In it, George Washington University professor Amitai Etzioni claims that "libertarians" should not fight mandatory tornado shelters and then turn around and claim money from the government for failing to provide such shelters. And in this point, I agree with Mr. Etzioni.
But what I fail to understand it why the good professor seems eager to apply this hypocrisy to the libertarian strawman he has created. Perhaps he found some jerk calling himself a "libertarian" complaining about not being FEMA Fabulous after the storms, but I contend no genuine believer in individual liberty is crying about a late FEMA check.
A tornado shelter mandate would be unnecessary if the government stopped subsidizing poor decisions, like living in Tornado Alley without a tornado shelter. This is a classic example of the government creating a problem and then trying to fix it.
What Etzioni fails to understand, as do most liberals, is that libertarians expect the individual to fend for themselves in these situations. These are just good old conservatives, who, like always, complain about big government until they actually want it for themselves.
With greater individual liberty we expect people to exercise greater responsibility. Libertarians say we don't need the government because we can do it better and faster and cheaper on our own.
The problem here is government, who always steps in to bail people out of the consequences of poor decisions. This holds true for everything from individuals to large, rich banks, as we've seen in the not-too-distant past.
There is no reason to stop diving off cliffs if there is always someone there to catch your fall. If people who live in tornado-prone areas knew they either build a shelter or lose everything, far more people would build a shelter on their own merit.
Ideally, one who fails to protect their home and family from a reasonable threat should face negative consequences. Sometimes these can be dire, but nonetheless, one can never be motivated to act if one's mistakes are constantly erased.
But should they just starve? Are we libertarians really that callous?
Of course not. It's 2013, and no one realistically expects there to be no social net. We just question that net's size and scope.
But this isn't good enough for Etzioni:
When libertarians get hurt because they refused vaccination or to wear a seat belt or a motorcycle helmet, or have their property damaged because they build too close to the shoreline -- they call on ambulances, hospitals, and FEMA for help.
They claim that they paid for these services with their tax dollars, but it turns out that what they pay does not even begin to cover the costs of training the doctors and nurses and building the hospitals. Instead, a good part of the funding for these emergency services comes from the national debt that libertarians claim to so hate, and which they want to reduce -- by cutting services to other people, especially those on food stamps and Medicaid.First of all, even middle school kids know what insurance is, if that's the bar we're setting here. Why is the assumption that the government pays for everything?
Etzioni has no way to prove the claim that libertarians don't pay their fair share of emergency services (or if he does, he didn't see fit to include that data in his anti-libertarian screed). But that doesn't stop him from claiming that we're all a bunch of freeloaders.
But I can't blame him, since any attempt at talking about budget cuts brings about the usual liberal whining about losing emergency services, as if the first priority of any deficit hawk is shut down the saving of people and property.
It's probably just a reflex.
We oppose regulations like this because, in practice, mandates on private property create far more unintended bad consequences than intended good ones, and not because we want to be self-indulgent middle schoolers.
Ascribing a false argument to an opponent and then attacking that argument is intellectually dishonest and in bad form. I appeal to the liberal world to actually look into libertarian ideas before mocking them, since the term seems to be synonymous with "young conservative" for people like Etzioni.
Bitching about the government then taking from it is truly a Republican thing, but don't let that fact get in the way of a good hit piece.