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Tuesday, July 3. 2012
This post is about risk.
I've been reading a bit about how western forest fires could be prevented, or reduced, by human intervention. I am opposed to that. Wildfire is a natural occurrence, and forest regeneration is a natural and necessary process and one upon which many species depend. It's well-known that fire-prevention eventuates in bigger fires.
If you want to live in the woods where fire is eventually expected, don't do it on my nickel. While I must admire the valiant forest-fire-fighters, I don't know why I am paying for them. There are dangers in the woods. Cougars, wolves, fires, bears, snakes, crazy rivers, etc. Nobody is forced to live there.
Same goes for federally-subsidized flood insurance. Seems like a no-brainer to me. Why should my tax dollars subsidize somebody to live where there is a predictable expectation of flooding? Or hurricanes or tornadoes?
Perhaps this sounds "insensitive," but adults are expected to calculate their risks in life and not come crying to me when the odds turn against them. I can be charitable when I choose to be, but I don't want to be forced by government to subsidize other peoples' adult choices.
An angry client today told me how pissed he was that the bank wouldn't swallow his $250,000 loss in the home he needs to sell now. I pointed out to him the obvious fact that he was implying that he would have been happy to keep any gain on the house, but not any loss. Then I pointed out that, if somebody wants to give up loss and to give up gain, then they should rent. When you rent, the landlord or the bank takes the risks.
In my long life experience, the more responsibility people take for their decisions and their consequences, the better and more careful decisions they make.
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I agree with you, and having lived through the great flood of 2011 in Pennsylvania, with 4 feet of water on the first floor, that is saying something. The flood insurance program, being government run, is horrible. The most it will pay for structure loss is $250,000, personal property $100,000. Sounds like a lot, but when you take 30 years of accumulated furniture, an older home with some old wiring, hardwood floors, plaster walls etc. it is but a drop in the bucket for home repairs. On the open market, the flood insurance would be necessarily much higher, but losses would be paid on a more realistic level. The area where I live has many retired occupants, these people were underinsured and either forced to borrow money or had to walk away from their homes. The government run program is another boondoggle and I just wish that private insurers would be allowed into the market.
If I hear one more time from my relations that it's just so 'hot!' I think I'll lose it! They live in Tucson, AZ for goodness sakes! Seriously! The complaints about no rain and high heat.....REALLY???? And they just can't get their lawn to grow!
....I am a terrible daughter/sister......
Some trees, like lodge pole pine, need forest fires to heat and open their cones. No fires, and the lodge pole pine will not propagate.
Fires often clear the under brush, and allows larger trees to get even larger (like the Redwoods in California).
I spent this past weekend in the mountains about 40 miles from Colorado Springs. It was the first time in 8 years I have been to this location, and I was impressed (not favorably) by all the new, and lavish homes lining the hills.
On thing they all had in common was that they were all surrounded by tall grass. In the past, most areas not thickly wooded would be grazed by livestock. I didn't see any livestock this time, and except for a few hay fields, even the most expensive homes have tall grass growing up to within a few feet of the structures themselves.
The risks are obvious....
You say "I don't want to be forced by government to subsidize other peoples' adult choices."
Do you have insurance on your house? On your car?
The government forces you to subsidize everyone else who has insurance too!
Insurance is the definition of socialism.
Take from many, give to a few
Having worked in the Forestry, doing 'Chaparral Management'
I agree and disagree.
An aggressive control burn program in winter would help.
The big culprit is the 'second canopy' the 3 to 20 foot plant material. When allowed to burn it rejuvenates the forest, keeps large animal migration lanes open and allows fire fighting efforts to establish better control over fires that do happen.
Another option would be to allow commercial logging into greater areas. Building roads for commercial interest helps access in emergency operations, and you can thin potential interface zones, monitor it all from satellite.
The current strategy of saving structures is fine, but I also think that if you want to live in a high danger zone you should accept a larger burden of financial responsibility.
From an Insurance standpoint; you aren't responsible for the weather that goes over your house, but you are responsible for where your house is placed.
"the more responsibility people take for their decisions and their consequences, the better and more careful decisions they make."
Obviously that didn't work for your client who seems to have lost a lot of money on HIS decision but wants someone else to pay for it. C'est la vie.
"The government forces you to subsidize everyone else who has insurance too!"
Not sure what you meant by that. If you have a mortgage, the banks (not the gov't) normally require you to take out mortgage insurance. If you own your home, how does the government force you to buy home insurance (not talking flood or hurricane here) or, if you do buy it, how does it force you to "subsidize" anyone else any more than others are "subsidizing" you. Perhaps you don't understand the concept of shared (pooled) risk that underlies insurance. As for car insurance, well there you may be right because insurance is mandatory and responsible drivers do subsidize underinsured and noninsured motorists to the tune of about 15-20%. State DoMVs have ways to deal with such scofflaws but in my experience they don't seem to bother very hard to fix the problem.
