Use your local library.
During the year we started Matasano our Chicago team spent about 40%-50% of our time working from the Oak Park Public Library, sometimes in meeting rooms we booked, more often at study desks. It was great. The Internet access wasn't amazing but it was totally functional and we could VPN out through it. The desks and working space were if anything better than what we have now (and we really like our office).
There were times I worried that we were being a burden, but the impression I get is that it's the opposite. What's deadly for a local library is for nobody from the community to be using it, for it to have no stakeholders from the tax base of the community. The library staff was always welcoming to us.
Your hip coffee shop on the other hand hates you with a passion it normally reserves for Scott Stapp solo albums. At the coffee shop, you take up space in a business that's driven by turnover. Someone's going to chime in here with a story about a coffee shop that truly loves the startups that park themselves at their tables and order 3 count them 3 cups of coffee in a day, but I've talked to hipster coffee shop people oh-yes-I-have and at least some of you who truly believe you're doing your coffee shop a favor are being tolerated gracefully, not welcomed, like you would be at your local library.
Libraries have an obvious role to grow into as IT hubs for their communities, now that so much of their knowledge-disseminating role has been subsumed by IT. But another related less obvious role is as a hub for local entrepreneurship; thing thing "hackerspaces" are supposed to do, but are (for so many companies) suboptimal at.
Libraries, in my opinion, are a model of what social services should look like: universally beneficial, only practical at the community level, little chance of moral hazard or conflict of interest by any party involved (don't return a book, you lose check out privileges - the only one hurt is the perp).
Next time you think of buying a book, seriously check out your local library system.
That's actually a pretty great insight. If you think of the library as a potential piracy haven, you might even consider going as far as calling them a storefront of The Pirate Bay if libraries were invented today.
That's expensive only because no one actually uses the online lending service, since rich/tech people value convenience, and the people for whom a $9.99 ebook is a big enough expense to warrant the inferior search, wait, etc. are probably not technology early adopters (or can't afford a $79 Kindle).
It might make sense in a school library environment, though. Or, with sufficient assistance in setting it up, audiobooks for the reading-impaired (a helpful librarian, or an audio-only UI to search/download books).
I'd hate the thought that I have checked out a book I could otherwise afford to buy and deprived the use to someone that could not. Or that I am using a computer to read Hackernews that an ex-convict needs to use to apply for a government program to keep his grandson alive.
Using the library deprives a slice of the pie to the very people that need it more than you. If you use the library and you can afford the alternative, then you are just as bad as the people that want to close it.
One library within my father's system cut all books below a certain circulation.
They did not bother checking whether the books could be considered "important" by some other metric. So much scientific and classical work was gotten rid of.
So don't just use the library, use the specific bits of it that you want to keep. You are doing nobody any favors by letting it sit idle.
How about other needs governments sometimes provide to the less fortunate, such as food, shelter, medical care, and universal education?
Public education is also important, but I would hardly say its a model social program. Everyone benefits from an educated population, again, in an optimal case, there is little conflict of interest, and in general, it elevates the lives of those using the service. At the same time, it's something that could be done privately in the home or without any government intervention - and for most of history it was. It's also a bloated beauracratic mess, a representation of just how inefficient government programs can be. There are fantastic people in the trenches in schools being led by goons and politicians with little interest or knowledge about what is good for developing kids.
Unfortunately, much of this spending fails to encourage behaviors that actually move people out of poverty. If you are receiving assistance, any money you earn above a certain amount threatens your assistance. So you hide it or stay below the arbitrary limit. This is not the way to encourage honesty or industry.
How long were things done that way, despite the facts? Decades. And that's the problem with government administering charity. It doesn't look at the results and adjust its approach until outcomes improve. Its driven by political considerations. And when it does measure reality, it measures those things that make it look successful.
And why should it look honestly at outcomes? Government doesn't have to convince you to support a program. Unlike private charity, it can make you fund it. You probably don't even realize what you're funding.
While that is likely true, in other segments of the population, such as vulnerable children, providing food, shelter and health care encourages "not dying".
I agree, but there are something like 250,000 books published each year.
At just $5 per book that's $1,250,000 just to buy each year's worth of books, never mind the staff to do the buying and unpacking and cataloguing and stocking and lending etc etc.
