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Reconciliation

Recap: How Democrats could lose 86 seats in the midterm; why America might soon envy Japan; and the output gap in graph form.

Elsewhere:

1) Anti-libertarian parable comes to life, family's home burns down.

2) Ben Bernanke seems quite willing to tell Congress to save money to reduce the debt, but I bet he'd consider it unwise to tell legislators to spend money for stimulus.

3) Jill Biden is still teaching.

4) People blame insurers for a lot of political outcomes driven by providers.

By Ezra Klein  | October 5, 2010; 6:26 PM ET
 
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Next: Wonkbook: Our $900 billion problem; support builds for Fed action; Jill Biden's community college summit

Comments

Anti-libertarian? Seems totally libertarian to me. Libertarians are all about deterring irresponsible behavior by making people live with the consequences of the choices they make. I'll bet that man and every single one of his neighbors forks over the 75 bucks in the future.

Posted by: bgmma50 | October 5, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

I live in an area where fire protection is provided through volunteer fire departments. No subscription is required, but you can be sure that I contribute to every fundraiser and donation drive. :)

Posted by: bgmma50 | October 5, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

"1) Anti-libertarian parable comes to life, family's home burns down."

Yikes. That is embarrassing. And an awful story.

It is awfully weird that the firefighters refused to put out the fire, even at "any price" as offered by the homeowner. I mean that would be like an uninsured guy offering to pay hundreds of thousands out of pocket for cancer treatment. The doctors aren't going to say no just to teach him a lesson. Smells fishy.

So I browsed around and found this link, with a very telling caption:

"Law prohibits firefighters from responding to fire where no fee has been paid."

I can't verify this, but I wouldn't be surprised. "Law prohibits." Very libertarian, no?

http://abcnews.go.com/US/video/unpaid-fire-fee-burns-home-11797320

Another story (below) seems to agree that the firefighters were merely following the law.

The Mayor of South Fulton said "Anybody that's not in the city of South Fulton, it's a service we offer, either they accept it or they don't".

By the way, the victim here is quoted as saying "I thought they'd come out and put it out, even if you hadn't paid your $75, but I was wrong,". Yes, he was very wrong. Would he have been so foolish had he paid a private company, rather than a government (which, after all, has a track record of giving out goodies for nothing)?

http://www.wpsdlocal6.com/news/local/Firefighters-watch-as-home-burns-to-the-ground-104052668.html

So, in essence, this is in practice another case of government trying to mimic the free market (optional user fees rather than mandatory taxation), failing (because the only solution to free riding the government could think of was not to put out the fire - no exceptions), and the free market getting blamed.

In all likelihood, in an actual free market the fire company would have charged the guy a hefty price (who knows, say $3,000) and put the fire out. The fire company which orders its men to stand around as a house burns down is a fire company which will lose a lot of subscribers - who would contract with a fire company that ever refused service, no matter the reason?

Posted by: justin84 | October 5, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

bgmma50,

Agreed the guy made a bad decision (seriously, $75 to protect your house and he says no?) but I did a little research into this and it seems that the firefighters were prohibited by law from putting the fire out. This wasn't a company that put out fires, but a fire department.

I would think a private company would just charge a high multiple of the annual fee (say $2,500), put the fire out and go home. Private companies are - as we are constantly reminded - greedy profit maximizers, whereas the government is trying to do the proper moral thing (in this case, thwart free riders).

Posted by: justin84 | October 5, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Klein wouldn't know "libertarian" to save his life.

What happened to Gene Cranick is probably what will happen to me when I show up at a hospital without having complied with the government's dictates to purchase their mandatory insurance. No comply with the government orders, no health care.

There's nothing libertarian about living in land where everything is run by the government.

Posted by: msoja | October 5, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

You're right justin84, it was very odd that they stood around and watched his house burn down. I figured he'd gotten crosswise with them before or something, but it's good to know that the law prohibited them from helping out. And you are quite correct that the best solution in this case, which also happens to be the free market solution, would have been for the man to be billed a hefty amount for putting out his fire. And the law ought to allow a lien to be put against his house if he refuses to pay the bill.


Posted by: bgmma50 | October 5, 2010 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Poor little Ezra Klein. I didn't even read past example #1, because of clear lunacy. "Anti-libertarian" example? Ya see, Ezra, when governments spend themselves into bankrupcty, this is what happens, got it? Its this kind of lunatic leftist thinking which led to the profligate German gov spending, Ezra, which led to Nazi Germany. Why take yourself down this path? You know where its leading. Maybe you think you can deflect the blame game that will result when the stuff hits the fan in November. Maybe, but eventually all cows come home to roost.

Posted by: shred11 | October 6, 2010 1:25 AM | Report abuse

Poor little Ezra Klein. I didn't even read past example #1, because of clear lunacy. "Anti-libertarian" example? Ya see, Ezra, when governments spend themselves into bankrupcty, this is what happens, got it? Its this kind of lunatic leftist thinking which led to the profligate German gov spending, Ezra, which led to Nazi Germany. Why take yourself down this path? You know where its leading. Maybe you think you can deflect the blame game that will result when the stuff hits the fan in November. Maybe, but eventually all cows come home to roost.

Posted by: shred11 | October 6, 2010 1:27 AM | Report abuse

Better than Ezra:

http://news.goldseek.com/RickAckerman/1286344860.php

(for real market analyses, not some snot nosed kid whining about Lenin)

Posted by: shred11 | October 6, 2010 1:41 AM | Report abuse

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