It is funny how we re-argue settled policy in this country. We talked about what should be public and what should be private over 50 years ago. Does being poor mean that you can’t get fire protection? If you listen to conservatives, the answer is you get what you pay for. (Translation – Screw the poor.)
As ThinkProgress reported earlier this morning, South Fulton firefighters from Obion, Tennessee, last week stood by and watched as a family’s home burned down because their services were available by subscription only, and the family had not paid the $75 fee. As ThinkProgress noted, the case perfectly demonstrated conservative ideology, which is based around the idea of the on-your-own society and informs a policy agenda that primarily serves the well-off and privileged.
Now, leading conservative authors from modern conservatism’s bulkhead magazine, The National Review, have come out in defense of Obion County firefighters’ policy of servicing rural citizens by paid subscription only. The magazine’s commentary on the issue started with a blog post by Daniel Forster, one of the magazine’s staff writers. Writing on the National Review blog The Corner, Forster condemned the behavior of the county, saying that while he has “no problem with this kind of opt-in government in principle,” he sees no “moral theory” under which the firefighters would be justified in watching the house burn down:
I have no problem with this kind of opt-in government in principle — especially in rural areas where individual need for government services and available infrastructure vary so widely. But forget the politics: what moral theory allows these firefighters (admittedly acting under orders) to watch this house burn to the ground when 1) they have already responded to the scene; 2) they have the means to stop it ready at hand; 3) they have a reasonable expectation to be compensated for their trouble?
Yet, Forster’s fellow conservative writers found it hard to tolerate his view that families shouldn’t have to watch their homes burn down as firefighters stand there with their hoses. First, Kevin Williamson responded, comparing the family whose home was destroyed to “jerks, freeloaders, and ingrates”:
Dan, you are 100 percent wrong. […] And, for their trouble, the South Fulton fire department is being treated as though it has done something wrong, rather than having gone out of its way to make services available to people who did not have them before. The world is full of jerks, freeloaders, and ingrates — and the problems they create for themselves are their own. These free-riders have no more right to South Fulton’s firefighting services than people in Muleshoe, Texas, have to those of NYPD detectives. (more…)