There is a lot of buzz on the internet about the South Fulton fire department. In case you haven’t read it, this is the town fire department who provided fire services to the surrounding area, if the homeowner paid a membership fee. In this case, they allowed a house to burn down because the homeowner had not paid the fee. I am no going to discuss this particular incident, as I agree with Firefighter, who has posted an excellent analysis here.
Instead, I want to talk about a more general issue. The people commenting here say that Libertarianism will never work because it is cruel. They are wrong, the real reason why the Libertarian philosophy will never work is that people always want the power to make others give them what they want, but never want to pay for it. Everyone has their issue: the homeless, healthcare, Fire service, whatever.
There are only two ways to get people to do things for you: voluntarily, or involuntarily. Do you think that people should interact voluntarily? If so, then you must allow people to set the standard by which they will provide that care.
If the doctor says that he will only provide care for money, and the patient has no money, then there are only four options:
A. You pay the bill on the other person’s behalf (voluntary donation)
B. You force the provider to provide the service/product for free (forced compliance- slavery)
C. You allow the provider to turn the non-paying person away (voluntary noncooperation)
D. You force others to pay the bill (forced donation- legalized theft)
Libertarians believe that the only fair and proper answer is A or C.
Socialists believe that the only proper answer is B or D.
For those who believe that we have a responsibility to feed/clothe/care for people who cannot pay, just how do you think that the people providing the service will provide it?
How will the hospital pay its staff? How will the fire trucks get fuel? How will restaurants get food for the homeless? How much of your own money have you given to the cause? Do you allow a homeless man to live in your spare bedroom?
If you are not willing to use your own money and resources to provide that service or product, then why do you get to compel me to use mine? Giving away other people’s money and possessions is not charity. One post there said:
The measure of any society is how it treats its most vulnerable members. Libertarians demand that the US score exactly zero.
That is incorrect. Libertarians are not against voluntary charity. They are simply against “charity” at the point of a gun. A tax that takes money from one person and uses it purely for the benefit of another is not charity, it is theft.