 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Books_published_per_country_per...) (but go careful because who knows where the wikipedia numbers come from)
 A ridiculously low figure. Here's some UK data; not sure where it comes from. (http://www.holtjackson.co.uk/cgi-perl/web_avg_book_price.pl)
Local libraries are pretty cheap. Programs to give books to poor children may not be as cost effective. Giving computers to poor children may simply result in them being sold, either by the kids or their parents.
Commercial libraries (proprietary libraries) have existed. They typically catered to the kind of people who paid a lot for membership - upper middle class professionals. If we relied on commercial public libraries today, they would be stacked with O'Reilly's books, Tolkien, popular economics, management books, and the like.
Then pay for the warm, fuzzy feeling you'll get for doing something that benefits others.
the sense of something being a 'good deed' comes from expecting harmony and general social cooperation (reciprocity) and since the cause effect is so disconnected and complex - it's too difficult to grasp with reason (for some people) and just has to be felt in this way. (?)
also the neurological 'mirroring' and empathy
.. anyways. people who want and use the library should pay for it. people who don't should not pay. isn't this fair?
People who want and use the roads should pay for them. People who don't shouldn't be allowed to drive or walk anywhere. Isn't that fair?
People who want and use the police department should pay for it. People who don't should have no protection. Isn't that fair?
People who want and use the fire department should pay for it. People who don't should have to stand by and watch their house burn to the ground. Isn't that fair?
fire insurance includes fire department service. you can go cheap and risk burning down but it's more likely that decent friendly neighbours will gladly cover yours if you can't. or you can move to more affordable housing within your means
health insurance with discounts for taking care of yourself
competition between doctors and between pharmaceuticals driving innovation, skills and real results forward while driving prices down.
would you rather get chemo for pennies while someone else can get immortality for millions or would you rather pay millions for chemo equally with everyone else
private or shared roads according to free will and common mutual interest
i don't want just anyone to come in to my house as they please. or my driveway, or if my driveway is very long = my road
i'm responsible for my property amd my own actions. i don't want to tell you what to do and i don't want your money. we can agree to exchange things for mutual benefit and i will do everything i can to keep to agreed terms - staking my word and reputation
there is nothing wrong with public libraries or charity regardless if selfish or for common good as long as it's funded with free will instead of threat of tax prison
crappy mismanaged unused library should go broke while the good library can pay for itself with fees and donations
just like your startup
One of the reasons for a nationalised fire service was because Insurance-company funded firemen had a tendency to be arsonists.
You: "the market organises to elevate the best and raise standards for all others"
Everybody else: "And I'm the Queen of England."
"The market" is not some intelligent, charitable entity. It's an abstraction employed to talk about how participating entities allocate their resources. It categorically does not help everyone. In fact, in many cases it can hurt everyone (the most famous example is the tragedy of the commons, but that's hardly the only way markets can go bad). Read the OP: What is the market going to do for that guy with no money?
From your comments so far, it seems like you believe he should just curl up and die in the cold. And most people don't believe that's a good answer at all.
Which our op, with his subscription to police protection, believes he will be protected from.
Course he has to assume that he and the others like him have paid sufficiently to keep his mercenaries/rent-a-cops armed and motivated enough to protect them.
I'm fine with universal (modulo pacifists and those not capable of handling a gun) individual gun ownership. Combined with anything resembling rule of law, in that case armed robbery quickly drops off the list of "what it takes to survive", because it no longer results in long survival. The criminals will always be outnumbered.
But let's get back to the real topic. Fact is, I like libraries. I think they're very positive for everyone in many ways, in particular for being an intellectually-oriented gathering place.
New to these particular arguments, so your first sentence was perspective adding. Should have realized though that the strong libertarian bent to HN would make a lot of arguments old.
That said: In my defence, I'm neither for nor against the topic, and wasn't making the arguments you suggested I was. I was alluding to large groups of criminals overwhelming or out-gunning paid protection at some point of the scale.
As you said, lets get back to the real topic - libraries are great. Although it did seem like computer education and literacy was one of the major draws - perhaps people here could help by helping an NGO which provided volunteers to help people fill forms up or give them computer education?
