In a truly free market, communities would come together to pay for their own public services. But under our current system, public goods and are paid for by taxpayers who often don’t get a say in anything. However, fire departments offer a unique perspective into how communities, and even private companies, are setting an example for public services.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Connor: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: Hi, Connor.
Connor: You and I are obviously not necessarily fans of things that are so-called publicly funded, which really just means, you know, taxpayer-funded, forcefully taken from us. You know, and this is because what’s publicly funded is taken through coercion, it’s taken through force. And I think police departments, you know, a lot of people kind of revere their local police and back the blue or whatever, but it’s interesting to think that they’re also an example of something that’s publicly funded, something that’s taxpayer-funded, and maybe there’s a different way of doing it. They not only get federal dollars, but they often also present a large threat to people. You know, not all police officers are heroes. Not all of them are bad guys by any means. It’s not like a few bad apples, you know, mean that everyone’s, necessarily awful. But you get these differences where you’re like, well, wait a minute. When they have the power of the government and the ability to make us pay for them, it introduces these interesting questions, about how the system is set up. But today, I actually wanna talk about not police departments, but fire departments. and, you know, they’re also funded by taxpayers, but how they kind of provide a solution to funding these public services, you know, much as we just talked about police, and there’s other public services as well. So maybe for starters, I wanna say that fire departments, they still get funding from tax dollars, but this is usually done locally. They’re not really getting all this federal money or they’re taking people’s money off the street. Like, you know, we’ve talked, I think in the before at least a little bit about something called Civil asset forfeiture, how the government can just take your stuff so they, hey, a hundred thousand dollars, now it’s ours and we’re gonna put it in our budget. Like, firefighters don’t do that, and so, but because it’s also taxed locally, there’s a bit more say into how the money is spent. But even then, I think it’s still a problem. But unlike police departments who have the monopoly on alleged, you know, public security, what I mean by that is they kind of have the control over their city. They provide the public security. I can’t start my own like, police force to go investigate, you know, theft of a bicycle and have like what’s called vigilante justice. Like, you know, Connor Squad, we’re gonna go like, hold people accountable. Like, you can’t do that cuz the police have a monopoly on force.
Brittany: I’d fund the Connor Squad.
Connor: Let’s do it. Go fund me and this the last episode. So, and so that’s, you know, alleged, public security that the police are providing and they have a monopoly in their area. But in the firefighting world, there’s actually a competition that’s allowed to occur, which I think is cool.
Brittany: Yeah, and there’s actually a great story about this that I love telling, partially because it has to do with Kanye West. And even though he’s crazy, I love watching him be crazy. So I get to talk about him today. So in 2018, there were these terrible fires in California, which anybody who lives near California or even listens to the news, California always has a really bad fire season. There’s a lot of winds there, there’s a lot of, you know, brush that catches on fire. So in 2018, it was really terrible. I think it killed more than 58 people. 250,000 people had to abandon their homes because they were evacuated. In fact, one of my friends, he lived next door to Elon Musk for a while, which I like to name Drop. they, their whole neighborhood was evacuated. It was very scary. So, this happened and eventually the fire spread up to Kanye West neighborhood. Now, Kanye West lived in a very rich neighborhood, as you can guess. I believe his home was like 60 million, but it was up in the hills. But here’s the difference. So first of all, the public firefighters were doing everything they could, like nobody is belittling their efforts, but it wasn’t enough because the fire was just out of control. Now, Kanye West, he had what are like a private firefighter insurance policy. And I love this because you and I have before talked about, you know, what a private society would look like. And actually, a lot of it would be insurance based, right? Like, you’d take out a policy and maybe you would have a private security who’s like a police, or maybe you would have a private this. Well, this is allowed to happen in fire departments, and that’s exactly what Kanye West had. So he had an insurance policy that came with private firefighters. And this didn’t only save his home, but actually saved all his neighbors’ homes as well, because they don’t just show up after things catch on fire, right? The people say this about police all the time. The police come to your house after you’ve been shot and killed. Right? They don’t prevent it.
Connor: They write up a report after the crime.
