R.M.Alger

Brilliant Video on Economics: A tribute to Milton Freidman

61 posts in this topic

I do not understand how a fire department can exist in a market situation.

If you ever walk around old New York you'll see cast plaques on residences from the days when there were private fire companies

The only services that are rightfully government monopolies are police and military (and, of course, the courts), since such a monopoly on the use of force in the protection of individuals must be restricted by a representative government. Of course, even private security companies can extend the use of force in the self-defense of an private organization, but they can't go out beyond those bounds. Even private arbitrators have a function, but that is in the context of a common public legal system as last resort.

Many Fire Departments do more then just put out fires; they also run investigations into these fires.

Often times, this turns into a criminal investigation.

To run a proper investigation, the investigators need a clear picture of the methodology used to put out any particular fire, as well as excellent record on how a fire behaved and spread.

While I’m sure private companies could handle putting out fires just fine, it is in the nature of private industries that different methodology will likely be used, and different standards employed. This would undoubtedly slow any investigation that took place.

I think that private companies could respond to fires, just as private security companies and bounty hunters respond to crime, but there needs to be a strict code of behavior that determines how they do so (this is assuming that the investigation side is handled by some government agency.)

Did you know that a record of every fire in the United States is kept by the government?

Several serial arsonists have been caught because of these records. There have also been connection in mob killings; insurance scams (that the insurance companies couldn’t pick up on with single cases); there are many cases where criminals try to hide evidence with fire; there are even cases of people trying to start brushfires to cover up murder.

If private institutions are to take out fires (which they already do) they need to keep detailed records, suitable for a possible future investigation (as well as being admissible in court.)

So while I agree that basic fire protection could be provided by private industry and charity, I am tentative about it; in that is so closely connected to criminal justice.

Early in my college career, I was going to major in criminology and forensic psychology. One thing I learned was that information is hard to gather; and generally speaking, the easier it was to gather information and put it together, the smother an investigation could run.

Cases have been lost in court because different methodology was used to obtain evidence. One such case involves a man who committed crimes in two different States, but because these two States used different ways of gathering and evaluating evidence, nearly all the physical evidence became inadmissible.

In the same sense, if a fire investigation must piece together different kinds of reports from different sources; and then try to use it court; this could easily lead to a cumbersome investigation- and in the result a trial- a possibly crippled case.

That’s the only thing I worry about concerning private fire departments.

-Ryan

P.S. – In case you’re interested, there is a bizarre case of serial arson that turned out to be an arson investigator named John Orr.

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Many Fire Departments do more then just put out fires; they also run investigations into these fires.

Insurance companies investigate all sort of things effectively every day, even though today's insurance are in bed with government and are therefore nowhere near as effective as they could be.

In a properly structured society, arson investigations would fall under the purview of a police department division with the requisite expertise. If the nature of fires mandates that this division be present as private firms extinguish a given fire, so be it.

Consider this cliche:

Wall Street keeps track of tens of millions of transactions every single business day. They also manage to account for every penny of the billions and billions of dollars worth of stocks they trade every single business day.

Govs can't even account for every vote or guarantee that zealots only vote once -- and the number of votes cast is nothing compared to the number of transactions and complexities Wall Street handles so well.

A minor problem NYC had with its fire companies was that, once in a blue moon, a desperate fire concern would light a house on fire so they could take money. That sort of abuse, however, is inherent in any endeavor undertaken by beings with freewill an is, therefore, hardly a reason for expanding government beyond the functions RayK outlined in an earlier post.

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Many Fire Departments do more then just put out fires; they also run investigations into these fires.

Often times, this turns into a criminal investigation.

To run a proper investigation, the investigators need a clear picture of the methodology used to put out any particular fire, as well as excellent record on how a fire behaved and spread.

[snip]

If private institutions are to take out fires (which they already do) they need to keep detailed records, suitable for a possible future investigation (as well as being admissible in court.)

So while I agree that basic fire protection could be provided by private industry and charity, I am tentative about it; in that is so closely connected to criminal justice.