I kind of think maybe a better reason might be because a commenter engages in trolling or some other behavior that's out of bounds, which might very well be the case here with Mikey7. But I appreciate having this thought process behind downvotes as they are actually used ("I disagree with what you say ... Downvote for you!") so clearly stated.
Even speaking as an agorist, your faith in the market is a little extreme. It certainly has some useful and beneficial efficiencies to be sure, but believing that it will simply elevate the best and create a rising tide that will raise all standards is a little naive I think with regards to what we see in the world where markets reign.
Assuming humans are perfectly rational agents with equal information it works, but that's not how humans really are. Humans are dumb, panicky, emotional animals, and the difference between the most incompetent of them and say cows are not as wide as our politically correct institutions would like to force us to believe.
You would do well, even in an ancap society, to voluntarily donate to charities that pursued socially beneficial objectives so that you reaped the benefits of their actions. This is pretty much the ancap response to tragedy of the commons. Vaccination and libraries are not a bad example of where this makes sense imho. There's nothing strictly contrary to ancap doctrine to point out that choosing not to clean your proverbial home will result in you living in a mess, so you might want to do that occasionally.
It is not enough to point out that simply because states provably fail, markets are perfectly efficient.
Political discussion has, for a long time, been discouraged on HN. Down-voting is one way to encourage people to stop.
Also you'd be pretty hard pressed to say that this question isn't expressly relevant to the original article being discussed, and isn't overtly political in the sense that noone is agitating for votes or any such thing.
"Do buyers and sellers go to this man the way people go to real estate agents for their services? What would Craigslist buyers and sellers think of what he does if they knew about it? Respectfully, I think they would strongly prefer he weren't interfering."
"I doubt very much that sellers would appreciate this liquidity 'service' if it were spelled out for them. They would feel cheated, as would the buyers."
Pretty outrageous, in retrospect.
Two in just the past hour with a quick look at recent comments + one 40 days ago where I noticed it first started happening;
The upvote/downvote system is not intended to be a popularity contest, it's intended to indicate whether the post contributes to the conversation. Even if you find Mickey7's viewpoint abhorrent, you ought to be giving him a +1 to recognize that it's a relevant perspective -- even if that's just so that you can reply and show why this perspective is flawed.
I'd also recommend that if you do use your local library, support it, too. I don't necessarily mean monetarily (which we do, via, uh, late fees), but if someone in power is considering cutting funding, tell them they really shouldn't do that.
Quite honestly, I didn't enjoy spending time at my local library. The atmosphere was depressing. The people running the place seemed unfriendly. They were used to dealing with people coming in and trying to hide in the bathroom during closing in order to stay the night, and things like that.
There was no good place nearby to get food or drinks. Internet access was slower, more inconvenient and more restrictive than most coffee shops. There didn't seem to be a community of people hanging out working on or talking about interesting things.
If libraries created an inviting place to hang out, I would gladly give them another try. I'm more than willing to buy food and drinks at a markup if they're offered. I consider that a good trade: I get sustenance to keep me concentrating for extended periods of time, and they get some compensation for use of the space and resources.
I've seen a few libraries with the just-outside-the-door model, and a Borders with a small Peet's upstairs. Both were well-executed.
> Has it been a while since you been to a library? Cameron Village Regional Library is the only library in Wake County that offers coffee bar service to its patrons! Come visit your public library and browse the stacks with a beverage in hand. Or just come and meet up with a friend and catch up before heading over to the shops and events at Cameron Village.
If they'd served coffee back then I might have spent less of that time sleeping.
Give me a library that has beer on tap any day.
The main branch of the Ottawa Public Library has a nice little coffee/food shop in the middle of its main floor.
I've also visited two public libraries in smaller cities north of Toronto recently, and they also have similar shops. I think it is a great idea, as I will sometimes go to the library to work for the day and don't even have to leave the building for lunch.
* One in a city of 36K people doesn't have refreshments, but is located on a street with lots of restaurants and at least 3 coffee shops within a block or 2.
* One in a city of ~56K people has a coffee kiosk under a canopy/tent alongside the library (this is Southern California, weather's not too big an issue).
