Of Course, The Firefighters Should Have Let The Guy’s House Burn Down


Over at Think Progress, they’re bemoaning the fact that a bunch of firefighters stood by and let someone’s house burn down. Now, you may be thinking, “Ehr, Hawkins, they’re firefighters, so aren’t they supposed to fight fires?” Usually, “yes,” but in this case? Not so much. Let’s talk about it.

First, here’s the Think Progress side of things,

As ThinkProgress has noted, there are currently two competing visions of governance in the United States. One, the conservative vision, believes in the on-your-own society, and informs a policy agenda that primarily serves the well off and privileged sectors of the country. The other vision, the progressive one, believes in an American Dream that works for all people, regardless of their racial, religious, or economic background.

The conservative vision was on full display last week in Obion County, Tennessee. In this rural section of Tennessee, Gene Cranick’s home caught on fire. As the Cranicks fled their home, their neighbors alerted the county’s firefighters, who soon arrived at the scene. Yet when the firefighters arrived, they refused to put out the fire, saying that the family failed to pay the annual subscription fee to the fire department. Because the county’s fire services for rural residences is based on household subscription fees, the firefighters, fully equipped to help the Cranicks, stood by and watched as the home burned to the ground:

Imagine your home catches fire but the local fire department won’t respond, then watches it burn. That’s exactly what happened to a local family tonight. A local neighborhood is furious after firefighters watched as an Obion County, Tennessee, home burned to the ground.

The homeowner, Gene Cranick, said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late. They wouldn’t do anything to stop his house from burning. Each year, Obion County residents must pay $75 if they want fire protection from the city of South Fulton. But the Cranicks did not pay. The mayor said if homeowners don’t pay, they’re out of luck. [...]

We asked the mayor of South Fulton if the chief could have made an exception. “Anybody that’s not in the city of South Fulton, it’s a service we offer, either they accept it or they don’t,” Mayor David Crocker said.

So we have a conservative vision and a progressiveliberal vision. What are the real differences between them?

Well, the conservative vision requires personal responsibility, while the liberal vision doesn’t. This is where Think Progress stops, but they’re only telling half the story. You see, there’s a corresponding price for each of those visions.

First, there’s the price of the conservative vision.

Gene Cranick was aware that he had to pay if he wanted to have fire service. He obviously had the money to pay the fee, since he said he would “pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames.” Yet, he decided that it wasn’t worth $75 to have professional help if his house caught fire. Although it’s hard not to feel some sympathy for anybody who loses his home, what happened to Gene Cranick was fair and a natural consequence of his own decision making.

Now, what are the consequences for the community? A few people who don’t take personal responsibility, will suffer grievous consequences, just like Gene Cranick did. On the other hand, the rest of the community is likely to get service from the local fire department at a significantly cheaper price than they would otherwise pay. So, who benefits the most from the conservative vision? Responsible people. Who’s hurt the most by the conservative vision? The irresponsible people.

Then there’s the liberal vision. It doesn’t require any personal responsibility; so the fire department shows up whether you pay your bill or not.

But, what are the consequences for the community? Certainly, there’s no choice involved in the process. If you have a rickety old barn you’d just as soon see burned to the ground as stand, your taxes still have to cover fire service for it whether you need it or not. You also have to pay extra to cover for all the Gene Cranick’s of the world, who don’t pay their bill. So, who benefits from the liberal vision? The irresponsible people. Who’s hurt the most by the liberal vision? Responsible people.

Therein lies one of the biggest core differences between what liberals and conservatives believe. Conservatives believe society functions best when it rewards responsible people for doing the right thing. On the other hand, liberals believe society functions best when it rewards (or use helps if it makes you feel better) irresponsible people who’ve done the wrong thing.

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