructure fall apart because they have to handle all the freeloaders. It taxes those who are doing the right thing at the expense of those that willfully don’t. That isn’t justice, that isn’t morality, it is stupidity and a society trying to destroy itself.
In short, it can’t go both ways. Either buck up and pay for some socialized services, or don’t. But, if those that willingly chose not to buy-in and end up getting screwed by it; they have absolutely no right complain nor demand help from others. Take some personal responsibility for your actions.
As a side note, some people were upset about the “disrespectful” attitude the firemen showed when broke out the lawn chairs. There is a cognitive basis where we perceive the firemen as perpetrators because they did nothing and the family as victims. At least, that is how those that sympathize with the family see it. No matter what the firemen did, people would project some aspects of the “Myth of Pure Evil” on to them. I highly recommend “Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty” By Roy F. Baumeister, Ph. D. It is extraordinarily insightful into how people twist stories in order to frame them between victims (the family) and perpetrators (the firemen) in this case. Basically, what to look out for and the questions you need to ask yourself to get to the truth of the matter anytime someone tries to play the victim card.