Every morning I read a few other blogs because there are some awesome writers out there. These other blogs are entertaining and I have links to some of my favorite sites in my blogroll (the “THOUSANDAIRES” section on the right of your screen) and I was perusing Budgets Are Sexy this morning and I saw this really interesting post about a guy whose house burned down while firemen watched because he didn’t pay his annual $75 fire protection fee. The original article is here.

The Roof is on Fire

The Roof was on fire, until it burned to the ground. Then it wasn't on fire anymore

J Money was “fired up” about this (he claims there was no pun intended, but we all know better) and couldn’t believe that the firemen didn’t have the common decency to put out a fire as it consumed a house. In fact, the firefighters only showed up to make sure it didn’t spread to the neighbor’s house, who had paid his fees.

I respectfully disagree with J’s opinion. I’ve been thinking about this all day and here’s my conclusion:

While it would have been nice of the fire department to assist this man, they have no moral obligation to help this man.

Similar situations happen every day. Let’s look at a few examples where people find themselves in serious distress and are not helped by organizations who are fully capable of providing support

  • Onstar offers Stolen Vehicle Service when you have an active Onstar subscription. If you don’t have the subscription and your car is stolen, they will not activate the service after the theft has taken place.
  • The only working member of a family is hospitalized and cannot work. He cannot buy long term disability insurance after his injury.
  • Someone is driving uninsured and gets in a wreck, totaling his own car and the other guy’s $50,000 Cadillac. He cannot get auto insurance after the wreck to cover that accident.

In each of the examples above, those organizations have no obligation to assist those people in need. Would it be nice for them to help? Absolutely. Would anyone buy the preventative service or insurance in the first place if they could just buy it after they need it? Of course not. Would these organizations exist and have the opportunity to help people if no one paid their dues up front? Not a chance.

Being capable of helping someone doesn’t give you an obligation to do so, especially when the act of helping someone threatens your own existence as a company or organization. To help in such a situation is nice, charitable and commendable, but it should by no means be expected.

Let me pre-address some comments I’m sure to get:

But there were animals in the house! – If we were talking about a human being, that would be a different story. I understand an animal is an innocent creature, but it’s still an animal. If you think firefighters have an obligation to save animals due to their innocent nature, then maybe we should send teams of firefighters to slaughterhouses all across the country to stop the death of innocent cows and pigs too. Human emotional attachment to animals doesn’t change the fact that they are animals. If it was a human being, then I believe the firefighters have an obligation to save that person, but not to put out the fire.

He just forgot! – First of all, the only person who knows if this is true is the man who didn’t pay. Second of all, why does it matter? Forgetting to pay for a service doesn’t entitle you to that service. If you truthfully forget to go through the cash register at the grocery store, does that make it okay to walk out with a cart full of food. You either need to pay before you go home and eat the food or go put it back. The only other option is stealing. (even if it was unintentional)

It’s hard not to have an opinion on this topic. Leave yours below! I promise I will respond to each and every comment. Plus I really Really REALLY like comments.