May

25

 Mark Perry posted this today on his website. It bears repeating:

"Legal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways. Thus we have an infinite number of plans for organizing it: tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements, progressive taxation, public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labor, free credit, and so on, and so on. All these plans as a whole—with their common aim of legal plunder—constitute socialism.

But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime."

Kim Zussman wrote:

A friend asks, "If I pay tax, which pays for a fire department, and my house never burns; but your house burns, and my tax money is used to put out your fire, that's 'plunder?' "

Garrett Baldwin replies:

Perhaps it would be better if the fire department charged individuals directly instead of allowing monies to be transferred through a central local government that takes money off the top.

Then again…

"Firefighters Watch as Home Burns to the Ground" (because the family didn't pay $75 in annual dues to fire house). 

You would have to be ready to deal with the consequences of your market decision should you not pay.

Jeff Watson notes:


I pay for my fire protection every year.
  My neighborhood association also pays for off duty Sarasota County deputies to patrol our neighborhood and keep us safe.

Stefan Jovanovich responds to Kim:

Kim's friend is assuming that fire protection is some kind of natural monopoly that requires state action. It is just the reverse. Fire departments were (and, as Jeff notes, still are in many parts of the country) voluntary. What made them "public" was not necessity but the discovery by progressives that private fire departments had "failed" - i.e. been unable to prevent urban firestorms. The truth was - and is - that no public or private fire departments can stop fires in balloon frame buildings once they get started. The best fire prevention technique is do do what the Swedes and other sensible people do: establish a perimeter around the fire zone and spray water not on the fire itself but into the air around the fire using a mist, not a stream so that any embers are cooled below ignition temperature. The U.S. techniques are - by comparison - nearly medieval. That is all the more surprisingly because the American Navy developed almost all the modern fire fighting techniques to defend its aircraft carriers and other ships during WW II; what I know about fire-fighting comes from the time and trouble they spent to train me and from one summer working as the lowliest of the low on a Forest Service crew in Oregon (even the work-release convicts had seniority over yours truly).

A typical California public fire department story: When the Oakland fire occurred, the response of the local fire department (3 pumpers, 2 ladders and a chief whose ANNUAL RETIREMENT PAY WILL BE $330K A YEAR) was to have the police tell everyone to evacuate. Those of us who had some experience with fires knew that for anyone not in the immediate holocaust zone the largest risk was from wind-blown embers being caught under the eaves of buildings or landing on shake roofs (like the one our then neighbors had because of its wonderful "rustic" qualities). Those risks can be answered with a well-aimed garden hose if someone is around to do the job. When the police arrived, Eddy's Mom told them we would prefer to stay. Very few people manage to tell Eddy's Mom to do things, but the figure of official authority might have been tempted to press his luck if I wasn't already up uncoiling the 100 ft. of forest service hose we had on a spool attached to the side of the house. It turned out, in the end, to be a false alarm because the wind shifted and pushed the fire back towards the Bay; that allowed it to burn itself out because it was moving back over ground that had already been burned. After the fire was over, everyone congratulated the heroism of the Oakland fire department, etc. What started the fire was a local blaze that the Oakland fire department had put out but not bothered to establish a fire watch over. When the hot winds from the Delta came over the hill that evening, they added enough warmth to allow the embers to flash over. IF the fire had been someone's private liability instead of an act of God (how else can sovereign immunity be justified), some poor Mexican would have been paid by the landowner to stand watch with another one of those garden hoses.


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3 Comments so far

  1. JH on May 25, 2012 12:55 pm

    “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in a society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”
    -Frederick Bastiat

  2. douglas roberts dimick on May 26, 2012 3:20 am

    Stefan,

    Most insightful and right on the mark… Been watching how the Communists mastered it here in China long ago…

    That experience now also causes me to do a double-take about developments in the US, notably within the military, energy, finance, and health sectors.

    dr

  3. Adam K on May 28, 2012 9:03 am

    Since this phenomena (using the law to take what is not mine) manifests at both the top and bottom of the social order (welfare vs to big to fail, minimum wage vs patent protection, ect,) isn’t the idea of truly free markets a pipe dream? The instinct of humanity is to take: by force, by seduction, by law, by any means necessary. After all taking can be efficient assuming the “work” of taking is less than the work of production.

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