Why are American fire trucks so big? I don’t recall who asked the question, but I’ve been repeating it like a tick for at least 6 months. Exhibit A above, a German firetruck. This isn’t a small vehicle, but it makes American fire trucks look like American pickup trucks and SUVs, by which I mean big. Why? I’m sure there’s much about the subject I don’t understand, but I do have a notion that the market for firetrucks probably responds to more than the functional demands of putting out fires.
Exhibit B above, a chart linked on Andrew Sullivan’s blog (which Rachel forwarded after listening to six months of my paranoid speculation about about lock-in in the American market for firetrucks). Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution offers a very different picture of institutional change in American firefighting, but both examples share a central observation. Witnessing local emergency response in the United States, one often wonders: do the people and property they are going to save really need all of that stuff?