Good Hearted

A news item from back in September still haunts me. This was about a community in Tennessee that decided to fund their fire department not with property taxes, as it is done virtually everywhere else, but by a special “fee” that property owners were responsible to pay each year. As the story went, if you didn’t pay, you were not entitled to fire protection services in your community. Some poor fellow’s family home caught on fire, and the fire department responded as usual. When they got there, the chief informed the property owner that since he hadn’t paid, they were not willing to help, so they stood around and watched his house burn. They also stayed on the scene because the neighbor had paid, and they were prepared to spring into action in case the fire spread. The property owner offered to pay the chief then and there, but he claimed he was not authorized to accept money. The man’s home burnt to the ground.

That story got my attention, and while sifting through my Google News, I came across a video clip of the Glenn Beck radio show where he and his co-host commented on the incident. Glen’s point seemed to be that the fire department acted appropriately, and his co-host repeatedly mocked the property owner’s pleading with the fire chief in a fake accent.

Now the world is full of crackpots, and these radio personalities are just two of the many out there. What bothers me is that these guys are *popular.* What is it in our makeup that makes mean-spiritedness so broadly appealing? You’d think all anyone would have to do is watch this sort of thing once, and that would be the last time.

Which brings me to the point of this blog. Alice and I had dinner the other night with 3 of our good friends. The topic of conversation was broad and varied, but in most every case, the intent was toward good-heartedness. Would such an interaction make good TV/radio? I wonder. I think we have opportunities in life to reward behavior we find to our liking, especially in a democracy. The last election cycle was telling, in my opinion. We received dozens of full color large post cards and phone calls that contained no discernible information, but rather baseless claims regarding their opponent’s record and/or philosophy. I was hopeful it would backfire, but it didn’t.

Are we really so easily fooled by this trickery, or are we in fact mean-spirited and selfish creatures. If the later is true, should we encourage this behavior in each other, or do our best to put it behind us.

I think if I would have been a member of that fire department, I would have resigned right then and there. I might also have illegally used department equipment to try to douse the fire. The real culprit seems to me to be the community leaders that implemented such a policy. Taxes are not evil. Taxes are a symbol of our willingness to pool our resources in order to make things better for all of us. Increase your property taxes so that your fire department is properly funded, and make the resource available to everyone that needs it. By forcing an additional fee, households are forced to make a decision, and sometimes we make bad ones.

One Response to “Good Hearted”

  1. David says:


    Taxes are a symbol of our willingness? Since when do they have anything to do with “willing”? They are mandatory and those who don’t pay end up with their personal freedom or property taken away for not agreeing to the pool. This is why our founding fathers revolted. They felt they did not have valid input into the way their property was being used to benefit society.

    lIke in business, people should be allowed to opt out. If they opt out, they should bear the consequences. Had the firemen accepted the fee and put out his fire, why would anyone else pay until the last moment? That would be a recipe for no fire equipment until after the big tragedy that affects many people. What ever happened to personal responsibility? The homeowner made his decision (even if it unwise), and ended up living with it. He was every bit as foolish as the fire chief. Both could have worked together and done each other a favor, but each decided on a different course. It is unlikely either will benefit from their bad decisions so all in all, a good lesson for both of them (and we who watch). Sometimes we have to learn our lessons the hard way.

    It is important to remember that taxes are most commonly used by the majority to coerce the minority into funding what the majority can be led to believe is good for them. Since the majority are unwilling to put effort into societal issues, they are easily led with simple arguments. Eventually a minority of societal administrators controls the majority opinion. This power eventually corrupts and a revolution ensues.

    In your example, when government is more about an intelligent conversation between four good friends and about their personal interactions no one minds participating.

    When it becomes more about herding the citizens in the direction you want them to go by way of taxation or loss of liberties, you have started down the path to revolution. it is no longer a matter of IF, but WHEN.


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