Forest Fires, Privatization, Prison Labor

The business program Marketplace, from American Public Radio, whose economic coverage usually leans pro-business (or cheerily “neutral,” which is to say, ideological), had an interesting segment today about the business of fighting forest fires. The report discusses the privatization of forest-firefighting, and the huge bills private contractors submit, including $1,000 per day for a fancy “briefing room” for a two-month-long forest fire.

Click here to hear the segment.

Also, as the Christian Science Monitor reported recently, and USA Today reported a while back, prisoners are often key to fighting forest fires these days, for piss-poor wages:

“We save million-dollar homes for a dollar an hour,” said Ricky Frank, 33, doing a 10-year stretch for theft. “You get to help people. It’s better doing this than being locked up.”

As usual, prisoners are better at getting at what’s going wrong. The objection should not be to prison labor per se (on the contrary, enforced idleness is inhumane), but to the piss-poor wages, and to prisons per se. (Hat-tip to Dennis Claxton on lbo-talk for pointing out these articles.)

Leave a Reply