I Wanna Be A Libertarian

For the most part, I consider myself a Libertarian in that I'd just as soon the government not tell me what to do.  In some aspects, I guess, I'm pretty conservative in my values, so I'm a little Republican, and I like the idea of people on welfare getting off of it someday, especially since I had to eat a lot of PBJs and continue to drive a car with 100k+ miles on it to afford the house we live in (but that's called choosing your priorities).  And although I'm all for funding the arts, I'm pretty sure I don't want to fund anything called "Piss Christ". 

Socially, I guess, I'm pretty Democratic.  While I want people off of welfare eventually, I'm also realistic in that there are people who really need help.  I also believe that just because I believe in certain things, others do not.  Just as soon as I would never force anything down your throat, though, I'd just as soon you didn't force me to either.  So I'm all in favor of saying "One country, under God" and courthouse lawn manger scenes, in season, of course.

Our government should help when it can and stay out of our business when it can not. But when public safety is involved, time and time again the public has shown it can't be trusted to do what is right for their neighbors, so there are times when the government should really step in and set things straight.

What am I talking about?  Well, in Breckenridge, Colorado, an ordinance was passed to create a defensible space between properties.  While some people see this as a sane thing to do, others think that it infringes upon their rights.  As I see it, it is the right to have highly combustible timber and brush leading right to your home (or your neighbors), and then, I guess, your right to bitch about it when it catches on fire and the fire department is overwhelmed trying to help all the other Libertarians in your neighborhood.

Now, I don't for a minute think all these people are Libertarians (nor do I care, and the same for any other political affiliation, just bear with me), but there really does come a time when the common good trumps that of your personal rights.  Call it a slippery slope, but you know, as much as I embrace your religious rights, I don't see a problem with being able to see your face when you enter a public building.  And I as much as I believe in my First Amendment rights, I think race-baiting and hate speech should be banned, because it is apparent some people lack a certain amount of civility.

When we in emergency services make proposals for public safety, we should always consider the effect we have on individual rights.  The decisions we make really do affect those rights, but so long as we are using good logic in doing so, the public has to understand that we need a LITTLE HELP sometimes.  If you choose to exercise your right to build right up to the interface, you are going to have to give us a little break when we ask you to cut back the forest from your house a little.  When we tell you that you need to leave your home because the fire is heading in your direction, trust me, if I could leave you in place, I would, because frankly, you're just going to get out there and tie up the highway and gawk and get in my way instead of evacuating anyway, so I'd just as soon leave you there.  I do, however, realize that leaving you to burn up in your property, regardless of your individual rights, is going to land me in court because I left you to do what you wanted anyway.

How do we take into consideration individual rights versus the right to protect people from themselves?  By educating people, and sometimes that requires bold and candid speech.  It is this exact kind of speech that politicians hate, because it shakes up the status quo.  So long as the populace is happy, the politicians are happy and it's a lot less work.  When we make decisions to cut back trees or not to respond to calls for help at a certain windspeed during a hurricane, or to evacuate people from harms way, it certainly upsets people and they take that moment to complain.

We have to make the grown-up decisions, though; it's why we exist.  Sometimes it's best to leave things be, but sometimes you need to point out to people that their decisions could very well result in injuries and fatalities.  If people can't see their way through those choices, then maybe we should just restrict our response to help them when all Hell breaks loose.  After all, we wouldn't want the government to interfere with your life, would we?

  • http://www.report-on-conditions.blogspot.com Joseph Schmoe

    I think you may be what we call a soft-core libertarian. A soft-core libertarian believes that some government is necessary for order, but that it should be kept to a minimum. I believe that is the only practical form of libertarianism, as there is always an element of society that feels a need to cause problems for the rest of us.

    Defensible space is like a noise ordinance. Most people don’t think their brush is really a problem, but their neighbor’s is. Hopefully, the ordinance has some teeth behind it as it really does affect the entire community.

    Thanks for the post.

  • http://www.FirehouseZen.com truck6alpha

    I’ve often considered that the most efficient form of government would be a beneficial dictatorship. Of course, I would have to be the dictator. But since that isn’t happening anytime soon, our democratic system seems to be working fine.

  • http://www.report-on-conditions.blogspot.com Joseph Schmoe

    Well, I would have to agree. Before I take over my domain, lets set down and work out trade, defense agreements and establish diplomatic relations. It will save time and trouble later.

    Oh yeah, I want Martha’s Vinyard in my sphere of influence.

