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Post 20

Thursday, December 5, 2002 - 8:57amSanction this postReply
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Barry,
Thanks for your kind words. This thread has probably run its course, so Iíll wrap up my contribution with a couple of comments.

First, thanks for the reference to Boaz. I will check it out. Second, I appreciate your comments on history, privatisation and individual rights, but while these are obviously connected to the issue of public libraries, they are very large subjects in themselves, and cannot be dealt with in a few posts.

That said, it seems to me that the underlying shared assumption of our discussion is the political versus the economic. While there has certainly existed a tension between the two -- probably from the dawn of humanity Ė I think that as a matter of practical reality the two can probably never be separated. And I think that the evidence of history is on my side.

Welfare provision is one such case. Sure, prior to the 20th century this was achieved in different ways, at different times and places. By way of example, the English system of welfare after the Norman Conquest was centred on the township, and was initially drawn from tithes, the church tax. But a magistrate, who was a political appointee and often a local landowner, usually distributed the funds.

That aside, I think our goals are similar. The ideal of a world without poverty also is unrealistic, but if human beings were to order their lives so that any course of action benefited the least well-off, Iím sure itís possible to attain something close to the best of all possible worlds.

Thatís not quite the heroic vision espoused by Ayn Rand. But itíll do for me. The question of course is how to achieve this, and again I think we are of one mind: we can agree to disagree. Bye, Brendan

Post 21

Friday, December 6, 2002 - 10:12amSanction this postReply
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Perhaps the best way to begin the process of privatizing libraries is to model them after many local and municipal government contracting arrangements. Instead of the government completely owning and operating the libraries, it could allow private companies to compete for a contract to provide the particular service sought to be provided by the government. To put it in theoretical terms, the state would not directly control the means of production as it currently does. The arrangement would therefore be less socialist than it currently is, albeit not quite capitalist. But it could be a step in the right direction.

It's not difficult to conceive of book sale companies like Barnes & Noble and Borders developing separate library divisions and competing with one another to replace government libraries.

It is true that a completely privatized system would eventually evolve in the absence of state libraries, however, it is a politically ridiculous idea. What politician is going to stick his neck out and get accused by his political opponents of being "against books and education?" It's the reason we have such a large public education system today. This system would not expose politicians to such attacks. Indeed, a wise politician could argue that he both supports books and education AND does so in a more efficient and pro-business manner than do his opponents.

Post 22

Tuesday, December 10, 2002 - 5:06pmSanction this postReply
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When I go to a video shop I see a narrow range of titles, very few would belong to the "festival" category. Libraries seem to cater for a wide range of interests, probably widening and enriching society's views in the process.

I seem to remember that in England, many libraries in the 19 century were set up by workers' co-ops who saw that there was a need to educate the masses. The private sector and government in those days saw no need to do this.

Post 23

Saturday, December 14, 2002 - 1:59pmSanction this postReply
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We have a very nice private library here in San Francisco called the Mechanic's Institute. Yearly membership is $60. Although they do not have a huge selection of books, it is a most pleasant place, much nicer than any of San Francisco's public libraries.

San Francisco recently built what was to have been a "world class" main public library with over $100 million in tax money. This structure is, in large part, a failure. (Even many advocates of public libraries have trashed it.) Much of the space is taken up with computers, there are not all that many books in the stacks, and the building and furnishings are very sterile. Plus it is a hangout for extremely revolting and stinky homeless people, who can't be thrown out unless they cause a disturbance. To top it off, much of the collection seems to have been stolen over the years. So much for the joys of public institutions.

Post 24

Sunday, December 22, 2002 - 3:01amSanction this postReply
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I've just finished reading Paul Johnson's magnificent work of history, The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830.

In the penultimate chapter I came across the following details that are pertinent to the discussion of public versus private libraries:

In 1814 there were virtually no commercial libraries in Paris; by 1820 there were 32, and 10 years later 150. Most commercial libraries had only about 5,000 titles, but Madame Cardinal's in the Rue des Canettes, had 20,000, the majority new.

So, apparently commercial libraries were economically viable in France at that time. Interesting.

Post 25

Sunday, December 22, 2002 - 10:55amSanction this postReply
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The confusion, I think, arises from an equivocation between two questions :

* Is private X better than public X ?
* How may we achieve private X ?

The former is, in most cases, a pretty obvious question.

The latter isn't, especially in our government-encroached world, which thirsts for control. The answer, in my view, is probably that until the statist mentality is toppled, there is little point in thinking about these things. We should make our own path (gulch ?) and try to make the world a better place for freedom-loving people like us, first and foremost.

