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San Francisco 1906: A Libertarian Paradise

In 1906 an earthquake measuring between 7.7 and 8.25 hit California. San Francisco took the brunt of it. What wasn’t leveled outright burned later in uncontrolled fires. At least 3000 people were killed and almost 300,000 were left homeless of a population of 410,000. The Army was instrumental in keeping order and providing basic necessities until the civilian authorities could come to grips with the extent of the devastation.

Despite knowing full well that the area was prone to earthquakes, there were insufficient building codes in place. leading to hundreds, if not thousands, of unnecessary deaths. Afterwards, in the rush to rebuild, what little codes were in place were actually weakened until the 1950s. If San Francisco had experienced another quake of similar intensity, those older buildings would have been death traps just like the ones that preceded them. But who cares? No doubt the builders made money and they wouldn’t be the ones living and working in those houses and buildings anyway! And for the record, all those people in 1906 should have known better than to live in an earthquake zone and shouldn’t have expected help after their houses collapsed! Bootstraps, people! Bootstraps!

Behold the Libertarian Paradise!

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When a Republican/Libertarian says that government regulations “kill jobs” what they really mean is “costs money.” Every year, tens of thousands of people are injured or killed due to corporate malfeasance. And that’s with laws that are supposed to prevent that from happening. How many misfiring neurons are required for a right winger to believe that corporations would behave better with less regulation? No EPA? No FDA? The next time some jackass spouts off about how much better the country would be without that pesky government interference, ask them exactly how many lives are worth increasing the bottom line? How many children have to die from food poisoning? How many infants have to choke to death on a toy that breaks apart too easily? How many elderly have to die from “medicine” with known, but concealed, deadly side effects? All so a CEO can make millions to hide in an offshore account. Ask them for the price tag in lives for “FREEDOM?” At what point did money become more important than lives?

I think you’ll find the answer most revealing about how little they think about the real world consequences of deregulation and “FREEDOM” or how little they care about their fellow human being.



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9 thoughts on “San Francisco 1906: A Libertarian Paradise

  1. And what else is that particular Libertarian Paradise known for? Insurance fraud! There’s been a lot of documented evidence that claims were filed saying, “No, the earthquake didn’t knock down my building–it burned down!” It’s even been shown that there was a lot of airbrushing of destroyed building, showing them on fire, just to prove that, you know, they were on fire, so pay me!

    So much for that personal responsibility thing . . .

    Again: scratch a libertarian when the going gets tough, and you’ll find a crook.

  2. What do an earthquake and opportunists have to do with Libertarians? I enjoy your articles, and generally agree with your points, so I’m a little put off by this since I consider myself a Libertarian. I don’t know what meaning you are assigning the word, but to me it means I don’t want the government telling me what to think or what to do with my body (democrat) but I’m also annoyed that I’m forced to pay into systems that never seem to benefit me (republican). Is that inherently evil or something? Am I somehow predisposed to insurance fraud?

    It’s not necessarily about people needing to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps as you say. When I was homeless and starving (after housing cost hikes at my college), I was not eligible for food stamps because I was still enrolled thanks to a tuition scholarship. There was some lady in the news recently for collecting food stamps after winning the lottery, meanwhile I was sleeping in empty rooms above the cafeteria and begging to use peoples’ lunch cards because the safety nets I thought I had been paying into were not there to catch me. If I had dropped out or been pregnant, I would have been taken care of. Does that seem right to you? It doesn’t seem right to me, and unless these systems are overhauled (changed beyond the scope of Democrat reforms) I’d just as soon hold onto my money. That way when crap hits the fan, I’ll know that it is my own spending habits and poor planning that have left me stranded and not the government’s.

    Under the 2 party system, I typically vote Democrat. I consider myself a liberal thinker. I’d rather be taxed to death than live under a theocracy…which is why I’m shocked to see all this venom towards a group of people that largely agree with most of your articles. I just wiki’d Libertarianism to make sure I hadn’t overlooked some evil part of the philosophy, I found this:

    “Libertarian schools of thought differ over the degree to which the state should be reduced. Anarchistic schools advocate complete elimination of the state. Minarchist schools advocate a state which is limited to protecting its citizens from aggression, theft, breach of contract, and fraud. Some schools accept public assistance for the poor.”

    I suppose I’m a minarchist, and it says plainly that preventing fraud is considered a primary role of even the most minimal government. So how would true Libertarian politics facilitate fraud? Was it a Libertarian official that relaxed the building codes? I just don’t see the connection. Not every Libertarian goes all radical with it and wants to remove any shred of government oversight, what’s with the targeted attack? I’m not a SF historian, what made it a “Libertarian Paradise”?

    • Hey, don’t complain to me. Take it up with Ron Paul and Lew Rockwell, the leaders of the Libertarian movement. This is their worldview, not mine.

