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If you use your imagination, it's not that hard to imagine a business model where you can completely privatize the fire departments.

Right now, there are already companies like ADT which sell home security systems that alert the fire department in case of fire or high carbon monoxide.

You also have GM which has their ONSTAR feature, so that if you're in an accident they'll automatically send in emergency roadside assistance.

You also have many car insurance companies which offer emergency roadside assistance as one of the features on their insurance policies.

What if you create a business model with a home insurance company, just like an auto insurance company, that is connected electronically to a home security system, so that if there is a fire, they'll respond automatically. The home insurance companies could then contract with privately owned fire fighting businesses. The fire fighting businesses would then have to compete with each other for the best response times, the best survival rates, the best safety records, the lowest cost, etc. in order to successfully obtain contracts from the insurance companies. The consumers could then use internet websites which keep track of these things and rates insurance companies on their performance in order to make sure they have access to the best firefighters and the lowest cost, and they could probably save money this way because they wouldn't need to pay taxes for the firefighters.

The only thing you would really need from the government to make sure that all of the people who are affected by a catastrophe are covered by insurance, is to mandate that every home owner must have an insurance policy that has a certain amount of minimum coverage for fire, just like how the government mandates minimum coverage for liability for every car owner.

It's kind of a problem that I see that the idea is a little coercive since it forces consumers to give their money to a coorporation, but it's also coercive for the government to force someone to pay taxes so that's kind of a draw. The big advantage to this would be that it would bring competition to fire fighting so that you'd get lower cost and better quality. The idea for having a government mandate fire coverage just gets back to the debate about whether you think it's the governments responsibility to protect people from themselves. However, the privatization of the fire department is entirely doable. I would love to see some entrepreneur somewhere give this idea a try.

Originally posted to Theworldsbiggestcynic on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 01:20 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  wouldn't work (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      skrekk, theunreasonableHUman, Notus

      having competing fire departments would immediately and permanently multiply the cost severalfold: you would need to have at least twice as much infrastructure as we have right now for effective competition. We would end up with a franchise model, or the unofficial but mutually agreed upon (by the companies) local monopolies we get for ISP/cable service.

      Also, I think the insurance companies would have to be forced to make their minimal policies very complete. It would need to  cover full replacement value of the homes plus their contents, full medical and lost income for injuries, and huge death benefits to the occupants of the house  after a fire. Any system that let them sell skimpy policies would give them an incentive to skimp on the fire protection, at least for some of their customers.

      •  And it's been tried before - it's the original (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        some other george, Clio2

        model we had in the US.  It didn't work for those very reasons, along with company-sponsored arson.

        •  That's right. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          skrekk

          You'll still see on some historic houses in the East, a fire company's iron plaque from the late 1700's or early 1800's. One burning house can set a neighborhood on fire. But the contract fire company would only put out fires of its specific clients. Big problem. Hence the current system of municipal fire companies.

          While we're at it, why not privatize oxygen? Let companies bid for the right to sell the air to residents of the U.S. If you don't pay up, they clamp a big dome over your house, vacuum out the air, and watch your family suffocate, maybe sell tickets. Profits from selling off the air to the private sector can go to balance the budget that Bush unbalanced and reduce federal debt, i.e., paying off the bailout of banks and insurance companies and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It probably won't make enough money for all that but, hey, it'll make a dent.

          Don't care to suffocate and hard up for cash? Why not let people in this situation use their own bodies or their children as collateral, or even sell themselves or their children outright? It worked in the lare Roman empire.

          Or if we don't like that, we could always sell off sectors of the ocean within the 400 mile limit.

          We could sell naming rights to states, counties, cities, towns and government buildings. Real little gold mine in that...  

          Heck, so that people can pay for their mandatory private health insurance and other obligations during this non-recovery, we could set up a system for people to sell naming rights to their own families: Mary Brown becomes Mary Verizon. People could sell their DNA...oh, wait, someone already bagged that for free.

  •  Deeply-layered snark, my favorite kind :-) (7+ / 0-)

    Barack Obama in the Oval Office. There's a black man who knows his place.

    by Greasy Grant on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 01:22:44 PM PDT

  •  Someone's mom ..... (0+ / 0-)

    wouldn't let them play wih matches as a child.

    In honor of the Obama Administration's actions on GLBT issues during Pride month, Pride 2009 is proclaimed "Back of the Bus Pride Month".!

    by emsprater on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 01:23:59 PM PDT

  •  Nice house ya got there. Be a shame if it caught (6+ / 0-)

    fire....

    Ya know, we've got a crew all ready to come out to any unfortunate incidents that might occur, and it wouldn't even cost very much....

    Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God. - Thomas Jefferson

    by Ezekial 23 20 on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 01:27:39 PM PDT

  •  There are areas where it is run this way (0+ / 0-)

    There are actually parts of the US where fire department response to fires in your home is optional.

    If you don't pay for it, they'll pull you out so that you don't burn, and then let the house burn down.

    •  It's also how VFDs got started. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      skrekk, HiBob

      People would band together to form a local fire company and support it through subscriptions to its protective services.

      Results count for more than intentions do.

      by VA Classical Liberal on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 01:32:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  huh? (0+ / 0-)

        I never heard of that.


        The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

        by nupstateny on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 01:53:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  "Fire Clubs" and "Mutal Fire Societies" (3+ / 0-)

          Colonial America was hip deep in Mutal Aid Clubs and Societies.  They existed for everything from health care (each club having their own doctor), fires, unemployment assistance and just about every other calamity life can throw at you.

          Some of them broke up because of changing technology and demographics.  As cities became larger, taller and more dense, fire fighting required more expensive equipment and it was more efficient for the city to fund a network of public fire stations.

          Out in the sticks, where I grew up, volunteer fire departments were still the norm.

