Wednesday, October 06, 2010


Roy Edroso has the definitive takedown of wingnut/libertarian reaction to the story of the fire at Gene and Paulette Cranick's place in South Fulton, Tennessee, where the Cranicks' failure to pay a $75 fee led a fire company to watch their home burn to the ground. I just want to respond to a couple of points in this post by Nick Gillespie of Reason, the libertarian rag:

...the reason why old-time private fire companies put out fires wherever they found (contra Gangs of New York) was because fires spread rapidly in 19th century cities. That wasn't the case here....

Well, in fact, Nick, accord to local news reports, it was the case there:

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.

The libertarian insanity here is that you can view each household as an airtight economic entity when a fire is raging out of control. Um, it's a fire. It doesn't give a crap about the boundaries between one house and another. Did it ever occur to anyone that it might make sense to put out the fire at the Cranicks' place if only in order to prevent fire damage to fire department subscribers' property? If we're going to be cold-blooded about this, didn't the fire department owe at least that to the people who did pony up?

And to those who approve of the department's policy, here's a hypothetical: Should we attempt to rescue an American citizen who's been captured by terrorists if we know the terrorists plan to infect the person with smallpox and then send him or her into a subway system? I imagine even libertarians would agree that the answer is yes. Ah, but what if the person is an illegal immigrant? Why should that grifting, parasitic bastard get help from American law enforcement? Shouldn't we wait, and deal with the situation only when real Americans get infected?

One more from Gillespie:

Some folks have wondered what the fire department's response would/should have been if a person was trapped in the building.

Well, again, here's the answer from local reporting:

...Union City Fire Chief Kelly Edmison is defending the firefighters in South Fulton.

"If somebody is trapped in the house we're going to go because life safety is number one but we can't give the service away," Edmison said....

So this isn't absolutely libertarian -- if you're going to die, these folks have compassion.

But how far does that go? If you were likely to survive a fire but your arm was trapped in place by falling debris, a la Aron Ralston, would they let the place burn up to the point where you might become an amputee, then start putting out the fire? And where would Gillespie and his fellow Randroids stand on this?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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