      • How does their world view factor into this article? What part of Libertarian politics created an environment with shoddy building practices and rampant insurance fraud? Does Ron Paul want to deregulate structural engineering, do his policies promote moral depravity? I just don’t get it. If that’s all you got for me, consider me unsubscribed :/

      • If you don’t think Ron Paul is explicitly against building codes feel free to unsubscribe. If you don’t think Ron Paul is explicitly against helping victims of natural disasters, feel free to unsubscribe. If you don’t think Ron Paul thinks it’s perfectly acceptable for contractors to do a crappy job because the “free market” will keep them in line somehow, definitely unsubscribe. Stick around, you might start to learn some unpleasant truths about the Libertarian movement.

      • Btw, I’m not even a huge Ron Paul fan. I’m not in here trying to start a debate to promote him or any of that stuff. Just a (kinda) long time reader wondering what the heck this is about.

      • Seriously, if you’ve been reading me for a while you should know exactly what I am talking about. Ron Paul and Lew Rockwell’s vision is one where the government does not mandate ANYTHING including building codes. If you choose to live in a building of substandard design, that’s on you. If the building collapses, too bad. Don’t blame the builder, he was just trying to make money and the “free market” will punish him for doing a crappy job.

        I don’t dictate how these men shape the Libertarian movement, I just comment on it. You call yourself a Libertarian? You are out of touch with their core beliefs then if you don’t understand why 1906 SF was the kind of world they conceive.

  3. Ron Paul and Lew Rockwell weren’t alive in 1906. Their current take on Libertarianism isn’t necessarily indicative of the party as a whole or through history. Paul is even running on the Republican ticket, he is not Gary Johnson the current Libertarian nominee. Just sayin’.

    I googled around to find information about Paul’s stance on building codes (not much out there), what I found was discussion involving the property owners building on their own land. As someone who worked as a structural engineer for years, I can understand this. It does seem like a big hassle to get a permit for every little shed or addition you build, and the county policies always make you overbuild. I should know, I ran the calculations for every building. It costs the owner a lot more money in materials, plus engineer costs (we’re expensive), plus whatever processing fees at the county level (gov’t dipping its fingers in).

    From what I understand, commercial buildings would still need to be built to code as it is a public safety/employee safety issue. Home owners could still hire engineers if they didn’t trust their builder’s experience, and home buyers would still have access to housing inspectors to verify their safety. Most people do these things regardless. If some backwoods do-it-yourselfer wants to build a shack and live in it, I say it’s on them. People get away with unpermitted buildings all the time as it is, Paul would just legitimize it and trim all kinds of fat in enforcement/administration. The county engineers alone make obscene amounts of money, and many of them are so spoiled from taking a 6 digit income just for initialing stacks of papers they don’t even know how to do the math anymore. I’ve had to bust out textbooks and correct them multiple times. If you were to cut out all the hen houses, metal shops, barns, sheds, pool houses etc. they could probably push the commercial end up to the state level with only a few staff needed. They would be doing work deserving of that pay too lol.

    Meh, I’ve been reading your stuff for about 4 months now and I’ve never come across anything like this, nor has it come up in anything I’ve read about Paul in other news channels. This article seems like just a bunch of malicious speculation that to me doesn’t serve any purpose but to bash on Libertarians. Kinda like when Republicans claim Democrats want full on socialism, it’s blatant hyperbole. Again, I’m not voting for Paul I’m voting for Obama, I think you have a narrow view of who Libertarians are and have compounded the problem with your own bias. Sooo…great job alienating people from the same team.

    You should rename your blog “100% Democrat or GTFO”

    • “Ron Paul and Lew Rockwell weren’t alive in 1906. Their current take on Libertarianism isn’t necessarily indicative of the party as a whole or through history” Are you kidding me? They have shaped and defined the movement for longer than I have been alive. the fact that you are trying to claim that “ye olde Libertarians” didn’t think this way means you are acknowledging that they most certainly think this way now. The rest of your post is completely irrelevant. You know, for a fact, that the Libertarian movement RIGHT NOW is opposed to ALL government regulations, even the few that 1906 San Francisco had in place. If it had been up to them, the building would have been even more dangerous and many more would have died. If you don’t like this statement of fact, I would suggest you grow up. Pretending otherwise is the defense of a child.

      “People get away with unpermitted buildings all the time as it is, Paul would just legitimize it and trim all kinds of fat in enforcement/administration.” No, there would be NO enforcement because there would be no regulations. There would be no inspectors because there would be no standards. Think, fool. Ron Paul is against the FDA and EPA whose sole purpose is to enforce and inspect. That’s for the far more important needs of food, air and water. Are you so stupid as to believe he supports building codes when he doesn’t even support mandatory safe food? My god, do you even hear what you are saying? Do you realize how intensely stupid you sound? Say it out loud “Ron Paul doesn’t want to inspect food and water for safety but he’ll definitely inspect buildings.” I dare you.

      And yes, that is exactly what you just said in your uninformed response.

      Believe me, I don’t mind alienating people who live in the Libertarian fantasy world. My target audience tends to be rational adults and I have no more time to waste on you.

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