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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/7234/let-em-burn/

Let em burn

September 28, 2007 by

When a major wildfire outside Ketchum, Idaho threatened homes insured by AIG Private Client Group, the company sent private firefighters to spray a barrier of fire retardant on the homes most at risk. According to an AIG spokesman, “We’re not only in the business of paying claims, we’re in the business of preventing them.” The U.S. Forest Service had no problem with this, but the local police were not pleased:

“That sounds ridiculous to me,” said Kim Rogers, a Ketchum Police Department spokesman, “especially since we haven’t lost any structures. I mean, this is a Forest Service fire, not a private fire.”

In completely unrelated news, “federal officials are seeking about $2.25 million in federal aid to help pay for the damage caused by the fire.”


Jon Robinson September 29, 2007 at 12:20 am

Nice post David. Perfect example to show the failure of the government to protect private property in an efficient manner.

Pierre September 29, 2007 at 3:48 am

This crystalizes so well government’s general disposition to monopolize. And to think that government officials don’t have the intellectual honesty to apply anti-trust legislation to this situation. It’s as if the FAA disapproved of airlines increasing safety on the grounds that it’s “the FAA’s responsibility”.

SK Peterson September 29, 2007 at 10:21 am

On a related note, the Spokane Spokesman Review had a front page headline this week about a report by Headwaters Economics on the costs of fire protection for homes built in fire-prone areas: http://www.headwaterseconomics.org/wildfire/

Dorris September 29, 2007 at 10:21 am

What really sounds ridiculous is Kim Rogers’ statement that it: “…is a Forest Service fire, not a private fire.” Since when do we categorize fires into private and not private??? A fire is a fire, and it should be put out by any means possible and by whomever possible. That’s truly like saying I can’t defend myself against an intruder because that’s the business of the local police. I’d be dead many times over before they get there.

Jeffrey September 29, 2007 at 5:29 pm

Fantastic post. Also a great example of why libertarians need not fantasize about a stateless society or spend countless hours explaining “how anarchy would work” to critics. The market is already at work all around us.

Christopher Hettinger September 29, 2007 at 7:43 pm

Of course statists will respond by saying that these services are extremely expensive.

Anthony September 29, 2007 at 8:52 pm

In responce to which one could say that prices in the competitive order reflect the good’s true worth to consumers, that enhanced competition will reduce prices/increase quality and that firms are inherently more efficient. The extent to which companies can plan and coordinate always fascinates me.

Charles October 1, 2007 at 12:53 pm

The point that I find most interesting is the note that federal officials are seeking millions to pay for the damage. The fire will cause government to grow even larger. Robert Higgs has written about this phenomenon for decades in his “Crisis and Leviathan” and other books.

Tom October 2, 2007 at 9:45 am

A point that has not been addressed in this matter is that there should be no surprise that a forest service employee would make a statement such as “this is a Forest Service fire, not a private fire.” If one looks at the bureaucratic nature of the Forest Service and its true function as a retirement plan for individuals with an I.Q. of 90 or less, then statements such as the one above would come as no shock. The reasonable man might think that “a fire is a fire, and that’s that” but to someone who is protecting their job at all costs, the perspective is different.

Dave Skinner October 13, 2007 at 1:00 am

No offense, folks, but it seems that no one here has direct fire experience. The issue is not, as Headwaters Economics (not of the Chicago school, no sirree) posits, homes in the woods; but rather the fact of escapement from federal ownerships. The feds have not managed their vegetation and even if they wanted to, litigation ties them up. Massive wildfires need a place to start, and that is not some homeowner’s back yard. Instead, it’s way out in the toolies in a hard-to-access place, the fire gets a head up, and away it goes.

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