October 5, 2010


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Libertarianism’s price

Posted by Zach Ammerman, Opinion editor

From Salon

There is a sort of childish taunt that liberals use against proper libertarians sometimes, in which they humorously propose that the fire department be privatized, because the “invisible hand” of the market would be more efficient at putting out house fires. And then everyone has a laugh — the liberals because they think they just scored a really great rhetorical point, and the libertarians because they are high.

Meanwhile, out in Tennessee, a man’s house burned down because he didn’t pay the fire department.

The homeowner, Gene Cranick, said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late. They wouldn’t do anything to stop his house from burning.

Each year, Obion County residents must pay $75 if they want fire protection from the city of South Fulton. But the Cranicks did not pay.

The mayor said if homeowners don’t pay, they’re out of luck.

This fire went on for hours because garden hoses just wouldn’t put it out. It wasn’t until that fire spread to a neighbor’s property, that anyone would respond.

Turns out, the neighbor had paid the fee.
It was only when a neighbor’s field caught fire, a neighbor who had paid the county fire service fee, that the department responded. Gene Cranick asked the fire chief to make an exception and save his home, the chief wouldn’t.

So some self-interested rational actor decided not to pay for fire protection — an optional service — and then his house burned down, because the firefighters obviously didn’t want to open the firefighting program up to a bunch of free riders.


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Posted by Tommy at 11:25 pm on October 5, 2010

If he was trying to protest the government-run fire department, he was being stupid. Protesting is fine and dandy, but you still need an alternative to provide the service of putting out the fire. Your own garden hose isn’t going to cut it.

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