This is no different from many other fields in which standards must be set in terms of methods, potential crime scene documentation, and record keeping. Medical records have not improved due to government regulation of medical care. As someone with biomedical background and 5 years working in various areas at Kaiser Permanente, including implementing their Healthcare Administration data systems and modeling their Coordination of Benefits system, Standards of Care areas of their data warehouse, and supporting Clinical Care systems, I can tell you that bureaucracy generates many more records, but the quality of that information is no better and often worse, because detailed information has to be crammed into predefined encoded slots which may not accurately reflect the actual diagnosis or treatment (for just one reason among many). They are now quasi-governmental and data capture and data quality have degraded rather than improved, even though, again, the data captured, in purely quantitative terms, has increased dramatically. I am not slamming public Fire Departments, but there is no demonstrable correlation between government operation and control and better data capture and analysis. I would argue the opposite is true. And, as one who has studied forensics, I expect you would know that intergovernmental/interdepartmental cooperation is not necessarily any better than government-to-private cooperation, Arthur Anderson (for Enron) excepted, but then we know how that ended up for them.

In the case of fire, as in any other destructive force where criminal action may be involved, documentation would be captured whether public or private and government agents may be called in when foul play is suspected, both to examine that data captured and to investigate the crime scene(s). This works well in other circumstances. Fire would be no different. Again, I'm sure there might be underfunded bozos with a horse cart and a sparklets bottle calling themselves a "fire department," but I doubt that would be a rule: In most of the communities with private fire deparments that I saw on the web in an, admittedly, cursory survey, they created this department because they couldn't get the level of service they needed from public resources and their departments were generally a big improvement.

Again, government has the responsibility to investigate crime, but that is not a justification for them to take over all accounting departments, sports venues, malls, movie houses, horse races, casinos, etc., because crimes are committed there. They will come in when needed and private entities will cooperate. They have and they do.

Early in my college career, I was going to major in criminology and forensic psychology. One thing I learned was that information is hard to gather; and generally speaking, the easier it was to gather information and put it together, the smother an investigation could run.
Me, too. I did take Forensic Chemistry, studied with Vincent Guinn, the man who led the gunshot residue analysis for the Kennedy investigation. It's a fascinating field... I just decided that I didn't want to spend my life focusing on the worst of humanity. But I agree that there must be standards.

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Well, after writing a careful, if long-winded response, I see that JohnRqt slipped in before me with an excellent response along the same lines.

I think the topic under discussion was Friedman's video and his economic thinking. He was definitely an advocate of privatization, but I don't remember if he had anything to say on the subject of private firefighting. He did point out that Underwriter's Laboratories (the UL you see on just about every electrical cord produced in this country) is a private company, yet does a far better, more cost-effective job than comparable governmental regulatory agencies tasked with product approval (his main target: the FDA).

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Early in my college career, I was going to major in criminology and forensic psychology. One thing I learned was that information is hard to gather; and generally speaking, the easier it was to gather information and put it together, the smother an investigation could run.
Me, too. I did take Forensic Chemistry, studied with Vincent Guinn, the man who led the gunshot residue analysis for the Kennedy investigation. It's a fascinating field... I just decided that I didn't want to spend my life focusing on the worst of humanity. But I agree that there must be standards.

This is the exact reason that I decided not to pursue a career in criminal justice. Though I never made it to the forensics classes; my degree was going to be in criminology and forensic psychology, so the early classes tended to focus on the more ‘social’ aspects of crime; I have to say, it was disturbing.

Though it wasn’t required, I started reading the books of John Douglass (one of the guys that piloted the FBI’s forensic psychology department) the stories in this book, while psychologically interesting, managed to keep me up at night.

I also didn’t like, after a few weeks in class, how comfortable everybody became with evil. We would talk about murder, rape, child molestation, extortion, and violence; all in a distant, casual manner.

About a year in, I decided to pursue other interests (though I am still considering joining the small but growing community of forensic animators.)

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JohnRqt and alann,

Both of you make good points, though I still remain unconvinced on what involvement the government should have in fire control.

