Daniel Foster: Fulton firefighters’ actions were reprehensible
I have no problem with this kind of opt-in government in principle — especially in rural areas where individual need for government services and available infrastructure vary so widely. But forget the politics: what moral theory allows these firefighters (admittedly acting under orders) to watch this house burn to the ground when 1) they have already responded to the scene; 2) they have the means to stop it ready at hand; 3) they have a reasonable expectation to be compensated for their trouble?
The counterargument is, of course, that this kind of system only works if there are consequences for opting out. For the firefighters to have put out the blaze would have opened up a big moral hazard and generated a bunch of future free-riding — a lot like how the ban on denying coverage based on preexisting conditions, paired with penalties under the individual mandate that are lower than the going premiums, would lead to folks waiting until they got sick to buy insurance.
But that analogy is not quite apt. Mr. Cranick, who has learned an incredibly expensive lesson about risk, wasn’t offering to pay the $75 fee. He was offering to pay whatever it cost to put out the fire. If an uninsured man confronted with the pressing need for a heart transplant offered to pay a year in back-premiums to an insurer to cover the operation, you’d be right to laugh at him. But imagine if that man broke out his check book to pay for the whole shebang, and hospital administrators denied him the procedure to teach him a lesson.
I’m a conservative with fairly libertarian leanings, but this is a kind of government for which I would not sign up.