The Government ‘Protection’ Racket

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A few weeks ago, 11-year-old Brooklyn resident Briana Ojeda suffered a severe asthma attack. Frantic to elude heavy traffic en route to the hospital, the girl’s mother, Carmen, took a detour in the wrong direction on a one-way street. As she did so, Carmen collided with a parked car. This attracted the attention of Alfonso Mendez, an armed revenue farmer in the employ of the NYPD.

“What the f**k are you doing going down the wrong way?” the officer inquired, displaying the professional composure that typifies his caste.

“Help! My daughter needs CPR!” replied the panicking mother.

“I don’t do CPR,” responded Mendez with a smirk. After moving his vehicle to box in the the car containing the dying child, Mendez  started to scribble out an extortion note (often called a “traffic ticket”).

Carmen managed to free her car and drive her daughter to Long Island College Hospital. Mendez — who had done nothing to help but was determined to meet his quota — pursued them. Although Briana was still breathing at the time of the traffic stop, she died at the hospital. Mendez reacted to the news by tearing up the citation. He then shaved his head so as to throw off any eyewitnesses to the depraved indifference he had displayed toward the Carmen as her stricken 11-year-old daughter struggled to breathe.

Like all other NYPD officers, Mendez was trained in CPR. He has been suspended without pay, and may face “departmental charges” for “failing to act.” Briana’s parents have announced plans to sue the city. Supporters of the bereaved family have called for enactment of a law that would make it a misdemeanor for a police officer not to render aid in similar situations.

The inconsolable loss suffered by Briana’s parents — who had paid for government-provided “protective services” that were arbitrarily withheld, with unfathomably tragic results — didn’t trigger a gusher of pious indignation from Keith Olbermann. MSNBC’s resident collectivist scold reserves such reactions for stories he can contort into bogus indictments of the non-coercive sector. This is why he seized on the tragic account of Tennessee residents Gene and Paulette Cranick, whose house burned down after the South Fulton Fire Department refused to answer their request for help.

The South Fulton municipal government charges a $75 annual fire protection fee for non-residents, which the Cranicks had neglected to pay. After the fire spread to the property of a neighbor who had paid the fee, the department responded in force, but did nothing to prevent the Cranicks’ home from burning down.

People of a collectivist mindset (Paul Krugman among them) insist that this episode is an indictment of what Olbermann calls “à la carte government,” illustrating the supposed need for coercive provision of an ever-growing number of services as “public goods.” However, “à la carte” coverage is a common feature of fully funded government “protection” services.

Police are not legally or civilly required to come to the aid of an individual citizen threatened with criminal violence. Not long ago,  Oakland, California Police Chief Anthony Batts announced that his officers will no longer respond to burglary calls and other crimes. This announced reduction in police “protection” came after 80 officers were laid off when contract negotiations broke down between the police union and the city government over the question of job security: The Oakland Police Officers Association demanded that the inexperienced officers — each of whom cost the city an estimated $188,000 annually in salary and benefits — receive a three-year employment guarantee. And at least one city –  Tracey, California –  has started to impose a surcharge for 911 services already paid for through telephone fees.

Tracey’s arrangement — which is intended to mulct the productive in order to pay the pensions of the local parasite class — was not the same as the one in South Fulton, Tennessee, where the fire department offered an opt-in service for people who didn’t reside within city limits. In fact, the Cranick tragedy actually offers an argument for full privatization of fire services, rather than a government-run subscription service: Mr. Cranick offered to pay whatever fee the department would charge, but was turned down as a matter of policy. It’s also worth noting that although the firefighters did nothing to save the Cranicks’ home, they didn’t stand idly by while a human being was dying, or actively impede efforts to help the victim, as Officer Mendez did in the case of Briana Ojeda.

None of these instances of bureaucratic greed and calculated cruelty caused Olbermann’s lip to curl in disgust or his eyebrows to knot in theatrical fury, since they aren’t useful in his efforts to promote the gospel of better living through official coercion.

4:00 pm on October 5, 2010
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