Brittany: After. Yeah, exactly. Hopefully, you weren’t shot and killed, but you get the point. well, with firefighters that’s often similar that they get called after the fire, right? Well, in this case, because the fire was spreading so quickly, the private firefighters were coming up to the house before it even happened. We had spread and they were taking what’s called preventative measures. So they were hosing down the area to not only, the Kanye West home, but the neighbor’s home. They were creating what was called a fire break around the property, which is kind of like a buffer between your home and the fire. And according to one source, and I’ll link this in the bottom of the show notes, but like the West, neighbors were actually really grateful because they didn’t have these private firefighters, but because Kanye and his then-wife Kim did have these private firefighters, the whole neighborhood was spared from being caught up in this fire. But, the rest of the public did not seem to be as happy about this.
Connor: Well, I, remember when this, story happened. So to your point about others in the public, like being upset or whatever, like people were attacking, Kanye for this happening, instead of like praising the private firefighters or saying how great that they could come and, you know, save their home or the neighbor’s home. I remember there was, there’s this, I don’t even know what you call it, like a website called Vice, and they’re, I think awful on a bunch of stuff. But like they, had this article where it said, actually just pulled it up here. It says, rich people, pay for private firefighters while the rest of us burn. Right? Like, like this kind of envious, jealous, you know, oh, us poor people, you know, we can’t afford firefighters. We just get the government–funded version. Whereas those rich snobs get their own, you know, private firefighters and you know, here instead of praising the free market, these people are trying to like, make the issue about income inequality. But I think what this comes down to is property owners have an incentive to protect their property. And if you own property, if you own a lot of property, then you have a strong incentive to protect it. And maybe you’re thinking, well, the government firefighters aren’t that great and so I want to have an added level of protection to protect this massive investment. You know, if his home was, what do you say, $60 million?
Brittany: $60 million.
Connor: Right? Then it’s probably worth it. Like I know like models will like ensure their legs, they’ll get insurance for their legs or their hands, you know, if they’re a hand model or things like that,
Brittany: Because that is their business. That’s like their money, that’s their bread. Yeah.
Connor: Yeah. And so like some things, you know, if you have ownership over something, you want to take good care of it. And, because you want to keep it secure, you want to keep it safe. And, you know, instead of this being like a threat to government firefighters, as this website suggests, I think it offers a little bit of maybe hope that government firefighters might not have to tackle everything on their own. That people can turn to private firefighters as well who can help, right? Cuz the object isn’t to like, oh, we should only have government firefighters only, they should be allowed to fight fires. Like, I’m sorry, but if I’ve got access to a hose, you know, I’m gonna be out there too, like, you know, spraying down my roof and trying to.
Brittany: They’ll probably make you get a license, Connor.
Connor: Probably right? Well, actually what they do is they for safety, right? They’ll quarantine the area, they’ll kick everyone out. But like, yep, you know, if I can, I wanna be fighting the fire, because it’s my property and I wanna protect it. And so look, if I had a bunch of money and, I could then I would probably get this as well because I wanna make sure that if the government firefighters don’t follow through, or let’s say there’s not enough of them, right? If the fire’s everywhere, they’re gonna be spread thin. So I want to hire people on my behalf to go in and say, Hey, you know, go protect my property. And that I think is the free market at work. And frankly, I think of it like Tesla, when Tesla first came out, what was it called? Like the Roadster, it was super expensive, cost a bunch of money cuz there weren’t a lot of customers. But then when they earned enough money from sales, then they could go produce the next version of their car, which was cheaper, and then a bunch of people bought that one, and that gave Tesla a lot of money so that they could then, you know, go make an even cheaper car. And so I think of it that way with something like private firefighters, right? Who knows? It could be, it’s probably really expensive right now cuz there’s not a big market for people who want private firefighters. But as a bunch of rich people says we want this, all of a sudden there’s a lot of private firefighting companies and they’re like, Hey, how can we offer our services to more people? Maybe we could come up with like a lower cost option or we could, you know, find a way to have a bunch of customers who can pay a smaller amount. And pretty soon, because Kanye West and some others got the ball rolling, we now have access as poorer people to, you know, private firefighters. And to me this should be welcomed. I think often what you see is people on the left, they support unions. which Brittany, why don’t you kind of describe what a union is?
