A few days ago Lew (he needs no last name to identify him on these pages, or pretty much anywhere else in the Austro libertarian community) wrote a very short blog on the deaths of the firemen in Arizona. It was very short, so I’ll repeat it here in its entirety: “Now 19 more government fire fighters are dead. I wonder how private companies would do it? Far more safely, cheaply, and effectively, of that we can be sure.”
I sent this very insightful message of Lew’s out to quite a few non libertarian family members and acquaintances of mine, because I thought it very important (I had written something myself, previously, along these very lines) to share this as widely as possible. The response I get varied from “this is very callous,” to “what poor timing” to “it is despicable to promote an ideology based on the deaths of innocent people.” These were among the polite comments. But Lew’s instincts, I think, were very good ones. No one can say for sure, this isn’t a matter of praxeology, but there is a strong suggestion emanating from the study of economics that private initiatives can be expected to be more effective, efficient, efficacious, than those organized by government. Yes, there can be exceptions. Private enterprises sometimes go bankrupt, and government does so many, many things, it would be amazing if every once in a rare while, given the law of large numbers, they did something not totally horrid (abstracting from how they financed such an act).
This is a serious business we are embarked upon on these pages, promoting liberty. It is very often a life and death matter; not only a matter of promoting justice, important as that is, as it always is when government is involved. Actual lives are at stake. My own assessment is that if this fire had taken place on private property, and the firemen were employed directly or indirectly by its owners, it is exceedingly likely that these 19 young people would be alive today. If there is anything “callous” going on here, it is not the fault those of us who point out that the socialist Emperor has no clothes. It is rather the responsibility of those who support a system that very likely led to the deaths of these unfortunate people.7:05 pm on July 4, 2013 Email Walter E. Block