          Health care societies were still active till the mid-20th century.  They were killed off by FDR's wage controls in WWII (which drove employeers to offer health insurance, since they couldn't compete on wages).

          Results count for more than intentions do.

          by VA Classical Liberal on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 02:06:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes indeed (3+ / 0-)

            The diarist may have intended this as "deeply layered snark" (h/t Grant, above - great phrase) but in fact that's exactly how it used to be. We went to a publicly funded "single-firer" system to save money and provide better and more efficient fire coverage. And it worked, too.

            •  By all means, let's go back to pioneer days... (0+ / 0-)

              tear out your furnaces.

              If it was good enough for our ancestors on the frontier, its perfectly good for a first third- world country in the 20th century.

              "Traditional" is a codeword for "reactionary".

              •  Who said anything about going back? (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                theunreasonableHUman

                We're discussing the historical development of fire fighting here, in case you came in late.

                No one said we should go back to fire clubs for most of our fire protection.

                OTOH, I stand by my earlier comment about $20M mansions being built in areas which naturally burn every 10 years or so.  If some dipstick wants to put his dream pile of bricks there, let him pay for his own private fire protection.

                I don't want my taxes subsidizing his splendid isolation.

                Results count for more than intentions do.

                by VA Classical Liberal on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 02:30:00 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  What the OP advocates are corporate "fire clubs". (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Notus

                  your subthread blurs the line and gives the impression that the OP's proposal has some credibility. His clubs would, as usual, benefit the rich, drain funds from the poor, and provide unequal service based on wealth. Democracy? We don't need no steekin' democracy.

                  I would only allow private companies to perform inherently governmental functions with coercive authority (police, fire, jails, etc.) when the government has explicitly refused (by law or rule) to provide that service to a particular locale - for reasons like you cited: a dangerous area that shouldn't be populated.

          •  Yes, I grew up with volunteer firemen fighting (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            VA Classical Liberal

            the fires around us.  I was unaware that there were clubs in colonial America.  I do know that early Albany used its citizens.  Every able bodied person joined in the bucket brigade, so in a sense they were volunteers too.


            The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

            by nupstateny on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 02:24:21 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  This (or something like it) already exists. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    silence, luckylizard, washunate

    Several years ago, during one of the periodic CA wildfires, dKos was up in arms because some of the richest homeowners had private fire protection provided through their insurance companies.

    The complaint then was that "the rich shouldn't have better fire protection than everyone else."

    That seemed kind of dumb to me.  If some rich idiot wanted to build his $20 million house in a natural fire area, I sure as Hell want him to pay for his own fire protection.  No need to jack up my taxes to pay to keep his stately pleasure dome from burning.

    Results count for more than intentions do.

    by VA Classical Liberal on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 01:30:14 PM PDT

  •  Actually fire depts. used to be privatized. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chrisfs, skrekk, HiBob, Notus

    "Even after the formation of paid fire companies in the United States, there were disagreements and often fights over territory. New York City companies were famous for sending runners out to fires with a large barrel to cover the hydrant closest to the fire in advance of the engines. Often fights would break out between the runners and even the responding fire companies for the right to fight the fire and receive the insurance money that would be paid to the company that fought it."  http://en.wikipedia.org/...

    Looks like another case where is was in the best interest to move it to "socialism".

    (-6.50,-6.00)"The GOP claims to be the party of "family values." It turns out they meant Soprano family values." - Gary Kamiya

    by clew74 on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 01:31:12 PM PDT

  •  What purpose would privatizing the fire (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Notus

    department serve?  Why would you love to see this happen?


    The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

    by nupstateny on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 01:43:05 PM PDT

    •  I'd like the companies (0+ / 0-)

      to compete over who's got the fastest response times and survival rates. I'd probably be more likely to survive a catastrophe

      •  Trust me, in a catastrophe it's highly (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Notus

        unlikely that your privatized fire department would respond until after the danger passes.

        How would you know who has the fastest response time if there's only one fire department, privatized or not.  There's no way more than one fire company could function in the same defined area.  


        The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

        by nupstateny on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 02:02:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  You're obviously unaware of the history of (0+ / 0-)

        fire fighting.  Been there, done that; we originally had private fire fighting companies from the 18th to early 20th centuries, and they were an absolute disaster.  Everything from extortion and department-sponsored arson, demand for upfront payment before dousing the blaze, to the confusion caused by competing departments.  And if you didn't have the proper "fire mark", you weren't covered...and your building burnt to the ground while the fire fighters stood by and watched.  In fact, exactly comparable to the current health care market.

        The infamous leader of Tammany Hall, Boss Tweed, got his start in corruption in the private fire market.  We've seen similar privatization problems with the Iraq war.

        Only for certain large private industries like Boeing does it makes sense to have their own fire protection.  For the rest of us, the community support model (socialization) is the only approach which seems to work for certain things.

  •  ooh, easy - stop taxing people! (0+ / 0-)

    That's how we get private markets to replace government services.

    It works every time, too.

  •  I vote Marcus Crassus for fire commissioner (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tonedevil, skrekk

    The rest of Crassus' wealth was acquired more conventionally, through traffic in slaves, the working of silver mines, and judicious purchases of land and houses, especially those of proscribed citizens. Most notorious was his acquisition of burning houses: when Crassus received word that a house was on fire, he would arrive and purchase the doomed property along with surrounding buildings for a modest sum, and then employ his army of 500 clients to put the fire out before much damage had been done. Crassus' clients employed the Roman method of firefighting -- destroying the burning building to curtail the spread of the flames.

    - Crassus

    After reading of judges bribed by private prisons to hand out trumped up jail time, you have the nerve to propose this.

    You are either clueless or this is snark. Because no one could be both informed and serious on this topic.

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