Post 26

Friday, January 10, 2003 - 1:36amSanction this postReply
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The contemporary world appears to proliferate with public programs (e.g. public libraries, public schools). As a believer in political individualism, I think the issue is how to phase all of them out or otherwise dismantle them. But the process of creating a free society does not occur overnight. If possible, public libraries should be among the last public programs to go. They are repositories of philosophy, visual art, literature. And most probably carry at least one Objectivist-oriented book that condemns, in some form, the idea that government can forcefully (or even fradulently) take funds from private individuals. Today, a destructive web of public programs includes at least one that offers the very ideas that contribute to a free society: the public library. And the public library offers these ideas to everyone, for free, at that. Perhaps we should "semi-privatize" public libraries--but even in their present form, we should consider removing them as institutions (other factors aside) in the very late stage of erecting a free society.

Post 27

Friday, January 10, 2003 - 2:58amSanction this postReply
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JP : how about charter libraries ?

Post 28

Monday, January 13, 2003 - 7:05pmSanction this postReply
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HRMPH! A voice of dissent...finally. I concede that public libraries (as institutions that receive government monies to advance programs) are a lost cause. I do not however think that we should advocate pulling them all down or distributing the books unequally, unless I get first picks:-) I agree with JP that public libraries have interesting books that undermine the very idea of a public library. I found Mein Kampf in my public library. The ideas in that book don't agree with what public libraries are trying to educate (I am speaking of the public education programs that the libraries offer). The whole idea behind these programs is to instruct citizens and their children on how to be more aware of other peoples and cultures (to name but one program). This kind of education can be taught elsewhere and it can be funded privately. The questions (to name but a few) are, 1) how many people want to fund such programs voluntarily? 2) Can we be sure that anyone (any private group) would want to fund such programs? 3) Why dismantle a program that has so many unintended benefits (like providing education to people who would otherwise get no instruction on civilities, culture, etc.)?

My public library also has a book by Herbert Spencer (A Plea for Liberty) which contains an essay from 1891, by M.D. O'Brian, titled "Free Libraries". That was written, whew, way back in England before there were public libraries like we have today in the USA. I'll just quote the opening sentences so you can get an idea of what it is about: "A free library may be defined as the socialists' continuation school. While state education is manufacturing readers for books, State-supported libraries are providing books for readers. The two functions are logically related. If you may take your education out of your neighbor's earnings, surely you may get your literature in the same manner."

Mr O'Brien criticized a free ambulatory library in his essay. One of the interesting things that I noted was that borrowers (in Victorian England) needed to give their name, address, and OCCUPATION each time they borrowed a book. That reminds me of the public library I used to frequent when I lived in Spain. They also required a list of private information each time I checked out a book. In NY (where I live) my public librarian casually asks for my card. That is, if I can steal their attention away from the person next to me with whom they are arguing about a book that has been checked out for the sixth consecutive month with no promise of return:) How far we have come from those days when philanthropists merely wanted to help the unfortunate illiterate poor to have access to reading.

My public library in Phoenix AZ (yes, I lived all the way over there too) promised to be among the great Wonders of the World. Six floors of solid glass and steel with an indoor fountain and Italian bathrooms. Five-star place! Steam-heated door knobs and fur-lined bathtubs...indoor/outdoor pools and rooftop astronomy deck with a 9-hole golf course:)

Well, one of the floors had a leak in the bathroom and destroyed about 5,000 books. These were taken to a warehouse and sold $1.00 hardback and .50 paperbacks (if you were a Friend of the Phoenix Public Library). I made out like a bandit and increased my personal research library by about 1,000 books. Of course, now I have to face the fact that they all have PHOENIX PUBLIC LIBRARY DISCARD on them:-) Small price to pay for a library that contains extremely rare books, many of which are Objectivist related authors.

I can say personally that my experience with the public library system has been VERY REWARDING!!

I have an activist strategy for SOLO people. Instead of bewailing, beat the poor collectivist and statist logic. JOIN your public library. Then milk it for all it is worth!! Go to your librarian and propose to set up a for profit book store for your OWN profit AND demand that they supply you with discarded books so that you can get back some of the monies that your tax dollars have contributed. Well I know that won't work. :)
Has anyone tried it?

You could also go to your public library and INSIST that they allow you to hold open meetings where you will discuss ways to dismantle the public library system. Well, that probably won't work either, right?

Does anyone disagree with my sweet revenge tactics? I propose actually to play within the rules and milk the system for all it is worth. That is what it is there for. I don't buy into any of the collectivist crap, i.e. "Shame on you for trying to milk the system!"

