Why We Can't Privatize Fire Fighters... Again

This should be the metric by which we determine what is public and what is private - public being government-run, we all own it collectively, and private being privately owned, it's owned by capitalists, essentially.

The things that are the collective commons - the air we all breathe, the water we all drink, things like that that - that stuff is clearly the function of government - protecting our air, our water, our roads, things like that.

But then there's a second category where there's a little more of a gray area, at least in the United States, at least by our definitions, and that is what are called natural monopolies. Natural monopolies are if you think of your home - how many power cables come into your house? Just one. How many water lines come into your house? Just one. How many septic lines leave your house? Just one. How many cable lines carrying the internet and cable television are coming into your house? Odds are it's just one.

So in each one of those cases those are places where the government should do one of two things: either they should regulate those things as if they were utilities so that the cost is low and the product is widely available, because it is on the edge of being the Commons - it's a natural monopoly so it is naturally anti-competitive and capitalism only works in a competitive environment. You don't have a competitive environment if you've only got one water line or one power line coming into your house. That's number one.

And number two, if the government doesn't regulate it to function as a utility, then the government should simply provide it.

So in the United States, for example, about half of all the electricity generated in this country is generated by state, county or municipally-owned power companies. The other half is generated by private for-profit power companies and we saw how badly that worked out when Enron took down the governor of California - Gray Davis - for political purposes with their rolling blackouts just to get a Republican, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in office. This is part of the corruption of the energy systems by Ken Lay who was running Enron at the time.

So it's more proof that we really need to be asking, what are the natural monopolies that should be heavily regulated and/or simply controlled or owned by government?

But on the other hand, private stuff, I don't want the government making my cars. I used to live in Germany, I remember the Trabbies, the cars that were made by the East German government, they were god-awful things. I don't want the government making my blue jeans. I don't want the government making my clothes or my computers or my TV or anything else that I'm just buying as a consumer.

Police and fire departments are clearly part of the public Commons. This was envisioned by the founders - police, fire, libraries, public roads, these are all things that we all collectively own, so they should be entirely the function of government.

And we really got religion around fire departments I believe after the Chicago Fire in 1871. It used to be in Chicago that you had your choice of different private fire companies and you would buy a medallion from them for a year which was your annual subscription and you would put that medallion on the front of your house. If your house caught on fire and the wrong fire company came by and saw it they would just keep on driving. And people's houses burned down and eventually a whole city burned down because it didn't work. So everybody got that this is an appropriate function of government.


Oldskoold's picture
Oldskoold 6 years 18 weeks ago

Spot on as usual Thom. I still can't understand why some people think that "privitization" makes, in any universe , basic since and construction of the commons "less expensive". They spin the "legasy costs" associated with state or federal retirement pensions and say that's why. Here in the "Once Great State of North Carolina" they (our Koch and ALEC elected legislature) are paying about twice the costs of having State Employees do the same. I never really thought that any elected representative would be such fools but; greed is now the controlling factor of them. Merely in acquiring property for "infrastructure projects such as highways"; condemnation rates on projects contracted to "consultants" as opposed to amicable settlements by state employees are astronomical. And; the "contractors" turn the claim back to the State when it's condemned. No accountability whatsoever. They have their money and are gone..... Jury verdicts are mostly over the rainbow also when property is condemned. At the very least, a "State" employee with the power to use Emminent Domain, should be the one to exercise the right of the government to take property and be accountable several years afterward as to what was said in negotiations. The people have been brainwashed that government is bad. That is so incorrect. I will bless their hearts, for "they know not what they have done". YET! AND I"M AFRAID IT IS DONE!

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 6 years 18 weeks ago

Government still issue contracts to private contractors that milk and bilk with giant salaries, obscene bonuses along with dividend payouts to the (so called) investors

Then they go belly up and leaving taxpayers to bail out

There appears no integrity in the system or process

Kend's picture
Kend 6 years 18 weeks ago

Here the government used to run the liquor stores, DMV, highway maintenance, and years ago they privatized them. Honestly it all worked out great. No more lineups at the DMV, lower liquor prices and the highways are maintained by local companies who care for them very well. Not to mention no pension and healthcare benefit liability. Lots of our rural roads where built by oil companies at no cost to the tax payers and are used by everyone. It can work.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 6 years 18 weeks ago

Eventually the Fascists will get around to privatizing the entire United States intelligence community.....make it a for profit industry with loyal operatives, sort of a 21st century mafia serving only the mega wealthy. So no more government health insurance and federal pensions for intel employees!

