Defending the Undefendable

A libertarian political economy.

Four Firemen Die in Socialist Fire

Worse, two of them were women.

The headline in the newspaper was a horrendous one: Wildfire kills 4 firefighters in N. Cascades. Pictured was Pete Soderquist, the fire management officer in charge on the Cascade Mountains in central Washington state, who explained that the deaths were due to "when what had been a five-acre fire exploded into a wall of flame that trapped the crew." Also featured in photographs were the four firemen who perished: 30 year old Tom Craven, 18 year old Karen Fitzpatrick, 21 year old Devin Weaver, and 19 year old Jessica Johnson, all who lived in either Ellensburg or Yakima, Washington.

Any time there is a death of a human being, it is a tragedy (the reaction of the overpopulationists to the contrary notwithstanding). When this occurs for any reason other than old age, this is even worse. When death is not instantaneous, and relatively painless, this is worse yet. When this occurs to four people in the prime of their lives - they were, respectively 30, 18, 21 and 19 years old - the degree of catastrophe rises even more, in view of the now never to be seen potential these four youngsters might have attained had they lived.

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So far, these comments are pretty conventional. Very few would demur. But there are two controversial points to be made about this episode, both of which may teach important lessons.

First, this calamity occurred on public property, not private. The flames that consumed these four people took place in the Okanogan and Wenatchee national forests, and are believed to have been set near Thirty Mile campground, another example of socialized land ownership. Now I am not saying that no deaths occur on private property. I do not maintain that these particular occurrences would necessarily have been avoided were these lands under private control.

However, the two are not unrelated, either. When a forest fire consumes private timber, there are individuals who feel it in their bank accounts; this is not the case with socialized land holdings. This means that the incentives are greater, by how much is an empirical matter, for profit making individuals to take greater precautions regarding their property than is true for their public counterparts. If we have learned anything from the fall of the Soviet economic system - and this is a highly debatable point - it is that things work better under private ownership. These four young people will have not died totally in vain if we use their deaths as a rallying cry for privatization of the forest. Perhaps if we succeed in this effort, other lives will be saved.

Second, there were two females amongst the death toll in this fire. I see their smiling faces shining out at me from the newspaper coverage of this event. Both young girls were very pretty.

There was a time in our past when no such thing could have occurred; when fire fighting (along with other such dangerous activities as mining, policing, soldiering, lumber jacking, deep sea fishing, etc.) were the total province of men. Women and children died in calamities to be sure, but only if they were caught up in them as victims. Nowadays, with our modern dispensations, we place females in the front lines.

This is no less than an abomination. Females are far more precious than males. It is not for nothing that farmers keep a few bulls and hundreds of cows. It is due to patriarchy that we owe our very existence as a species. Imagine if our cave men ancestors had sent their women out to hunt and face the lions and tigers when they came a-calling, instead of throwing themselves at these enemies, sacrificing themselves so that mankind could persist. After World War II, the adult male population of Germany, Russia and other countries that suffered the most from the fighting was virtually wiped out. Yet the next generation, thanks to the relatively few men who survived, was able to come into being as if those losses had never occurred. Imagine if this war was fought primarily by the fairer sex; there would have been virtually no next generation. It cannot be denied that biologically speaking, men are in effect expendable drones.

So let us use the unfortunate deaths of these two young girls to resolve to turn back the clock to an earlier day when women were treated the way they should be treated. Let us return from "firefighters" to "firemen." Let us no longer blithely acquiesce in the senseless slaughter of precious females. Let us, instead, place them back up on that "pedestal" from which the so-called feminist movement has thrown them.

Now, of course, in a free society, people should be able to hire whomever they choose. Females should not be prohibited from trying to enter dangerous professions. And, of course, there are certain police jobs for which only women are by nature qualified to fill: e.g., prison guard in a female facility (but not to help wipe out prostitution, which should be legalized in any case). So this plea that we use the deaths of these two young Cascade women as an inspiration for ensuring the safety of future generations cannot be done through compulsion. But at the very least let us rescind all laws which require equal representation, or "balance." This should be done in all occupations, but let us at least begin with the dangerous ones. Freedom of association is not only just, it will promote the survival of our species as well.

 

Walter Block, Ph.D., is Harold E. Wirth Endowed Chair and Prof. of Economics, College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans, and the author of Defending the Undefendable.

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