* The central library in a city of ~140K has a coffee shop in a sheltered part of a patio/courtyard. I don't think the branch libraries have coffee.
* Los Angeles Central library has 2 restaurants inside the main library building (Panda Express, and a sandwich counter), and a pricier white-tablecloth restaurant in the garden in front of the building. I don't know about the branch libraries.
(edited for formatting)
To sliverstorm's point, the Philly-style pretzel shop across the street from my branch does a nice business with kids after school (and me any time of the week), and I long for a nice coffee shop in the adjacent vacant space.
Below is a talk about transforming part of the MLK library, DC's central library, into a meetup space, FWIW.
If you were starting again in 2012, would you pick a library over a hackerspace or a shared office type deal for any reason other than cost?
I'm not sure if this counts in the same way, but I'm a huge user of inter-library loan; large city systems HAVE the obscure computing and other books I want to read, but there's no way each little branch can.
What are some other unconventional ways to find space to hack on projects?
> it will be a slow death by a thousand cuts
It will be a slow descent into budget fugue, followed by an extremely quick death when we pass an inflection point in "the number of people who remember getting awesome value out of their local/municipal library system."
I bet when a lot of people here first started hearing about library closures in their old neighborhood, or wherever they're living now, their initial reaction was one of total shock followed by "well I guess I can see how that could happen."
When people hear about library closures now, they could be skipping the shock entirely, passing smoothly through "aw that's too bad", and fading into "well there's Google."
> [the library] need[s] to become the center of civic engagement
We need a center of civic engagement with both equality and equity of access. Libraries are a decent foundation on which to build such a thing, but there's at least one common feature of libraries that makes them awful for this: people are supposed to be quiet in the library.
There should be almost nothing quiet about civic engagement, finding a job, learning new skills, research, etc. Less giant rooms with rows of people not saying anything; more smaller sound-proofed rooms with whiteboards and projectors. Like a giant executive briefing center, only with fewer executives and more regular folks with something to ask/teach each other.
Santa Monica is the position of being an economically well-off city (and thus able to afford such a lavish library) with a significant homeless/poor population, which is very well represented in the library. For areas in the midst of complete economic blight, I doubt there's as many niceties opening up--which is sad.
As is the point of the article, in the midst of all this Information Age online-this and online-that, there's a sad lack of civic-mindedness. How does the community as a whole uplift the people within it who are not doing as well? I doubt most of the higher-end property-tax payers in Santa Monica actually go to the library--and it is clearly servicing the people paying the least (or nothing) for it. Sadly, most of the rhetoric I see on the public policy level is, "I was in line at Albertson's and saw someone buying a steak with their food stamps!!! And a bottle of wine! How dare they? You should only be able to buy lima beans and tepid water with food stamps."
Cynical political response: "turning tricks" == good first approximation of dealing with a modern government
Entrepreneurial response: "turning tricks" + video cameras + fast uplink == revenue model
If our attention spans are that fried, are we any better off than the hypothetical guy trying to fill out a government form?
It's a bit like taking someone's synopsis for what the Bible is about. You can't. You have to read it, experience it and parse it yourself or you can't really know.
Myself, I'm not going to pablum-feed you guys a over-simplified short form version of what I think I just read. Read it for yourself.
No wonder libraries are endangered.
When I write a fervent wall of text I think is worthy of reading in full, I don't put on a TLDR, I just pity the fool who doesn't take the time to partake of dense knowledge.
So, TLDR, it is the author feeling the content is lacking in a dense section of text more than the reader having a limited attention span that leads to TLDR's. I think.
There is no evidence that "feralchimp" (who wrote the TLDR here on Hacker News) is the same as "codacorolla" (who wrote the original comment on Metafilter).
We're spending good money on buildings full of books that inadvertently provide some really important social services. If you've got a bucket catching drips from your leaky roof, you need roof repairs, not a better bucket.
Here in England, we have an organisation that does exactly what the OP is espousing - guiding people who don't know where to turn for help. It's called the Citizens Advice Bureau, it has been in existence since 1939 and it now has 20,000 volunteers working out of 3200 locations. The CAB provides impartial and confidential advice and assistance on just about any issue someone might bring through the doors. Crucially, the CAB is an independent charity, so is trusted by marginalised people in a way that no government agency could be.
