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Saturday, December 26, 2009

State Helpers or Parasites?

This story is interesting. It illustrates the problem with the State violence monopoly and the State monopoly for helping people in need.

Two off-duty ambulance (EMT) workers were eating in a restaurant. A pregnant woman collapsed. The off-duty EMT workers refused to help, and told people to call 911 instead. The woman and her baby died.

Obviously, the EMT workers should have helped her. (Most off-duty policemen probably would help if they saw a crime in progress. If they aren't in uniform, how would you know?)

The problem is that the State creates perverse incentives.

The workers were off-duty. Would they have been paid overtime for helping her? Would they have been rewarded? There was no explicit arrangement made ahead of time.

The EMT workers had an interesting excuse. They were dispatchers and not front-line workers. That's a pretty lame excuse. That illustrates the "management doesn't actually do real work" fallacy of most State parasites. For EMT dispatchers, they are required to also be qualified to work as EMTs.

Did the EMT workers do anything illegal? Technically, they were not working at the time. They didn't break any of the explicit written rules.

The EMT workers are unionized. Government bureaucrats probably can't fire them for misconduct. Their lawyers will probably successfully argue "They were off-duty and didn't do anything wrong."

The problem is that the government has a monopoly for helping people. Suppose you worked for a private for-profit ambulance service. Of course you'll help out in an emergency, because you and your employer will get paid for it. An free market police/defense/insurance agency would have an arrangement saying "You get paid if you help one of our customers in an emergency."

EMT/911 workers are employed directly by the State. It makes no difference if they do a great job or an incompetent job. They have a monopoly.

Suppose you do call 911, but an ambulance arrives too slowly and you die. That's too bad for you. State agents have no positive obligation to help you.

Suppose EMT workers do help you, but they do an incompetent job and you die or are you seriously injured. That's too bad for you.

If you aren't a State-licensed EMT worker and you help in an emergency, you might face liability. You might be accused of a crime. You might face a civil lawsuit. Also, it's illegal to start a competing for-profit emergency help service that competes with the State monopoly.

This story illustrates the evil of the State violence/911 monopoly. State agents are bureaucrats doing the minimum possible job, rather than doing the best they can. In a really free market, there would be a real incentive to help someone out during an emergency. Free market competition would guarantee high quality and low prices.

The problem is not those specific lazy EMT dispatchers. The real problem is the State monopoly for responding to emergencies. As usual, the lazy EMT workers are blamed and not the underlying problem. "Fire those lazy EMT workers!" is the proposed solution, but that would just replace one State bureaucrat with another State bureaucrat.


Anonymous said...

It is not logical

Anonymous said...

I've been a tax-paying, law abiding citizen all my life. Once when I got injured the State system refused to help me and I got kicked out of my job.

Compare the situation for a violent criminal. A violent criminal injured during his crimes will get State doctors to testify in court he can't plea and so must be let off for his crimes. He will then be given a rehabilitation place. The State ignores its tax payers and only protects violent criminals. Just Google "Munir Hussain" if you don't believe how well the government treats violent criminals.

Anonymous said...

Not so much a private force getting paid for it as much as for good publicity. If your employer, who specializes in helping people out in an emergency, finds out that you REFUSED to help, then he would be pissed because it would be really bad publicity, a missed opportuinity for "hero" publicity, and probably a violation of your general conduct policy (ie a conduct policy wouldn't let a coke vending machine operator to praise pepsi in public.)

Anonymous said...

I've read a lot of your articles with much pleasure and agreement, but this one is silly. You make a lot of assumptions here, that are nothing more than assumptions.

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