BTW: The CIA is the only "intel" agency with the power to conduct covert operations...thus the only agency in my opinion that can thwart Putin's cyber warfare. They have the ability to disrupt and destroy his hold on the Russian citizens much in the same manner he's screwing with our democracy. But they won't because they know what Crooked Donny is being blackmailed with, and Pompeo is just fine with a Kochbagger government anyway... However not all of his employees agree, to say the least!

ckrob's picture
ckrob 6 years 18 weeks ago

Off topic:

Please suggest that legislators now accepting NRA $ be requested to go to the scene of the next school shooting to clean up the blood, brain tissue and move the bodies of the children slaughtered to the hearses. Perhaps that might bring home the reality of the results of their lawmaking neglect.

Outback 6 years 18 weeks ago

ckrob: And immediately after that dispatch them to Afghanistan "to clean up the blood, brain tissue and move the bodies of the children slaughtered to the hearses" after the next wedding party or hospital is hit by one of our drones! Why the fuck hasn't anyone been screaming about that? The number of casualties over there towers above school shooting casualties here! Oh, I get it .... they're "rag heads".

HotCoffee's picture
HotCoffee 6 years 18 weeks ago


Maybe Hollywood with all their chainsaw massacres will help clean up the blood..and the video game producers too. The left never looks at their participation...they dump evil on childrens minds 24/7, while pointing their fingers at the right.

Outback 6 years 18 weeks ago

HotCoffee: I believe you just nailed the root of our "local" problem. Gratuitous violence commercialized. Maybe it's also the reason we, as a "good Christian nation" also look the other way while our military industrial complex brutalizes other people worldwide.One thing is for sure, our media will not be calling anyone out. Until concerned citizens in this country take to the streets again, as they did in the 60's, ain't NOTHING gonna change!

Legend 6 years 18 weeks ago

All those movies and games are played in South Korea. They have "PC" centers with large screens and all of the games you talk about. They show American movies in theaters just as nice as ours. Even serve beer and drinks. Same in most other countries. Only thing missing is the real murders. This is an American problem. Unique to America. What is the difference? Gun Nuts. A gun society. Weapons of mass destruction easily purchased. Hell, Trump just signed a bill protecting the rights of the mentally ill to buy guns. It is a sick society.

Outback do you have any references?


Legend 6 years 18 weeks ago

One of my Senators has received $3.9 million in Bribes from the NRA. Fifth most. This is 1 years worh. That is disgusting. May they rot in Hell.


Outback 6 years 18 weeks ago

Legend: References to what? The fact that we've butchered countless thousands of innocent civilian noncombatants in the Middle East (for example) since GWB's fiasco? If you really really really insist, I could probably dig some up without too much effort.

Beyond that, I agree with your point that the big difference between our society and those in most of the rest of the "developed world" is that we are inherently violent. And here I WILL give you some references (though I won't attempt to embed links here; they are easily found by googling the titles and going to Amazon to read samples of the works: The first is Howard Zen's "A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Ptresent". I've cited it here before. I consider it one of the most important books writen in the 20th century (no, I haven't read them all). Next, for something more contempary, try the trilogy by Chalmers Johnson, the first of which is entitled "Blowback". If you can get through those without having formed some idea of why we Americans are predisposed to blowing ourselves and everyone else to hamburger, then you are one tough, indoctrinated cookie.

HotCoffee's picture
HotCoffee 6 years 18 weeks ago

Most of these mass murders are by males under 30. Perhaps they need special testing before being allowed to purchase a gun. Notice the Military always trys to capture young 17 to 25 year olds.

These mass murders are also mostly in cities.

So maybe cities & rural areas should have different laws, the life circumstances are different. Can take a policeman an hour or more to get where I live. Takes 30 min. to get to an area where there is cell ph. service. Yet where I live you can't carry or purchase easy.

One law does not fit all.

Legend 6 years 18 weeks ago

These mass murder crimes are done by people that are mentally off of their rocker. I have posted many time that beyond the 5 minute background check, each person buying a gun should have to take the MMPI. A psychological test that determines if you are nuts or depressed. If you fail you should not be able to purchase a gun or ammo. This is a highly respected test and would cut down on the crazies. No matter what the results, you should know where you stand mentally.


Outback, do you honestly believe the Taliban is constantly having weddings? Just maybe they say that.

Outback 6 years 18 weeks ago

Legend: Yeah, even the Taliban get married, but it's not the Taliban I'm talking about. I'm not going to scurry off and post a bunch references as we've all been treated to the accounts, or such accounts that get through the filter.

Note: It's Howard Zinn, not Zen. Apologies to anyone who might have searched on the wrong name. Senior moment.

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 6 years 18 weeks ago

#12; 13 - It's about guns

And, the 2nd amendment delusion that a country with a standing army still needs the populace to bear arms

Get this - there was no standing army in 1791


What has happened to common sense?


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