Brittany: Yeah, I could rant about this all day and I’ve talked about this a few times. So Union is like, you get a small group of people together to negotiate for a big group of people. So we talked about teacher unions a couple of episodes ago, and if our listeners remember we talked about that there’s something called collective bargaining where. Basically, you have an organization not negotiating on behalf of the individual, but on a group. So they’re ignoring individual needs, they’re ignoring individual wants, and they’re saying, you’re gonna pay all of us the same amount. You’re gonna treat all of us this way. But the worst part about unions is that the membership is a lot of time used, is gotten by force. right? You force somebody into it and then you make them pay for it. So I get very heated about this, so I get, I kind of ramble on a little bit, but unions are bad.
Connor: Well, the point here is that like firefighters or police, you often get people on the left who think that capitalism is bad and that these corporations, these rich people shouldn’t be allowed to have so much money. And so we workers, we need to unionize, and we need to fight for what’s ours and extract as much as we can under the threat of all of us quitting, right? Like, if you don’t give us what you want.
Brittany: Striking, yeah.
Connor: Yeah, we’re gonna go on strike or we’re gonna quit. We’re gonna, you know, take your business down. And so I think it’s that way with, you know, the instance of firefighters too. You get people who feel like, well, our police and our firefighters, right? They have this union and they should be paid a ton of money and have all these benefits and more and more and more. And it’s like, well, you know, again, things improve with the competition. Prices go down, quality improves. And so if private firefighters are, competing against their government counterparts, maybe that’s not such a bad thing because for you and I, that means, you know, more protection for our home and it’s gonna cost less and there’s gonna be more choices, right? Not just the fire, you know, station down the road, but there could be like four companies to choose from and, then even if I’m not one of their customers, they might still, you know, spray water on my house and fight the fire. Even if it’s not the like with Kanye West’s neighbors. I just think, this is a really interesting thing to explore whether we can start to see more private market opportunities, which contrary to what that website said, I think is a really good thing.
Brittany: No, I think you’re right. And one thing that I think this can kind of spark in our minds is if, imagine if we can do this with something like, you know, firefighting, why can’t we do it with something like policing you? It’s in each of our self-interest to stay safe or to even just feel and stay, you know, feel safe. maybe we’re not even safe. It’s an illusion of safety sometimes, but because the state has a monopoly on laws, that means they have the monopoly on the policing power. So we don’t have the option to hire, you know, a private police department for our little neighborhood. Let’s say you lived in a cul-de-sac and you wanted to do your own little, you know, police force, Connor, what did you call it? The Connor squad? Yeah, yeah. You couldn’t do that, right? You’re not allowed to. But with fire fighting, there’s like this little loophole where you’re allowed to have these experiments with, with privatization, and I think that’s really great. The same would be true of utility companies, you know, gas and electric. We don’t have a free market in these things. Usually, there is just one you can choose from and that’s not a choice. So there’s one, you get one. So imagine if we had, you know, privatization in these areas where we had a com competitor to government, you know, provided and I would say solutions, but it’s not really a solution. So I think that’s what kind of gets my brain going when I hear these stories is, okay, if it works here, why couldn’t it work in some other area?
Connor: I think these are enticing thoughts to think because they’re so different than what, we’re used to. And you know, I think it’s predictable to see people complain about this, you know, the rich are entitled to this. I’m like, yeah, but the rich have access to all kinds of things, you know before any of us do. But eventually, we get access to it too. Like, do you know how much it costs for like the first cell phones that came out? I mean, it was like the tens.
Brittany: Big bricks.
Connor: Yeah. They were these big ugly bricks and they were like tens of thousands of dollars. I mean, I think in, in terms of today’s money, there were like 80 to $90,000,
Brittany: My goodness.
Connor: For the first cell phones. And of course, you might like, oh, we shouldn’t have cell phones because only the rich have them, and how dare they. like, but today, you know, the poorest people in Africa have cell phones. Yeah. I just learned, right? You know, like, recently El Salvador, adopted Bitcoin as its, you know, official currency and there’s poor people all over El Salvador who have phones and they’re using Bitcoin because they all have cell phones to like send, you know, money to one another. And so like, who cares that it started with some rich people? If that means that the rest of us can get access to it. And if that’s how private firefighter services need to start, I’m all about it because, you know, let Kanye West and others prove the model, show that it works. Which it did. I mean, newsflash, it worked.
Brittany: It worked. Yeah.
Connor: It helped. So we’ll see, what the future holds if the rest of us will get access to it soon. Fun topic to think about. Thanks, Brittany, as always. Until next time, we’ll talk to you later.
Brittany: Talk to you later.