Though this definitely deserves its own topic by now, I have to ask, what about large scale fires that don’t occur on private land?

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Ryan,

In a totally free society, there would only be private land except for the land that the government would hold that was needed to protect individual rights, such as militray bases, police stations or judicial buildings. The only reason we have a large amount of "public land" today is because of the contradiction that a mixed economic/political system creates.

Why the hesitation with making a fire department private? Why is it that some people think that when someone works for their own benefit they are evil, but when one works for the government they become ordained with untouchable virtues? I totally disagree.

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[...]I have to ask, what about large scale fires that don’t occur on private land?

There's only private land.

As for government buildings, government contracts with private firms all day -- if they didn't they'd look even more inept.

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Ryan,

In a totally free society, there would only be private land except for the land that the government would hold that was needed to protect individual rights, such as militray bases, police stations or judicial buildings. The only reason we have a large amount of "public land" today is because of the contradiction that a mixed economic/political system creates.

Actually, No. You and JohnRqt are both wrong.

Legally speaking, “public land” is merely land protected by the United States but not currently owned by anybody.

If a ninety-year-old women dies with no living relatives and no will, the land is sold; in the time it takes to acquire a new owner, the land is deemed “public” and is in the public register.

Even in a totally free society, there is still “public” land.

With the Homestead Act, not all land was sold, because not all land is desirable; owning property comes with certain legal obligations, even if the government was giving away some land for free, it is still not worth it. To this day, there remains unclaimed land.

The government does not own public land, it merely facilitates it. Though it does have certain obligations towered it; protecting it from foreign occupation, for instance.

Just because the government violates what they can and should do with public land doesn’t make this untrue.

Case and point: even in a perfect, Objectivist society and political system, there will still be “public” land.

Why the hesitation with making a fire department private? Why is it that some people think that when someone works for their own benefit they are evil, but when one works for the government they become ordained with untouchable virtues? I totally disagree.

My argument, or my hesitation, has nothing to do with intentions; but the fact that many of the activities of a private fire department and a proper government would overlap; and I’m not sure all the duties of a fire investigation could be privatized.

I still remain unconvinced, one way or another.

But sense you brought up intentions; I’ll make a quick (though still long winded) point about that.

People only trust people who work for their own benefit when it doesn’t conflict with their own interests. I trust my grocer not to poison my apples because that wouldn’t be in his self interest (plus, he doesn’t seem crazy.) I am more tentative to trust an insurance investigator to give me money because it is nether in his, nor his companies, self-interest to give me any money for my claim.

Now, I know what you are saying, “but, Ryan, if insurance companies jip people on their claims, they’ll lose business, or be brought to court, so it IS in their self-interest to be honest’, very true. But the benefits we give each other are no longer direct (i.e. protection for money), my trust in their honesty comes from me hoping they realize this; on the service level of things, there is an apparent conflict.

Add that to the fact that some insurance company investigators get bonuses based on how little of the original claim they give out; that adds a new factor of apparent conflict (notice I say 'apparent' conflict.)

Saying that, I don’t know why people trust government employees so much, the government employee’s intentions to protect somebody are week at best (the cliché of an apathetic government employee exists for a reason.)

I see no conflicting interests between a private fire department and those it is protecting; except perhaps that they will avoid protecting those that are more challenging or dangerous, the same reason that a health insurer will not insure a chronically ill man; there are ways around that, though.

With all that, my original question still stands, but just to spark things up, I’ll add one more:

If all fire departments are private, that would imply that a person could choose not to employ the services of a local fire department, just as a person has the right not to purchase health insurance. But fire is not like health care, letting a fire burn effects everybody around it. A person doesn’t have the right to endanger other people who do not choose to be endangered; a fire at their house can spread, or create fumes (which in many cases are toxic), or create structural problem that threatens other buildings. Just as if I flew a plane I know will crash over a residential neighborhood, intentionally Not putting out a fire is a violation of others rights not to be endangered by others recklessness.

