Monday, January 23, 2006

And there's fire on the mountain, lightnin' in the air

Here's why libertarianism will never work.

We had a fire in our back yard last night, a real, honest-to-goodness call-the-Fire-Department conflagration. About 1:30 AM, the really high winds in the North San Fernando Valley where we live knocked a tree limb into a power line, and the line broke.

It fell to the ground by the chain link fence at the property line between us and our neighbor to the west, up the hill that some of you know as our back yard. Sparks from the line against the metal fence started dry brush on fire, and we were scared shitless.

We called 911 4 times before the LAFD finally arrived, and were we glad to see them. We were using the back yard watering hose to try and moisten the ground between the fire and the house, but with the fierce winds, changing direction every second, we felt it was a losing battle.

Here's the thing: In the libertarian world, there is no LAFD.

Instead, there's a fire hydrant that we, and our neighbors arranged, paid for, and had someone install.

There's a hose attached to the hydrant, that we also bought.

Only, it's been stolen by vandals. Or it's in a locked box, and Bob on the corner has the key, and maybe me, except I loaned it to Kiki across the street so he could make a copy and never got it back. And for the first time in recorded history, Bob and Mrs. Bob have taken a trip to Laughlin, and as a result, I can't find the damn key!

So I can't connect to the hydrant. My house, and 2 others burn down, and we now depend on Red Cross, Visa Cards, and whatever insurance we have to try and rebuild our shattered lives.

Or, I call the taxpayer funded LAFD, lovely hard working men and women all, and they come, bring the hoses, connect to the hydrants that my tax dollars paid for, and just handle things.

Libertarians remind me of the adolescent girl on the TV show 'Medium' tonight: "I want everybody to knock before they come in my room, which is in my parent's house, but it's mine.

I dunno. While I don't want government, and especially not GWBush, to be my daddy, still I want it to provide things that only an entity with a vast infrastructure can do. Like fire departments.

Being responsible for taxes, and society in general, it's like living in a grown up world.


Update: from the comments, this is pretty great:

Steve:

Please accept our apologies for any perceived delay in our arrival to your incident the other morning. As you know, there were hundreds of responses for your Fire Department that night, and often the closest unit was committed to another emergency, causing Firefighters to be dynamically deployed from Neighborhoods across the City.

While we can't enter the arena of political discourse, please rest assured that the men and women of the Los Angeles Fire Department will do everything in their power to remain worthy of your respect and praise.

Brian Humphrey
Firefighter/Specialist
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

LAFD Home Page: www.lafd.org
LAFD News Blog: www.lafd.org/blog.htm

Update: To all who came in from Steve Rubel's Micropersuasion, and anyone else, this post was not a criticism of the LAFD, but rather an illustration for how government has the infrastructure and resources to do certain things more efficiently than the private sector. Thus my gripe at faux Conservatarians who harp on the goodness of "the market" and "private sector." Bullshit! The Fire Department is a perfect example of good government at work.

My only complaint in that direction was the goof up of the LAFD dispatchers, who told us the 3rd time we called 911 that the crew was already at our house, when in fact they showed up about 10 minutes later.

No harm in the long run. Only some dry brush at the top of our yard was lost, and possibly a tree, we won't know for a while.