September 4, 2012 by Anders Ingemarson
Have you noticed that in discussions about privatizing certain parts of the economy that are currently heavily financed by taxes, the police and the fire department often get lumped together? Yet they are two very different animals.
The police is one of the three essential functions of a limited government (the other two are the military and the courts). The police protects us against force initiated by our fellow men. How to finance the police under capitalism? With voluntary contributions (more about that some other time).
The fire department, however, is not an essential function of the government. The confusion is understandable as historically fire departments were voluntarily organized as communities were established and at some point or another most communities incorrectly crossed the line and determined that it was an essential “public service”.
But it really isn’t. Fire protection is no different than any other service you purchase. It’s obviously very important; if you’re a homeowner you’d risk a significant portion of your wealth by not buying it. Under capitalism, your bank would probably require you to buy fire protection to lend you the money to buy the house. And your insurance company would most certainly require it to insure you.
Well, isn’t that force you say? No, nobody is forcing you to own a house. You always have the option to rent if for whatever reason you don’t want to buy fire protection.
Be careful not to confuse the roles of the police and the fire department. Argue for a strong police as part of a limited government. Support the separation of state and the fire department.