Monday, January 30, 2012

I'm glad to live in a county that makes public investments

Today made me appreciate Arlington County a little more - we had a carbon monoxide alarm go off in the apartment and Arlington County Fire Department came over and provided some great assistance. Everything is good now. It's good to live in a civilized society where we pay taxes and then get together to decide what we want to do with that money to make the community better. And it is better for having ACFD.

This also provides a great example of the emergence of government institutions. We used to have an all volunteer, independent fire department. As the county grew citizens decided it was appropriate to pay career firefighters to help the independent department out, and now that's evolved into a fully public department. Different societies at different points need different institutions, and when free people are allowed to make those decisions you usually get the best institutions. Maybe one day we'll re-privatize it if that's appropriate (like the post office - it seems like it doesn't make all that much sense to keep that public anymore). Who knows.

Also, for those who are curious, ACFD was the first on the scene and led the fire-fighting at the Pentagon (which is in Arlington).


  1. Why was it ever necessary to have a government-run or monopolistic post office? (Post Office Department and USPS respectively)

  2. I'm not sure how to answer "necessary". I'm not sure if it was ever "necessary", but I'd say the network effects of starting such a system up and the absence of any significant alternative for quite some time made it a fairly reasonable thing to put some money into.

  3. Apparently you haven't read enough Lysander Spooner? American Letter Mail Company? Wouldn't a smarter policy have been to have a government Post Office subject to competition which would be abolished as soon as significant competition arose?

  4. I am well aware of Spooner and the American Letter Mail Company. I have not endorsed the monopoly or shutting Spooner down. It obviously would have been better if they didn't. I still maintain it was a good idea to have a government post office.

    And I think if anything I probably read more than I necessarily need to.

  5. There's nothing inherent in the nature of fire prevention and extinguishment that requires a government monopoly. I mean, you could pay a monthly bill to ADT or any numerous alarm security systems and have a professional, private response to monoxide, fire, theft, etc etc. It sounds like you have anecdotal evidence of a public institution that did some good. I mean, government is only human, so it's bound to do to good from time to time.

    I think the title of the piece should read "I'm glad to live in a country that makes public consumption decisions" because government cannot invest in the proper definition of the term.

    1. re: "I think the title of the piece should read "I'm glad to live in a country that makes public consumption decisions" because government cannot invest in the proper definition of the term."

      Of course it can. You've said this before. It's nonsense.

      I agree - nothing requires a government monopoly. As far as I know, no such monopoly exists. I doubt it would make too much of a difference in this case if it did or not. I'm just glad we have such a professional department here. Obviously that recognition doesn't denigrate what I'm sure would be a great private department.

      We need not always juxtapose public and private institutions.

      Indeed, since property itself is a (useful) legal and social fiction, it seems misleading to juxtapose the two.


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