One way to solve this would be to mandate that all houses need protection against fires, or that they must accept help from some department; but I ask you, if you mandate this, isn’t it basically the same thing as government-run fire departments, the equivalent of the mandatory health insurance proposal of New Hampshire?

- Ryan

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Ryan,

In a totally free society, there would only be private land except for the land that the government would hold that was needed to protect individual rights, such as militray bases, police stations or judicial buildings. The only reason we have a large amount of "public land" today is because of the contradiction that a mixed economic/political system creates.

Actually, No. You and JohnRqt are both wrong.

Legally speaking, “public land” is merely land protected by the United States but not currently owned by anybody.

"Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned." [Ayn Rand, What is Capitalism, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 19]

If you read my post thoroughly you would see that I gave reference to your so called problem by stating the "judicial" system could own land.

Also, in a capitalist society the government could not mandate any such thing as what you have or do not have in your house. In a capitalist society the governments sole job would be to protect it's citizens rights from THE INITIATION OF FORCE and nothing else.

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If all fire departments are private, that would imply that a person could choose not to employ the services of a local fire department, just as a person has the right not to purchase health insurance. But fire is not like health care, letting a fire burn effects everybody around it. A person doesn’t have the right to endanger other people who do not choose to be endangered; a fire at their house can spread, or create fumes (which in many cases are toxic), or create structural problem that threatens other buildings. Just as if I flew a plane I know will crash over a residential neighborhood, intentionally Not putting out a fire is a violation of others rights not to be endangered by others recklessness.

Please explain to me what type of person would sit around and watch their house burn? A criminal, maybe, and we have laws for that. Please show me what type of person spends $500,000 on their house and then torches it without insurance or in a free society fire insurance/fire protection? Also, when a house burns, their is, in most situations, no attempt at the initiation of force against other people, it is an accidental event.

Finally, please explain, if you will, what you think the essence of a moral government is. In other words what is it that you think a governments primary job is.

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If you read my post thoroughly you would see that I gave reference to your so called problem by stating the "judicial" system could own land.

Here is your post in its entirety:

Ryan,

In a totally free society, there would only be private land except for the land that the government would hold that was needed to protect individual rights, such as militray bases, police stations or judicial buildings. The only reason we have a large amount of "public land" today is because of the contradiction that a mixed economic/political system creates.

Why the hesitation with making a fire department private? Why is it that some people think that when someone works for their own benefit they are evil, but when one works for the government they become ordained with untouchable virtues? I totally disagree.

I see no mention of “land in limbo” or land that is not owned by anyone but protected by the government. You mention land used (as in, owned) by the government, but that it is not the same thing.

Also, in a capitalist society the government could not mandate any such thing as what you have or do not have in your house. In a capitalist society the governments sole job would be to protect it's citizens rights from THE INITIATION OF FORCE and nothing else.

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when a house burns, their is, in most situations, no attempt at the initiation of force against other people, it is an accidental event.

You completely misunderstand the “Initiation of Force”, keep in mind that when somebody says that “the governments job is to protect individuals from the initiation of force”; they do not say the “intentional and willful Initiation of Force.”

If my neighbor gets drunk one night and begins to fire his shotgun out his window, do the police have no right to respond? If there is a glitch in a Chinese computer system and they start sending nukes towered us, does the military have no right to respond? If there was a Zombie invasion and my former (now corpse) best friend begins knocking down my door to eat my flesh, is this not in the realm of civil protection?

A person has a right to act irresponsibly in so much as it does not endanger or violate my rights. A person cannot suspend a piano over my head with a shoe string if I don’t want them to do that, nor can they start a sixty foot bonfire on their roof when it has a good chance of failing on mine, his right to control his own property doesn’t extend to destroying mine.

Many times, even if a person doesn’t mean to, a person can initiate force on another; willfulness is not required.

Saying it is not an “Initiation of Force” or a “violation of rights” without willfulness is misdefining the phrase to the point of absurdity.

"Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned." [Ayn Rand, What is Capitalism, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 19]

It is important to remember that dropping context is dangerous, and often leads to inaccuracy.

