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(en) Freedom 6404 22 Feb, 2003 - Towards a libertarian fire service

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 2 Apr 2003 10:06:24 +0200 (CEST)


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I read Richard Garner's vision of a future fire service
with some amusement (letters, 25th January). He
argues that fire brigades could get a 'reward' from
insurance companies if they put a fire out. Clearly
they'd try to reach fires insured by companies offering
the highest rewards, so free market competition would
result in several brigades racing to the same fires, the
most lucrative ones. This would be highly inefficient
compared to a non-market approach.

There's also the issue of those who can't afford to pay
or who can only afford the insurers offering lower
rewards. Fire brigades, of course, wouldn't visit the
first at all, while the second Ğ with their minimal
insurance Ğ would get help eventually if they're lucky.
All this is without mentioning the delay involved while
brigades check whether they'll get a reward or not, and
whether it would be high enough to make their work
profitable. Lives would be lost, simply because of
market forces. But what are people compared to
profit?

Richard says he's against state property being sold off
to 'corporate cronies' of the politicians, yet he doesn't
see that his own 'solution' would result in firefighters
becoming serfs to the insurance corporations. After all,
these are huge companies we're talking about, whose
economic clout would far outweigh that of a single fire
station. The firefighters would be squeezed by big
business, just as farmers are squeezed by the
supermarkets.

I have to ask what, in Richard's view, makes his
'solution' libertarian? He says the state has "no right
to exist", and so can't sell off resources on the grounds
that nobody has the right to sell "what they don't have
a right to own". But this applies to all property, not
just state property. The current distribution of
property, like the system of property rights itself, is
the product of centuries of state violence, mostly in
support of private power and against communal life.
Why should capitalist firms, such as insurance
companies, be excluded from Richard's tirade?
Property, after all, is theft.

As Richard claims to be an anarchist, he should know
that property, like the state, has no 'right to exist'. Yet
he talks about 'legitimate property', by which he
means property allowed by law! His proposal would
involve giving more power to corporations (and so,
despite his claims otherwise, it really is 'privatisation
freakery'). It would simply increase private power, and
is clearly not libertarian at all.

Richard worries that any 'alternative' to his scheme
would involve forcing everybody to join the same fire
service. But that's not true. A communal and
anarchistic system would just mean everyone getting
their fires put out, regardless of their ability to pay,
just as everyone who sinks is currently 'forced' to be
saved by the Royal National Lifeboats Institution.
How authoritarian!

What would an libertarian fire service look like? In the
short term, the fire brigade should be handed over to
the firefighters and a federation of stations created to
handle joint requirements (such as responding to
fires). As state robbery, aka taxes, will be around for a
while, I suggest that the ones which bolster state
power be used to fund it. In other words fight fires, not
wars. Until we create an anarchist society, every
proposed solution to a problem will operate in a
capitalist environment and so can only be
'anarchist-like'. The important questions are whether
it would better the lives of working class people and
whether it would decrease or increase the strength of
private or state power.
Iain McKay

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