I'd like to say that I'm surprised there's no equivalent in the US, but sadly I'm not. I just don't think there are enough Americans prepared to give up big blocks of their time to help people who we'd all cross the street to avoid. I don't think any society that still uses the word "ghetto" in the present tense is capable of building such an organisation.
I understand that there are agencies sporadically providing similar services, but that lack of consistency is half the problem - if your brand isn't ubiquitous, you're failing your most needy clients. Now please, go out and prove me wrong. Build an absolutely kick-ass advice agency and rub my limey face in it. There are few things that would please me more.
Interestingly I am also British and my impression from American friends and acquaintances was generally the opposite to yours: many of them had volunteered in the past or were involved with volunteering, which is something I came across less frequently in the UK (I emigrated 4 years ago so this may have changed, I suppose). This impression is borne out by the report above.
While the social issues faced in every country differ greatly for any number of reasons governed by history, demographics, etc. etc., there are enough similarities between the two countries as to make you sound very insensitive to the issues faced by many inhabitants of the UK.
To use one small example, the Gini co-efficient measure of income inequality (after taxes) for the UK is closer to that of the US than it is for almost every other European country . I don't think anybody would dispute that there are a lot of poor and disadvantaged people in the UK.
The main difference between the two countries has less to do with the willingness of citizens to donate time or money to charitable causes than it does to do with the "social safety net", provided by the government. That's a whole different subject though.
Britain's Gini coefficient is substantially distorted because of London. The Gini coefficient is a pure measure of income inequality, so is massively influenced by the presence of people with exceptionally high incomes. It tells you almost nothing about the gap between the middle class and the working class in a developed country. When your country includes a megalopolis that's the world's most popular playground for billionaires and tax haven for multinationals, that distorts the figures somewhat. Factor out a couple of London boroughs and our Gini index changes dramatically. Likewise, France's Gini index would plummet if they had a territorial claim to Monaco.
I don't want to trivialize the plight of the poor, but I'm also concerned with the impact on the world's intellectuals. A somewhat relevant rant follows....
We were down in the bay area meeting investors a few weeks ago, and I took some time to walk around Standford's campus. It's beautiful. It feels somewhat quiet and lonely, but that's simply because it is huge. However, I walked through a few random buildings and delighted in seeing people studying and working. While still quiet, there was an energy to the place. This was a place that brilliant people made magic happen.
It strikes me as odd that so much work these days is done out of coffee shops. I mean, I do it too, but it's really kind of weird. You walk in, all these people have headphones on, are sipping on a latte, and totally ignoring the outside world. People are crammed in like sardines and working like mad men, but it simply doesn't feel like magic is happening.
Neil Degrasse Tyson talks about how NASA is necessary to create the sense of wonder and enchantment to raise a new generation of scientists. He says the NASA budget is simply a great investment. He's right.
I feel the same way about public spaces.
I'd really like to see more energized, magical, beautiful public spaces. I'm not a Stanford student, so I couldn't use their wifi. I had to walk down to University Ave and work out of Paris Baguette. There's just not as much wonder and excitement when you're surrounded by pastries.
I think this lends itself particularly well to the success in co-working spaces. As more and more people seek to become entrepreneurs, seems co-working spaces provide a perfect in between (as well as much less risk) from working in your home/coffeeshops to signing a lease. WeWork in NYC as well as the handful of others in SF are great solutions to this, providing freelancers and small teams the ability to work amongst others and share that connectedness you talked about while at Stanford. Hopefully Chicago will get some more co-working options as well.
Interesting question is how can a coffeeshop embrace this mentality. In the city, people certainly use Starbucks as an office-like environment. While the mix of people is usually pretty good, seems that it's very isolated, with little to no interaction. I wonder if there's a better way to mix the coffeeshop and co-working biz model, perhaps sort of like how I/O ventures does it with Summit.
you could call it a patio, but that implies a bit more formality than there is at a lot of coffee shops. "tables outside" is probably pretty good.
