Disaster Apartheid

In those California fires:

Elsewhere there was anger over the superior fire protection enjoyed by rich homeowners, thanks to insurance companies that dispatched private crews to tackle blazes threatening multi-million dollar homes.

American International Group, an insurance company, offers its richest customers protection through firefighting firm Firebreak Spray Systems.

The policy is only available to residents in California\’s wealthiest communities, including Malibu, Beverly Hills and Newport Beach, whose premiums exceed $10,000 a year and homes cost at least $1 million.

This week, the company sprayed foam retardant on more than 160 homes in Malibu, Lake Arrowhead and the hardest-hit areas of Orange and San Diego counties, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Sounds pretty sensible to me, that if you\’ve got the money you might spend it on such insurance.

Social commentator Naomi Klein described it as a "disaster apartheid" in which the affluent were better equipped for emergencies. "Survival shouldn\’t be a luxury item," she told the Los Angeles Times.

Err, a few things occur. Firstly, this isn\’t about survival: it\’s about the protection of property. Secondly, there are really only two options here. That either these rich should be barred from spending their own money as they wish…or the same protection should be governmentally funded for all. As the premiums are $10,000 a year, that doesn\’t look all that sensible. To say nothing of the moral hazard. If people wish to live in a desert liable to catch fire, just as if they wish to live in a flood plain, on a beach subject to storm damage or in an earthquake zone, of course, they\’ve got every right to live somewhere so stupid. But that\’s no reason for the State to subsidize their doing so.

6 comments on “Disaster Apartheid

  1. “…the affluent were better equipped for emergencies. “

    Isn’t that one of the drivers to be affluent? To give you & your family a better life?

  2. Amen to that, JuliaM. For a premium of nigh on £5000 a year I’d expect everything from fire retardant chemicals on my home to shiatsu massage when I get stressed about the approaching blaze.

  3. “As the premiums are $10,000 a year”: which, of course, they wouldn’t be in the government supplied the service. Prob about $50,000 a year, but better disguised.

  4. This is timely.

    The clocks go back in the UK this weekend, and all householders are encouraged to replace the battery in the smoke detector.
    The poorest households won’t do it. So the lads from the fire brigade will be out next week offering free (on the rates) batteries, smoke detectors, and installation to all those unprotected homes. Those who pay, don’t object to this. The concept of loss of life to fire is too harrowing. They have already paid, but do it anyway and they will pay again.

    Those who can’t pay, tend to react with gratitude. The frail and elderly need the help- many can not do it themselves.

    Those who won’t pay, will take the battery out and use it for something else, then they will blame uncaring society when their house burns down while they were innocently cooking crystal meth.
    And it will always be so.

    Replace the battery with a new one, and forget that it’s there.
    Oh, and buy a poppy, wear it, and remember why it’s there.

  5. “or the same protection should be governmentally funded for all. As the premiums are $10,000 a year, that doesn’t look all that sensible.”

    Logic does not seem to be your strong point Tim.

    Could it be that the reason the premium is $10,000 dollars a year is that it reflects the risk cost for the protection of 1 property?

    If all the properties were covered and paying a cost premium for protection the individual unit cost would come down. That’s the basis of any insurance – social or private. After all, only a small percentage of those paying in any one year are going to need the service. My house has not yet burnt down or been flooded out in over 20 years but I’m still paying for and receiving protection the same as everyone else for a fraction of this cost in case my house is threatened by fire/flood.

    The key relevant facts that you singularly seem incapable of grasping is that the those buying this service prefer to pay a increased cost to make sure they get an individualised private protection rather then pay a lower cost to ensure sufficient social/public protection across the board through taxes.

    So in order to lower taxes the general service to everyone else is reduced to the level of a skeleton service and guillible wassocks with more money that brain cells pay over the odds for individualised protection and everyone else who can’t afford this can go to hell in a handcart.

    If that’s the sort of psuedo, ersatz society you prefer Tim go live over there. Bugger off and join them. Don’t sit over here making your own contribution with the rest of the free market zealots towards foisting this philistine system on those of us who prefer a more humane and socially responsible model of human development and progress.

    Tim adds: 1) I don’t actually live in the UK.

    2) The general service to everyone has not been reduced to a skeleton. As someone who has actually lived in California, had friends in the National Guard who’ve actually gone out on these sorts of things, there’s no way that CA fire service could be described as “skeleton”.

    What they have is as good as it’s rational for everyone to have. The socially optimal level, at the level of the society.

    Some people then decide they want more, as is their right. It is, after all, their money, to spend as they wish…..or isn’t it?

  6. “What they have is as good as it’s rational for everyone to have. The socially optimal level, at the level of the society.”

    According to what criteria? Is it really socially optimal or is it financially optimal given that most tax dollars are sucked up by the privatised Fed to provide taxpayer funded welfare for private bankers who for almost a century have been creating non-existant money debt for the elected government in return for these real dollars?

    Seems to me that it’s not about extras that are being purchased here, it’s about services levels , purchased over the odds partly from saved taxes. Services levels which are not commonly available because of the idological illness that would rather pay over the odds private insurance than taxes that would cost less per individual/household unit to provide a better levels of service across the board. Just like with health, education etc. etc.

    The argument about envy seems to be the wrong way around from reality. It’s not those not getting the services that are envious of those purchasing the privatised services; it is those paying over the odds for themselves who are envious of having to pay a lower cost through taxes for services available to everyone.

    Kleins argument here is essentially about pulling up the drawbidge. And, unfortunately, the general facts, and the argument, is more congruent with reality than this bollocks about envy and the rights accruing to the highest bidders simply because they can afford it.

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