After all, you say the government can own land for the protection of rights, but where in that quote would you find justification for that?

Perhaps it would logically extend, but perhaps not. In fact, if you only knew Ayn Rand from this quote, you might think she was an Anarchist- Libertarian (I’ve heard enough of then say similar things.)

But do you deny the existence (in a perfectly free society) of property that is owned by nobody but protected by the government? Do you think Ayn Rand denied this?

It is not owned, so you can not call it “private”, nor is it government owned; this will always exist in a free society; for the sake of clarity, we call it “public property.”

You might want to call it something different, but it exists none-the-less.

Please explain to me what type of person would sit around and watch their house burn? A criminal, maybe, and we have laws for that. Please show me what type of person spends $500,000 on their house and then torches it without insurance or in a free society fire insurance/fire protection?

Do you deny the existence of irrational, even insane people? That seems a silly thing to do. There are plenty of people that would destroy there own property (or not properly protect it), if even for the sake of kicks; In Las Vegas, an hour out in the desert and you will find a place where people burn their old cars in a ritualistic manner.

Building a legal system on the assumption that nobodies going to behave irresponsibly is a near suicidal thing to do.

And as I already said, the initiation of force does not have to be intentional in order to be the initiation of force.

Finally, please explain, if you will, what you think the essence of a moral government is. In other words what is it that you think a governments primary job is.

I suppose I’ll give this a try.

Simply: the same as yours; ultimately serving the protection of individual rights and force being used only in the answer to force.

But this is only as good as you define it properly. A person can take this and come to some absurd conclusions.

If your government is going to recognize “individual rights”, you need to properly define what they are.

If you support “objective law”, it must be rigorously explained.

If you say the government must respond to “the initiation of force”, you need to understand precisely what that means.

I am not convinced the government can properly protect the rights of individuals without also putting out fires; Just as it can’t properly protect citizens without policing the streets. I have not made up my mind about this, because I do not have enough information; but the doubt remains.

I will also challenge your implication that the governments protection of rights only applies to the protection of ‘people from people’ (If Godzilla attacked, I would want my military to get involved, though that rarely seems to do any good when giant monsters are concerned.) But this post is already too long to go into that.

Challenging my views on a proper government does not change or invalidate my questions; they do not change the questions in themselves at all.

Even if my view of moral government was completely absurd, my questions can still be valid, in themselves; as can my arguments.

- Ryan

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Do you deny the existence of irrational, even insane people? That seems a silly thing to do. There are plenty of people that would destroy there own property (or not properly protect it), if even for the sake of kicks; In Las Vegas, an hour out in the desert and you will find a place where people burn their old cars in a ritualistic manner.

Building a legal system on the assumption that nobodies going to behave irresponsibly is a near suicidal thing to do.

If a threat to the public exists, then it is proper for the government to act. The threat may take many forms, including arson. In an emergency that threatened expand, private resources could and should be made use of to deal with it. Naturally such use would later be compensated for.

In the case of arson, the fire would be put out by private brigades, but the investigations that followed would be criminal investigations under the jurisdiction of the law.

Your objections, use examples that would be covered under emergency procedures. A house on fire that threatens surrounding buildings must be put out. The owner will face the bill later on, and that bill will be less than the alternative. All parties benefit.

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Legally speaking, “public land” is merely land protected by the United States but not currently owned by anybody.

If a ninety-year-old women dies with no living relatives and no will, the land is sold; in the time it takes to acquire a new owner, the land is deemed “public” and is in the public register.

Even in a totally free society, there is still “public” land.

The only reason that there's land that isn't owned by anyone is because government holds on to it irrespective of demand. Further, land in limbo doesn't need protection.

As for properties that end up abandoned: Government simply supervises the process by which the next owner is determined and recognized -- it doesn't, strictly speaking, own the property. There's no reason why government, as a temporary custodian of property, can't tap into the protection of a privatized fire fighting network.

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Ryan,

You are wrong, as I do understand what initiation of force means. But, it seems to me that you are the one that needs to do a lot more reading and thinking, so I will leave you to it.

