Monday, July 23, 2012

The Animus of the Nanny State

“Politicians treat firefighters like pawns. When my house burned down, I learned how valuable public servants can be.”
That’s the tagline of an article on titled “Thank God for Taxes.” Naturally the author cannot imagine how firefighting could be better as a private business. It never occurs to him. He just praises public “servants” and calls for more taxes.1
If Andrew Leonard could imagine private firefighting at all, he would probably imagine something like the rival firefighters in 19th century America that fought violently over who would get to put out the fire while the house burned down. But of course, this was caused not by a free market in firefighting but rather a combination of public property (fire hydrants, roads), lack of private property rights enforcement (sabotaged fire engines), and political machines (Tammany Hall) — politicians like Boss Tweed using neighborhood firefighting departments for their own political gain.
We don't want your money, let the motherfucker burn!
We don’t want your money,
let the motherfucker burn!
Or he might imagine private firefighters refusing to put out a fire until the owner paid some astronomical fee, which the owner couldn’t afford on the spot. In fact, he might vaguely recall an incident in Tennessee last December2 in which firefighters let a home burn down because the owner failed to pay a mere $75. “This is what would happen in a free market!” he’d cry, not recalling, or never bothering to learn, the details of the incident. But this was a government firefighting department rigidly adhering to bureaucratic internal rules,3 as government agencies are wont to do, not a private business responding to profit incentives.

I fail to see why the owner couldn’t contractually subscribe to affordable firefighting service with a local company in advance, or why something else, like a payment plan, couldn’t be worked out on the spot.4 Or insurance companies might pay the firefighters, because that would be cheaper than paying out the insurance claim on the house or on surrounding houses that could burn down with it.
But Andrew Leonard is probably doubtful of a free market in fighting fires because he’s an irresponsible risk-taker5 engaging in psychological projection on a massive scale:
Note to mandate-haters: If my mortgage lender hadn’t required that I have home insurance, would I have plunked down that check to Farmers every one of the last 16 years?
This is how leftists really think — that no one would make rational, responsible choices unless forced to do so by someone else.6
Why? Because they recognize in themselves an inclination to make irrational, irresponsible, risky choices7 and project these bad character traits onto everyone else.
This is the animus of much of the nanny state.


Prior to the fire, I had no conception of how big an economic event a disaster like mine is for other people. The hubbub of job-creating activity related to my home in the past few weeks has injected instant cash into the local economy — from Santa Rosa down to Watsonville. I am my own Keynesian-stimulus. Want to get the U.S. economy really moving? Burn everything down.
I hope he’s joking, because this is one hell of an example of the broken window fallacy. How stupid and ideologically blinded can you be to believe such nonsense?

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