Interesting to see in a recent Rolling StoneĀ how some of the hoariest complaints about how wackadoo crazy and antisocial libertarians are, for example that we don't believe in public firefighting services, are coming full circle and being embraced by the left, maddened by how they think global warming is making fires worse and saddened to think anyone would ever be hurt over anything as insignificant as private property.

Denis Collette...!!! / Foter / CC BY-NC-NDDenis Collette...!!! / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Osha Gray Davidson in a long article, "The Great Burning," about serious wildfires in the west this year wrote about how the fires "raise....weighty questions. The most immediate, following the deaths on Yarnell Hill, concerns the wisdom of sending young men and women to risk death battling wildfires to protect private property." (Libertarians, in my experience, are also the types who often raise interesting questions about bad forest management decisions on the part of the feds that exacerbate the fire problem in the west.)

A letter in the September 12 issue of Rolling StoneĀ from Paula Del of Los Angeles reinforces this: "No firefighters' lives should be lost protecting private property." This I guess leaves open the idea that a publicly supported fire service should exist, but only to stop fires on government land?

Now, libertarians, to the extent its true they obsess over quashing publicly funded firefighting, question whether this necessary and important service needs to be imposed by force and paid for by money taken via taxation--that is, they see it as such an important function that, like all important social functions, free markets and insurance will likely sort it out and provide it. (And if the risk proves too high to insure, then maybe people should reconsider their actions.) Government, to libertarians, should function strictly to protect life and property, and even then only in cases where no other non-governmental method could possibly or reasonably be imagined to perform that service.

These progressives seem to be saying that, whatever government is good for, such as changing everyone's energy consumption behavior to quash global warming, it certainly should not sully itself to actually directly protecting people's property and/or lives when it comes to fires--that government is necessary and proper for everything but a jointly funded project of protecting property. Libertarians, I suppose, are just being anti-social. Progressives are saying that we can and should count on government for ordering us to do whatever it sees as necessary, but not to count on it to protect anything as banal or insignificant as private property.