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The only reason that there's land that isn't owned by anyone is because government holds on to it irrespective of demand. Further, land in limbo doesn't need protection.

So if the Chinese army began to march into the northlands of the Alaska wilderness, the government should do nothing about that? Government still has certain obligations (i.e. protections) towered land that nobody currently owns.

As for properties that end up abandoned: Government simply supervises the process by which the next owner is determined and recognized -- it doesn't, strictly speaking, own the property.

I do say this explicitly in my posts above; but in the time it takes to find a new owner, the land is deemed “public”.

There's no reason why government, as a temporary custodian of property, can't tap into the protection of a privatized fire fighting network.

I though of his later. I's a Good point. Right now, the government hires private contractors for avalanche control to protect small towns (which are threatened by dangers on unowned land.) Contracting to a fire service might actually make for a better product when it comes to large scale fire control.

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If a threat to the public exists, then it is proper for the government to act. The threat may take many forms, including arson. In an emergency that threatened expand, private resources could and should be made use of to deal with it. Naturally such use would later be compensated for.

In the case of arson, the fire would be put out by private brigades, but the investigations that followed would be criminal investigations under the jurisdiction of the law.

Your objections, use examples that would be covered under emergency procedures. A house on fire that threatens surrounding buildings must be put out. The owner will face the bill later on, and that bill will be less than the alternative. All parties benefit.

These are all excellent points. And I agree, emergency situations should be handled differently then day-to-day operations.

Thanks for the reply.

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The only reason that there's land that isn't owned by anyone is because government holds on to it irrespective of demand. Further, land in limbo doesn't need protection.

So if the Chinese army began to march into the northlands of the Alaska wilderness, the government should do nothing about that? Government still has certain obligations (i.e. protections) towered land that nobody currently owns.

Government having the right or obligation to defend that land against the People's Army is different from government owning that land.

As for properties that end up abandoned: Government simply supervises the process by which the next owner is determined and recognized -- it doesn't, strictly speaking, own the property.

I do say this explicitly in my posts above; but in the time it takes to find a new owner, the land is deemed “public”.

Notice that you needed to put the term "public" in quotes.

"Custodianship" and "ownership" aren't synonyms.

Miss Rand can explain all this far better than most FORUM members can. Enjoy your studies.

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Government having the right or obligation to defend that land against the People's Army is different from government owning that land.

--

"Custodianship" and "ownership" aren't synonyms.

Just as the word “public” does Not mean “government owned.”

I’m agreeing with you, the government, for the most part, does not own land. I never said that the government owned pubic land, quite the opposite, in fact.

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Government having the right or obligation to defend that land against the People's Army is different from government owning that land.

--

"Custodianship" and "ownership" aren't synonyms.

Just as the word “public” does Not mean “government owned.”

I’m agreeing with you, the government, for the most part, does not own land. I never said that the government owned pubic land, quite the opposite, in fact.

I would go even further and say that the land is just that land that is not owned nor public. The land is in limbo between ownership of one person and another person. The term "public land" is actually a collectivist term which Ayn Rand does a very good job of obliterating in her many works.

On a side note, I did make a mistake, but it was not taking Ayn Rand's statement out of context. The mistake was assuming that because we are on THE FORUM for Ayn Rand Fans that you have read and understand her works, next time I will know better.

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I don't understand your distinction here. "Profit" vs. "non-profit" is a distinction established by the IRS solely for tax purposes.

By "non-profit" I mean an economic entity who primary purpose is something other than making a profit. Non-profits would include governments, charities, homeowners associations, fraternal organizations, churches, etc. whose primary purpose involves the creation of non-monetary values.

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Just as the word “public” does Not mean “government owned.”

They sure act as if they own it.

Can I go to an alphabet agency and put in a claim for a parcel of land?

Can oil companies drill for oil the moment they discover a reserve on public land?

Do they not treat unused land as yet another arena for their agenda?

How about the National Parks? Setting aside the perversity of the concept, should wild animals that pose a threat to hikers and owners of bordering priorities be introduced in these areas?