There is one problem with your logic about not clearing out the forests...many of these wildfires are man-made; not nature made. Sure, when there were no people around the clear the forest of brush and dead limbs, the forest fires that happened just burned until they stopped on their own. However, my guess is there were far fewer fires of completely natural origins.
Besides, when a fire gets going, it will burn into a town or city that is on the very edges of 'forest'...which puts even more people and homes at risk. So if these huge forest fires were not controlled, we would end up with far worse destruction and loss of life than if we tried to reign these fires in.
Wondering what you think of helping people after a tornado? Of rebuilding their homes after a tornado? Of people who live in hurricane-prone areas? Or those who live in earthquake-prone places?
All people live with the threat of natural disaster no matter where they live. In my opinion, a wildfire is a natural disaster and I would be loathe to not pay firefighters to stop it. Just as I would be loathe to not pay police and other front-line individuals who help during other natural disasters.
Intervention by humans is one of the reasons that the fires are so bad. The BLM makes it more difficult every year to have grazing permits. The forest service does not allow reasonable logging so the danger from fire compounds each year. If the BLM and the forest service would understand that they truly are not wiser than mother nature or the free market there would be far less danger from wild fire.
I think we're talking about government-subsidized insurance, not free-market insurabnce.
It's interesting to compare the photos of burned out homes from Colorado Springs, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2166474/Colorado-wildfires-2012-Waldo-Canyon-claims-victim-President-Obama-set-visit.html?ITO=1490
with the by-laws they were constructed and maintained under, "Wildfire Management Constraints: In fire prone areas landscape fuel loading, slope and accessibility factors shall be evaluated with regard to fire hazard. The landscape design shall adhere to principles of fire
mitigation such as higher water transition zones adjacent to structures (where expansive soil or hazardous geologic conditions do not exist), prohibition of large trees adjacent to structures, thinning of fuel species on slopes and adjacent to structures, site layout that permits
ease of egress, and other standards determined by the State Forestry Department." http://www.sterlingcodifiers.com/codebook/index.php?book_id=855
Look at all the burned out tree trunks right beside the houses, when their own building codes prohibit it.
The ones the did not burn got lucky.
Barrister, does your antipathy for government insurance extend to the FDIC?
Should small savers have no expectation that their money is safe in banks?
Private insurance is capitalist, not socialist, for the simple reason that if you don't agree the price accurately reflects the value of hedging the risk, you needn't buy the insurance. You can, instead, save up your own money against the danger that you'll have to replace the asset at some point.
Government-mandated insurance, I grant you, is socialism (or more accurately, collectivism), and that includes Medicare and Social Security.
At the very least, small, FDIC-insured depositors shouldn't get interest on their deposits. A good part of the S&L crisis in the 80s resulted from FSLIC-insured S&Ls competing to pay the highest interest rate on deposits, to lure customers who had no incentive to choose the bank with the most prudent investments, because all deposits were fully and equally insured by the government.
If people with cash burning a hole in their pockets want to earn interest on it, they should be exposed to the risk of loss without any promise of a taxpayer bailout. Otherwise we are committing the classic error of socializing the risk while leaving the upside entirely in private hands.
As Jindal says, dependence on government should be a safety net, not a way of life.
Y'all know how much I hate the boys in Vegas and Chicago--but, they do seem to be the ones who run the numbers better than any other group. Sooo what d'ya say we run the averages of cost per house in all three major areas of vulnerability: flood plain, hurricane coasts (include tidal erotion), and forest fire, then we can mandate as other programs have done a fair and reasonable insurance per each dwelling according to that formula per value of house, etc. That way those sophisticated fools who build in flood plains can pay their fair share as well as those who build in the woods?! The reality is that during the 70,80, 90, 00 we allowed, we supported the building industry taking over as a major provider of jobs. It is not about providing housing--it is about churning cash. Once we the people have the guts to say to the ABA--enough, is enough. You want to build houses for a living go to Detroit and re-build. You want to build houses for a living go to So. California. WE MUST quickly develop an ideology for dealing with the tremendous population growth we are experiencing--sorry boys and girls but that is the issue! More single family housing developments in dangerous areas, or ????
KJB, most of North America has had human forest management since humans arrive here. Indians burned the woodlands and Great Plains to improve deer browse, to encourage plants, as acts of warfare and defense, and because they forgot to put out camp fires. The difference is 1) Anglo-Americans did not know about the need for fires when they moved to North America and 2) Native Americans did not build infrastructure in the forests (as best we can tell). I recommend the books "Forgotten Fires" and Nancy Langston's "Forest Dreams and Forest Nightmares," along with anything by Stephan Pyne about wildland fire.