Some basic libertarian principles are catching flak over a house burning down. It seems that in Obion County, Tennessee, you’re required to either pay a $75 subscription fee for fire service or else risk your house burning down. Homeowner Gene Cranick didn’t, and when his house caught fire, firefighters watched it burn.
Some on the left are using this as evidence that libertarianism fails and is morally bankrupt. They also don’t know what they’re talking about.
First, many libertarians have no problem with municipal fire services. They don’t. Only a small handful want that in the private sector’s hands completely with subscriptions and such. However, what happened in Obion County wasn’t even what these people envision.
You see, Obion County does let residents opt in to paying for fire service. That is all fine and good. However, they also have a monopoly on fire services. I can subscribe to their service, or get nothing. That’s not the free market at work, that’s a tax they’re calling a fee but making optional. Gene Cranick should have had the choice of several operations if you’re going to make it optional. If the answer is still no, then oh well.
Cranick has stated that he would have paid anything once the fire broke out, and a free market operation would have responded to such. You see, the $75 subscription fee, in a free market, would have been part of a list of fees. Putting out a fire without the subscription fee would have cost more, but a free market operation would have been willing to do it for the extra income. Greed ain’t always a bad thing after all. Greed, the progressive boogie-man, would have put out the fire at Gene Cranick’s house. Adhering to regulations - you know, like all the regulations progressives seem to love? - caused Cranick’s house to burn down.
Free market fire departments open up all kinds of other problems, and I’m not going to deny it. We’ve tried them before and they didn’t work out so well. That’s the reason municipal fire departments started in the first place. However, if you’re going to blame the free market for something like this, you should at least make sure you know what you’re talking about.