“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 Salon.com 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!
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.
When Michelle Bachmann confessed to taking the writings of Ludwig von Mises with her on vacation, I assumed she used the august Austrian economist as a soporific — not because Mises isn’t worth reading, or not exciting to read (I can’t tell you how my heart pounded when I first unleashed myself onto The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science), but because Bachmann has never said anything to suggest a scholarly or subtle mind, the kind of mind best suited for pleasure in reading Mises.
Over a decade ago, a Russian paleontologist wrote an alternative take on the War of the Ring from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Recently translated into English, Kirill Yeskov’s The Last Ringbearer tells the tale from the point of view of Mordor, the bad guys in Tolkien’s epic.
History is usually written by the victors, but now the truth of the War of the Ring has finally come out. Gandalf is a warmonger bent on destroying a bastion of civilization dedicated to reason, science, technology, and industrialization because science “destroys the harmony of the world and dries up the souls of men!” The elves are bent on world domination and Aragorn is a Machiavellian schemer whose strings are pulled by his wife, the elf Arwen.
Apropos Jacob Huebert’s excellent post a few days ago on the time Before We Worshipped Presidents, our lesser rulers are getting increasingly used to their special, above-the-law status as well. Watch how Democratic Congressman Bob Etheridge responds to being peacefully asked a simple question by a well-dressed student on a public street:
Congressman Etheridge thinks he can interrogate and assault someone simply for having the temerity to ask him a question in public, apparently without fear of retaliation or legal consequences, despite being recorded. He has a right to know who the student is? I don’t think so. He’s not police. I don’t think even a police officer would have cause under positive law to demand identification and assault the student simply for video recording and asking a question in public. In any case, their authority is illegitimate and what we have here clearly is assault even under current positive law.
What’s more disturbing is that this incident is indicative of just how much our petty tyrants view themselves as being above us and the law — though I suppose assaulting one person on the street is an improvement over assaulting millions through his legislative acts; if only he and his fellow control-freaks would cease the latter, the world would be a much better place and their private crime manageable.