If They Had Never Invented the Public Library …


Friend of the show Leif Christian alerts us to an essay by Mike Conczal in Dissent that seems like a perfect topic for the Orange County political intelligensia:

Imagine there was no such thing as a library, and that members of the current neoliberal policy consensus were to sit down today and invent it. They might create complicated tax expenditures to subsidize the poor purchasing and reselling books, like the wage support of the earned income tax credit. They might require people to rent books from approved private libraries, with penalties for those who don’t and vouchers for those who can’t afford it, like the individual mandate in the latest expansion of health care. They might come up with a program where they take on liability for books that go missing from private libraries and thereby boost profits for lenders themselves, like federally backed private student loans. Or maybe they’d create means-tested libraries only accessible to the poor, with a requirement that patrons document how impoverished they are month after month to keep their library card. Maybe they’d exempt the cost of private library cards from payroll taxes, or let anything calling itself a library pay nothing in taxes.

Of course, there’s no saying exactly what the neoliberal library would look like. But we know one option that wouldn’t be on the table: the straightforward public library, open to all, provided and run by the government, which our cities and towns enjoy every day.

I’ll toss in the second-to-last paragraph as well:

In the wake of the Great Recession, people from across the ideological spectrum are looking to remake the welfare state. As a result of the culture of deregulation and privatization of the past thirty years, the default stance for many policy intellectuals is to support using private means to carry out the government’s responsibilities.

Giving the continuing discussion of “less government” in the county, let’s take a look at this one.  How would you propose a “public institution to facilitate exposure to written, audio, and visual material” — aw, heck, let’s just call it a library — if you were doing so from scratch?

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)