Thursday, October 7, 2010

Burning down the house

Tyler writes the post I was planning to write about the house left to burn by the public fire department for non-payment of fees, and does it better than I would have. Here is reason's somewhat more (dare I say it) incendiary take on the matter.

This has nothing to do with public or private, or libertarianism or even morality more broadly. It simply does a nice job of sorting out people who make judgments based on the direct and the sentimental and those who make judgments based on the indirect and the practical. As Tyler rightly notes, sometimes you have to punish people for payments systems to work.

Of course, it would be preferable if the town had some large fee that people could pay ex-post to save their houses. But that is bad system design, not a contradiction to the main point that if you do not impose some penalty on non-payers, too few people will pay.

No comments: