Alex Pareene, at Salon, has a bizarre attack on libertarians. He titles it “For-Pay Fire Department Lets Man’s House Burn.” He refers to a story about a man who failed to pay an annual fee for fire protection and then, when his house caught on fire and he called the fire department, the fire department refused to show up. In the story that Pareene links to is the following statement:

The homeowner, Gene Cranick, said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late.

You would think at some price, the fire department would show up. After all, a private for-profit fire company could make some good money doing so and, by charging high enough, could limit the incentive for people not to pay in advance for protection. Rural/Metro in Arizona is the example we libertarians often point to of a company that charges a fee. I remember reading, although I can’t find the source, that if someone didn’t subscribe and his house is burning down, Rural/Metro will show up and charge a fee that is a high multiple of the annual fee.

It turns out, though, that the fire department in Tennessee was not a private for-profit fire department. It was a government-run fire department. You read that right: the fire department that refused to show up and refused to name a price at which it would show up was run by the government of South Fulton.

So let’s see now: Libertarians tend to advocate that government not be in the business of providing fire protection because we think that people should be free to contract with whoever they want to contract with and, as a side benefit, they will get better protection at a lower cost. If someone could show us that this works badly, we would look at that case. But it’s bizarre for a statist to attack libertarians when his own statist alternative works out badly. That’s exactly what Alex Pareene and many of his commenters did. What’s next: blaming libertarians because TSA is taking x-rays of people? Or blaming libertarians because the government is so vicious in the drug war? Or blaming libertarians because government schools are so lousy?

HT to L.K. Samuels