Libraries are hugely important knowledge transfer hubs (and, as the MeFi commenter rightly says, community centers). Furthermore, selfishly, for us as builders, they're the only place a lot of people will ever come into contact with the stuff we make. They can't be allowed to die.
The entire California library system was given $12m in state funds in 2008. It's now down to zero. How can we, as a community, help?
For whatever reason, all politics is now identity politics. Less important than the effectiveness of a policy is whether that policy is threatening to the ideology that accompanies a person's group identity.
It makes me wish we didn't have names for these things for people to rally around. If you replace "I'm a libertarian" with "I'm skeptical of government solutions without sufficient supporting evidence" notice how the lack of abstraction makes it impossible to avoid focusing on the issue at hand.
I'll every once in awhile throw a jab towards "libnerdtariasm", because while I do try to keep politics out of things as much as possible, I am still easily baited by nerd tropes.
This is a good point. I'll keep it in mind for the future. On less civil sites, it also at least makes someone work to invoke a string of identity-politics nonsense like "LOL LIBERTARIAN MOAR LIKE STRAIGHT RICH WHITE MAN AMIRITE?"
Just because something is good doesn't mean the tax payers should pay for it. There are other options.
If they are a great idea, why not persuade people to voluntarily pay for them?
Or if they are providing value, why don't they make money? Perhaps they could provide some services for free and charge for others. Or profitably provide some services very cheaply.
The argument you present for libertarians is bad and borderline shameful (and, I think, not representative of the majority of libertarians. but certainly something some of them would say). But there much better arguments with similar conclusions.
The main reason it's an awful position, in my view, is that it's premised on conflicts of interest and compromise -- some things outweigh others, and there are losers which must lose while having legitimate points. It views life as a mixed bag, with inevitable suffering and sacrifice and loss.
This is not the position of, for example, Ayn Rand who argued in Virtue of Selfishness chapter 4 for a very different worldview in which there are no conflicts of interest among rational men.
Your claim that if voluntary charity worked, no one would have invented public services in the first place is incorrect. If voluntary charity didn't work in the context in which Government was first invented, that absolutely doesn't imply that a more sophisticated version of voluntary charity could not work today in a rather different world.
This is simply false. In Atlas Shrugged, she explicitly acknowledges that providing public goods is a legitimate function of government, and taxation is legitimate insofar as at it used to pay for public goods. If I remember correctly (it's been a long time), it was Hank Reardon who states this point.
I believe a (fair) judge was also allowed into Galt's Gulch, though I might be misremembering this point. As I said, it's been a long time since I read the book.
Varies by person, but I think if you took a vote even restricted to people in Silicon Valley who actively called themselves "libertarian-leaning", over whether libraries should get some funding, the answer would probably still be "yes". Not too many people are actively against libraries; I think they get cut more because, unfortunately, their constituency isn't as powerful as other things that might be cut instead.
I'll give brief examples in hopes you, recognizing you really were wrong about some basic facts, will either learn about the subject or stop making nasty, ignorant accusations in the future.
Ayn Rand did not have a policy of "never accept handouts", said so, and, for example, signed up for medicaid.
Ayn Rand's argument I cited does not consist of denying there are public goods. Whatever her position on public goods, if you read the chapter, public goods are simply not what she talks about, and your comments do not address the argument she did make.
Ayn Rand rejected and harshly criticized libertarianism. Calling her a libertarian is ignorant.
Rand's opposition to "libertarians" was purely a personal dislike of the people in Rand's time who called themselves libertarians. Most sensible definitions of the word "libertarian", ranging anywhere from "an advocate for limited government" to "an advocate of the non-aggression principle" easily entail Rand's philosophy.
Finally, while I think Ayn Rand was irrational or just plain wrong in many aspects of her philosophy and in her personal and political dealings, and while I think her philosophy has frankly horrific consequences, I don't hate the woman. I actually have a degree of fondness for her, and her role in my intellectual development.
Of course, I was fifteen at the time. Finding the intellectual discipline necessary to realize that Rand's philosophy was predicated on nonsense and that I had been wrong was important to my intellectual development.
I'm gently worried that young people aren't allowed to make similar mistakes - reading the wrong websites or sending the wrong tweets can be really harmful to some people's lives.
