Libertarian Fire Department Lets House Burn Because Owner Didn't Pay $75; Rightbloggers Applaud Free Market, Suffering

tomt200.jpgPeople often say that the Republican Party has become much more conservative than it used to be. But they don't talk much about how conservatism itself has become more... hmm, how to put this politely -- let's say, detached from traditional American beliefs and standards of behavior.

We're not talking about their claim to want to shrink government. That is very mainstream, and popular with voters (though once in office, conservatives usually don't do much actual government-shrinking).

No, we're talking about their new tendency to promote ideas from the furthest fringes of their movement -- ideas that, were they proposed by a guest at your dinner table, might cause you to doubt his sanity, or perhaps ask him to leave your home.

Take, for example, their recent defense of a fire company that refused to save a man's burning house because he had not paid the firefighters a fee.

The city of South Fulton, Tennessee offers residents of nearby areas the protection of its fire department for $75 a year. (Obion County has jurisdiction in those areas, but does not provide fire services.) One Gene Cranick is not so good about paying the fee. A few years ago he had a fire which required the South Fulton FD's attention. At that time he was in arrears, but was allowed to pay the $75 retroactively and, presumably, told to not to let it happen again.

Last week Cranick's house caught fire again. And again Cranick had not paid the fee. This time, though, the fire department would not help him. When the blaze spread to the house next to Cranick's, the firefighters came to put that one out -- but refused to minister to Cranick's burning home, despite his begging and pleading and offers to pay anything they asked.

And they stood watching as Cranick's house burned to the ground.

Now, maybe it's just the liberal fascist in us, but the idea that a bunch of firemen would just stand there and watch someone's house burn down seems -- well, crazy. It's like something you'd expect to see in the nightmarish Pottersville of It's a Wonderful Life -- a vision of what monsters people turn into when money is all they value.

You may be relieved to hear that other firefighters who were asked about the case felt similarly. ("If somebody needs help, we help and worry about everything else later," said big-government advocate Steve Wheeler of the Vonore, Tennessee Fire Department.)

But it was hard to find a rightblogger who felt that way. They thought it was great that the firemen let the house burn down -- a triumph of the free market, a victory for personal responsibility, and just desserts for free-loaders who thought they were entitled to help just because they were on fire.

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