  • Michelle

    It seems to me that you are a Statist, not a libertarian. You believe that thinking you know what is best for someone else is justification for using the force of government to create your personal utopia, where there is no hate or incivility, where people are forced to do whatever you think is in their own best interests no matter the cost to that individual which is not your place to calculate. You may indeed know these things, such as it not being very bright to stay at home when the forest is burning, but how believing that your good intentions is justification for the use of force is the least libertarian thing I’ve ever, ever heard.

    I think property ownership implies a certain amount of responsibility, and choosing to live in a populous area also implies a certain amount of at least “neighborly” consideration. However, property rights serve a purpose and that is to ensure that those of conflicting/contrasting values can live in peace by respecting boundaries. If you want a blank swath of 100ft around your home, you should have bought one. Your only other option, in a free land, is to convince your neighbor that it is in his own best interests to do what you want him to. Without the right to refuse, property rights are meaningless. (One could still argue property infringement if the neighbors neglect causes undue risk or damage to another’s property.)

    We should all endeavor to promote good stewardship to our children and in society, and small governments might also pursue tax incentives for good property maintenance; Options for encouraging good behavior in society are limitless and many incur little cost – unlike your Statist position which, while it may make you feel good about your superior education, values and authority, bears the terrible cost of lost freedom and increased government control over our lives. Without the freedom to make bad choices, we have none at all, and no one but an individual can weigh the merit of their own values.

    Government wealth distribution is not charity, and while you can ask and help others to be responsible, you cannot force people to become moral and certainly not with government force. That is like mugging someone to show that mugging is wrong.

    Libertarian? No, try again.

  • http://www.firehousezen.com Mick Mayers

    Michelle,

    We welcome all comments to Firehouse Zen and I appreciate everyone’s views so long as they are civil and relatively logical. In that I read your comment and I’m sure you weren’t insinuating that I am a fascist, but rather that my view of controlling fire spread “serves the nation state rather than the people” (which isn’t my view, but it sure beats being called a fascist or communist), I’m willing to concede the point that I am also not a Libertarian (which I never have been), nor affiliated with ANY other party.

    That all being said, I can certainly appreciate your views on landowner’s rights, including the right to burn your home down because you fail to provide a defensible space, but that would mean then (to me) that I have a right to tell you that your house is going to burn down because we aren’t going to fight a fire in it when a wildland/urban interface situation occurs, because other people who DID choose to prevent fire spread deserve some help instead.

    Unfortunately, in this time and place, there are only so many firefighting resources available, and it seems that everyone and their brother is quick to blame the fire department when their house burns, although a quick check of origin and cause is likely to reveal that it was something the homeowner did to cause the fire, and we were simply summoned to correct the ongoing disaster. To me, much of the litigation is like the case in which someone ordered a cup of hot coffee, then sued when they were burned by the hot coffee because THEY failed to control it.

    I’m not interested right now in debating my political stance, since that’s not what the discussion was about. I was simply trying to illustrate that there are way too many people out there who proclaim a desire to “live their life the way they want to live it”, but selfishly fail to realize that there are others out there whom their lifestyle impacts.

    I am the least desirous of a government control on anything; I have had way too many dealings with government at the local, regional, state and federal level and honestly, none of them have impressed me so far as a stellar example of how to do much of anything.

    However, in this case and in others like it, there comes a time when educating people on the way to be a good neighbor and citizen would be to help pitch in, and people don’t care to listen, and then legislation ensues. Like a wise man once told me, “If people treated people like they should be treated, we wouldn’t need laws”.

    Do we have too much government interference? I think so. But in cases of the public safety, yes, I have seen what people tend to do when left to their own devices and so, yes, I’m okay with legislation to support our efforts to do that. It’s not fascism, but when I see a woman with an unsecured toddler in the backseat running off the road because she’s texting while driving (and I did), I can sleep comfortably with having a few laws on the books to prevent ignorant behavior.

    Thanks for your comments and feel free to post. I really do appreciate your viewpoint and I think maybe there’s some middle ground between what we both said.

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Michael "Mick" Mayers

Deputy Fire Chief - Operations Division for Hilton Head Island (SC) Fire Rescue and an Emergency Response Coordinator with the United States Department of Health and Human Services  National Disaster Medical System Incident Response Coordination Team.

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Although I am affiliated or employed by certain entities, I in no way speak in this forum or others on behalf of those entities unless I have specifically stated such. Any implication otherwise is doing so contrary to my agreements with those entities. The result is that the observations and opinions by myself or on behalf of Firehouse Zen are not sanctioned by any other entity other than Graffiti Train Sherpa Publications and are protected by the copyright laws of the United States of America.

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