If there is a hair to split between the definitions of "public" and "government owned" in this context, it's on the semantics level. Since they do as they please with it, government owns that land. They shouldn't.

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Allow me to ask a question on the nature of private roads. I have run into a roadblock (no pun intended) in my thinking, and can't seem to resolve it out of hand. While I'm sure the billing could be run effectively (and I think that in a free society, whether a company knew where you were or not would be of little importance, because the government would have no power to coerce them into handing the information over), I still have one thing I wonder about. If a company is looking to make a quick buck as opposed to doing good business and gaining people's trust, couldn't it buy the roads surrounding a neighborhood and charge very high (although payable) rates? I suppose those rates would be fixed in the contract you have with the road company, as the homeowner, but what if said company sold it to another? I suppose all of those contracts would be transferred as well, but even so, if the company is sold to another and then the contracts are renegotiated, they could institute the very high rates then. What would prevent this -- what am I missing?

My only thought is that for-profit companies take a long-term approach to profits and recognize that it is not in their self-interest to effectively "blight" and area with ridiculous rates (causing property values to fall, attracting increasingly poorer clients, who cannot pay the high rates, or even those which could have been paid happily by the wealthier former owners). But hucksters do exist, only looking for that short-term gain. What would stop them?

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Allow me to ask a question on the nature of private roads. I have run into a roadblock (no pun intended) in my thinking, and can't seem to resolve it out of hand. While I'm sure the billing could be run effectively (and I think that in a free society, whether a company knew where you were or not would be of little importance, because the government would have no power to coerce them into handing the information over), I still have one thing I wonder about. If a company is looking to make a quick buck as opposed to doing good business and gaining people's trust, couldn't it buy the roads surrounding a neighborhood and charge very high (although payable) rates? I suppose those rates would be fixed in the contract you have with the road company, as the homeowner, but what if said company sold it to another? I suppose all of those contracts would be transferred as well, but even so, if the company is sold to another and then the contracts are renegotiated, they could institute the very high rates then. What would prevent this -- what am I missing?

My only thought is that for-profit companies take a long-term approach to profits and recognize that it is not in their self-interest to effectively "blight" and area with ridiculous rates (causing property values to fall, attracting increasingly poorer clients, who cannot pay the high rates, or even those which could have been paid happily by the wealthier former owners). But hucksters do exist, only looking for that short-term gain. What would stop them?

Other than that you almost entirely answer the question in your own post... nothing would stop them. Once in a while, a company may sell out their long term interests for short term gain contrary to expectation, and disrupt those around them.

This is just part of living in a capitalist society. One constantly is affected by decisions that others make. Making decisions such as which property to buy involves weighing risks and taking risks. However, the great benefit of living in a capitalist society is that one can use contracts to protect oneself, to make it easier to plan long-range. Others cannot initiate force against another. Contrast this to the alternative--government command of all property and usurpation of contracts--where one cannot plan at all because contracts cannot be made, or they can be invalidated anytime.

This is in no way a flaw of capitalism, but rather, an effect of the nature of man, and man's needs of survival. Capitalism as a system cannot guarantee a perfect outcome in all cases because man has free will, and is not infallible. Freedom includes the freedom to act irrationally (in a manner that does not initiate force against others) and to make errors. Wishing for a system that guarantees a perfect outcome in all cases is wishing for the metaphysically impossible.

Or, another way of answering your question, figuratively rather than literally--what would stop them, is people reading the contracts they sign and making sure that they are satisfied with their situation given the range of options open to those around them that could potentially affect them negatively, weighed against the probability that such people will make those decisions.

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If you ever walk around old New York you'll see cast plaques on residences from the days when there were private fire companies.

Which leads to the obvious question: why are the fire departments now government run or government funded?

Bob Kolker'

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If you ever walk around old New York you'll see cast plaques on residences from the days when there were private fire companies.

Which leads to the obvious question: why are the fire departments now government run or government funded?

Bob Kolker'

The same answer as the answer to these questions, why does Britain have socialised healthcare? Why does the US have social security?

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