Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Libertarian Utopia

Apparently Tennessee is the Libertarian promised land. South Fulton firefighters stood by and watched an Orion County home burn down because the owners had not paid their $75 fire protection subscription fee. The homeowners offered to pay on the spot, but were refused. The family’s three dogs and a cat died.

Mayor David Crocker said, "if homeowners don't pay, they're out of luck."

Or we're all out of luck. Because if one house is on fire, the whole neighborhood is at risk. Fires are tricky devils and don't check policies or town hall records before igniting home after home. People who don't pay or can't pay -- for whatever reason -- endanger themselves, their neighbors, and even the firefighters -- it's easier to put out one small house fire than a neighborhood ablaze.

Likewise for highly contagious diseases. We can't protect ourselves piecemeal. We have to protect the entire herd equally.

Call it socialism if you want, but socialized fire care is an idea whose time has come... or came, actually, in the 19th century. The U.S. had private fire companies back then, and that system didn't work for shit. Time was wasted summoning the correct company, or none at all, and fires would spread. The public demanded some kind of central command of fire companies. Of course, I don't think anybody screamed "socialism" back then. It was just good common sense that taxes in a civilized society should go towards services for the public.

But thanks to the teabaggers and Glenn Beck, these matters are now some kind of modern debate in which compassion and the common good are open to ridicule and mockery.

1 comment:

George Donnelly said...

The firefighters that refused to help this family are employed by the state. They are not a market organization. The state does not respond to market incentives. It doesn’t have the capacity to accept a higher fee for last-minute service. Market organizations do have that capacity. Airlines don’t make you wait two weeks to fly, they just charge more if your need is urgent. Gas stations don’t only offer one kind of gas. They just charge more for the higher quality ones.

Libertarians want market organizations to provide services with free and open competition. I am a libertarian who is not in favor of a state-run fire brigade such as this. I find it utterly stupid and self-destructive of them to not save this house. The fire brigade is short of funds. Imagine their windfall from situations like this! Instead of a measly $75 per house per year they could charge $2,000 to save a house on the spot. If I ran a fire brigade, I would save his house just so I could get him as a customer. If I didn’t, a competitor might.