Oh! I could go on but I will stop:-)

Post 29

Monday, January 13, 2003 - 10:58pmSanction this postReply
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Francois,

Just so you know, I don't disagree with the obvious difference between:

* Is private X better than public X ?
* How may we achieve private X ?

I was only suggesting how others might, and how I had fun, enjoying the hoard of public X ;-)

Post 30

Tuesday, January 14, 2003 - 2:49amSanction this postReply
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UPDATE: There's an interesting article in Wired about a company called Netflix that has a business model that compares to Blockbuster as Blockbuster compares to public libraries. The innovation in the private sector keeps on rolling while the stagnation and waste in the public sector just sits there.

Post 31

Tuesday, January 21, 2003 - 10:33pmSanction this postReply
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There are some basic assumptions made which explain the funding of the public library system.

The idea is that the more educated individuals are, then the more productive and generally happy society will be. This is debatable, but at the least a decent education enables individuals to understand what mob extremism can lead to (because they studied ww2).

Also, if one advocates that people be free and unfettered from big govt telling them what to do, (eg planning permission) then it follows that it's even more important that they are educated enough to know for themselves the consequences of their actions (eg cyanide in the river after a mine dam floods).

The theory is, therefore, that across society, public libraries and other informational/educational resources provide a net benefit to society which is difficult to quantify but which is believed to be greater than the costs of the system. I encourage Anthony Teets to examine www.asknow.gov.au as an example of a service which provides a public good.

The same public library also secured a range of items from the world's museums and put them on display. It cost not a cent to get in, and one could see original manuscripts by Einstein, Ghandi, Shakespeare and Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech.

http://www.nla.gov.au/worldtreasures/index.html

Although there were of course sponsors for the event, it's doubtful whether private libraries would have allowed the items to be used for the exhibition. I ask, if there were no Govt involvement, what is the fate of items such as these? What's to stop a private individual buying and destroying them for fun?

It is said that the Internet has not led to much meeting of minds, or mutually beneficial exchange of views because individuals create and visit sites which reflect their existing beliefs. How many here read thenation.com or michaelmoore.com?

I am here with an open mind to be convinced that abortion should be illigal, that guns are good for society and that there is no global warming, and I look forward to honest debate with the people here.

I am convinced that essentially most people want the same sort of things from our societies. I am equally convinced that we are as a group smart enough to figure it out together. I look forward to your emails.

Post 32

Wednesday, January 22, 2003 - 11:30amSanction this postReply
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"I am here with an open mind to be convinced that abortion should be illigal (...) that there is no global warming"

Actually, we think abortion is OK too, and that there is a global warming. Not sure about the gun thing, though.

Post 33

Wednesday, January 22, 2003 - 4:13pmSanction this postReply
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"... we think..."

Who is this "we", Francois?

Post 34

Wednesday, January 22, 2003 - 4:38pmSanction this postReply
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I am talking about Standard Objectivism, which is based on capitalism and civil liberties.

Post 35

Wednesday, January 22, 2003 - 5:03pmSanction this postReply
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And Standard Objectivism says that there is global warming?

Post 36

Wednesday, January 22, 2003 - 6:33pmSanction this postReply
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"And Standard Objectivism says that there is global warming?"

No, the surface temperature data says it.

Post 37

Saturday, January 25, 2003 - 6:24pmSanction this postReply
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Ah ha, but the lower-atmosphere satellite readings say that there is no global warming. Either:

1) The world stopped getting warmer in 1979 when the weather satellites first went up or

2) The ground based readings (generally taken in or near cities and airports) are being affected by the "heat island effect", which is the effect that cities are a few degrees warmer than their surrounding areas, and cities are getting warmer but not the planet.

My money is on #2 (as long as there's no #3 option which is "Who cares about global warming?")

For more info on global warming, please see Still No Consensus on Global Warming Science.

Post 38

Saturday, January 25, 2003 - 6:39pmSanction this postReply
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Jeff,

I haven't kept up on the global warming debate, but there is another aspect to this. A number of scientists don't completely dispute the possibility that temperatures have been rising, but cite that there is evidence that this is just a part of a natural cycle of warming that has little to nothing to do with human activity.

See, for example:

http://www.oism.org/pproject/s33p36.htm

Post 39

Sunday, January 26, 2003 - 11:53amSanction this postReply
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Of course it's part of the natural cycle. Humans only contribute 5% of the total CO2 activity.

There have been ice ages and global warmings all through history. To deny that is simply insane. That has nothing to do with rejecting capitalism at all.

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