In my journey through the liberty movement, I discovered that a free market approach to solving issues is about the best framework we can implement in order to solve out nations problems. Finding an example which embodied those ideals, and shined with success in it’s implementation was much harder to prove, I was finding. I feel that without an example to look towards as a template, most people have a hard time making a leap to something new, consistent and comfortable will always win the day. I had to find an example to help showcase why I feel a decentralized form of government, limited federal government is the best way to provide the most freedom and opportunity to the people it hopes to govern.
To be clear, what I mean is the decentralization of policy, letting our local towns and cities try new laws and policies in order to let the free market work, and show us the most efficient and acceptable policy per the market. Better put, let the people show us which policy is better, and which implementation of it, the most effective. Not to mention the added benefit of allowing local governments to act as testing grounds for new innovative ways to deliver that service that the people demand.
I needed a government service or institution that is governed at the local level, which the majority feels is essential, and it’s implementation follows free market principles, perfectly suited to the people it serves. I finally discovered that perfect example, something I could showcase which embodies those attributes and can be the proud example of limited government on a grand scale while maintaining it’s small town charm.
The Answer is Simple: The Fire Department!
The Fire Departments across our country are the perfect example of local government, market solutions, catered to the need of the people rather than a blanket rule handed down from the federal government. In large cities, the people pay the salaries of the firemen and employ full time career firemen and woman to ensure they have the fastest response times possible, and the equipment to reach them when in need. Investment in technology and training to provide the very best in fire safety, prevention and rescue also doesn’t come cheap. It’s because of that, large cities like New York, Boston and Chicago value their fire departments more than their rural counterparts in terms of budgets.
Through their votes and elected officials, the people voice their desire for the fire department which will provide them the level of service they feel can be prepared to respond to the task at hand given the environment. For major cities, where someone 14 floors down can put your family at risk by falling asleep with the stove on, h
aving a highly trained and professional department of firemen ready to charge up those stairs and save you is important. That training, courage and resolve is only achievable with proper funding and full time, experienced personnel, only achievable with higher taxes, and budgets.
In more rural areas, you’d be lucky to find a building which is taller than 3 stories, and most of those are grain elevators. The people of these communities do not require the rigorous needs of a highly trained, funded fire department in comparison to large cities. In most parts of the country, firemen and women are rarely paid and operate as volunteer associations to provide protection and assistance in emergency situations for their community. These volunteer associations in turn cost far less to operate on smaller town budgets, making a perfectly suited policy, for the people, and the
Some fire departments will not even put out the fire unless you have paid your service fee for the year. Last year a couple living in Obion County Tennessee had to learn this lesson the hard way when their mobile home caught fire. After calling 911 and reporting the fire only to have to save their own belongings as the south Fulton fire department watched on, on the ready in case anyone was in harm’s way. When a reluctant resident fails to pay their fee, these fire departments will act when life is at danger.
This kind of fee-for-service approaches to government teaches a valuable lesson of personal responsibility that is sorely missing in today’s’ society, More importantly, if Obion County, or any other rural citizens want to ensure they are covered in the event of a fire, it is within their power to vote for higher county taxes in order to pay for that service. Many of these fee based fire protection programs are incredibly affordable too, for $75.00 a year (21 cents a day), that couple could have been protected in their time of need.
Why does any of this matter?
Looking towards this model of providing government services, at variable levels is a perfectly American approach to government; it’s why our founding fathers were so adamant about State’s rights. Ensuring that what might work for you may not necessarily work for me. It’s the perfect Constitutional argument on how local decisions provide the best form of government for the people and by the people, If at any time the current situation isn’t working for a town, county, or state, they can organize and vote to change the way they are governed.
It’s the perfect example for how all the issues should be solved in today’s federal government. I always knew a decentralized approach to government was the best form, but I never could find an example that so readily embodies the lessons and structure of this as does the Fire Departments across this country. People will always find the best solution for them and their family, and their community.
Washington rarely has a perspective which can understand the wide ranging needs of the people of this country.
Most important issue we lose at when we implement federal policy as a blanket policy, we lose the ability to innovate and discover new methods on how to deliver, manage, or provide a service which the people are looking for. When we allow the states to decide how best to provide for their people, we have unique labs across the country testing to see which one works the best. The Free Market, allowed to spur on innovation and ingenuity will dramatically help craft and implement the best policy over time for all, and that’s not just my opinion, that’s our history.
So next time when someone rolls their eyes at the idea of empowering the people to find the best solution, whether it’s healthcare, or social issues, you can point to the best fire departments in the world and show them that we the people can determine how best to suit out needs, not Washington.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect official positions of the RLC.