David R. Henderson  

Stop, Drop, and Roll

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Many cities across the country subscribe to the concept of "public safety pay parity." From Atlanta to Dallas to New York City and San Francisco (and many cities in between), firefighters have effectively lobbied city and state governments to pay them the same as police officers. But the labor markets for firefighters and police officers are no more alike than the labor markets for engineering professors and history professors. Colleges that would mandate equal pay for history and engineering professors would end up with history professors from top-ranked schools but would have trouble filling the engineering positions. Though both groups are professors, teaching history and teaching engineering attract two very different groups of people with different opportunity costs. Engineers have much better opportunities outside of academia.
This is from Econlib's Feature Article for November, "Stop, Drop, and Roll: The Privileged Economic Position of Firefighters," by Brian Strow, an economics professor at Western Kentucky University.

Professor Strow, besides being a professor, was a two-term city commissioner in Bowling Green, Kentucky. That's where he dealt with issues of firefighter pay.

Why the article's title, "Stop, Drop, and Roll?" Strow says why in his second-last sentence:

They have perfected "stop, drop, and roll": They get taxpayers to stop buying things they need, drop large amounts of money on "public safety," and roll the Benjamins into their bank accounts.

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CATEGORIES: Labor Market

COMMENTS (3 to date)
Becky Hargrove writes:

Now I get why fire trucks are showing up first in Houston before the ambulances, and some lives have already been lost that might not have been. People are saying "We didn't need the fire department, what's going on?"

Another way to look at wage compensation is the fact that volunteer fire departments exist in many places, but not so much volunteer police departments.

Steve Sailer writes:

Citizens like firemen more than policemen, because firemen aren't compensated in intimidating people. They're non-pecuniary compensation is feeling good about saving lives. But there are a lot of guys who would like to be heroes, hence all the voluntary fire departments, so it would be possible to pay firemen less.

Brian Strow writes:

As one of my students pointed out, they like firefighters more than policeman, because firefighters don't pull people over for traffic violations. They are only placed in situations to help people.

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