Austrian writers are the go to role models for most libertarians, Hayek, Mises, my favorite is Rothbard.
And that Hayek sympathizes, morally, with socialism?
Mises is wonderful but these other people you list with him are really quite different than him.
"The parent should not have a legal obligation to feed, clothe, or educate his children, since such obligations would entail positive acts coerced upon the parent and depriving the parent of his rights. The parent therefore may not murder or mutilate his child, and the law properly outlaws a parent from doing so. But the parent should have the legal right not to feed the child, i.e., to allow it to die."
Yeah, pretty disgusting.
In other words, if Bill Gates had been born in Somalia, chances are he wouldn't be nearly as successful.
Taxation is how you repay your debt to the society that enabled your success.
Defense was a different matter, in that in her view, that was one of the legitimate functions of government -- protecting the individual rights of the citizens.
Rand acknowledged that every generation stands on the shoulders of the productive people who came before them.
Yes, if Bill Gates was born in Somalia he probably wouldn't have followed the path he did. If Somalia was a nation where individual rights were respected, as Rand advocated, everyone in Somalia would be much better off.
Not to judge this particular use of tax money but of course they would -- it's in the direct interest of the reigning bureaucracy, or any bureaucracy, to expand its scope whether it's necessary or beneficial to the society. It's the same with departments fighting over budget and new hirees.
Do tell us more.
Your snide tone is neither necessary nor justified.
The success of this meant that the state got involved, as the benefits were so large and clear, and more was clearly needed.
This is the core of the problem with "no taxes" - principally it's good on paper. In reality it's more complicated than that.
EDIT: Seems I found a clue ....
"In 1862 insurance companies told the government that they were unwilling to be responsible for London’s fire protection as the cost of compensation was becoming too high. The government decided that the Metropolitan Board of Works would take control."
As one's liver combats the effects of pollution in your bloodstream by filtering it, so, as a society, we have developed certain organs to combat the degrading effects of similar sorts of problems.
People also pay for detective services when the police fail, are unwilling, or are not tasked to inquire into a particular crime. Also people pay investigative services for breech of contract civil offenses that the police generally do not aid with.
People additionally form themselves into neighborhood watches, and voluntarily take up the general duty of a beat cop.
All these services that people are providing for themselves with their own sweat, money, and private organization are good wholesome things. Should they also become the sole providence of the government as well to perform in a beaurocratic and mayhaps inefficient manner?
Answer yea or nay, but think about it.... that's the crux of libertarian thought: thinking about everything in that manner and not just taking for granted that if something has been a government service for generations, then it should continue to be one in the future.
Private detectives provide investigative materials that are used in civil courts.
It's already happened.
Now libertarian thoguht doesn't say just because you can replace something by a voluntary institution then you should.
However, you should think about the scenario.
The alternative, more mainstream viewpoint, is that the government should provide for certain goods because it is assumed that the private sector won't or shouldn't do it. There's no reasoning behind it, its just taken as a given.
There's a darker strain of libertarians who genuinely don't care whether the congenitally frail receive health care or whether the poor can afford food and shelter, because there's no human right to food and shelter, but there is a human right not to pay taxes. Even most libertarians shy away from this by asserting that somehow private charity will take care of it all, but the empirical evidence is insufficient.
“What he should do is whatever he wants to do, and assume responsibility for himself,” Paul said. ”My advice to him would have a major medical policy, but not before —"
“But he doesn't have that,” Blitzer said. “He doesn't have it and he's — and he needs — he needs intensive care for six months. Who pays?”
“That's what freedom is all about: taking your own risks.,” Paul said, repeating the standard libertarian view as some in the audience cheered.
“But congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die,” Blitzer asked.
“Yeah,” came the shout from the audience. That affirmative was repeated at least three times.
-- LA Times article "Support at GOP debate for letting the uninsured die" 
if you remove 'good' with 'useful', and it seems to me that this is exactly what tax payers should pay for. There are tons of useless shit tax money is used for, libraries is not one of them.
Just because something is super good and super useful -- and uncontroversially worthwhile -- like groceries, cars, delivery of packages, the production of beds, health care, retirement savings, and so on ... absolutely does not imply that the Government should be paying for it with tax money.
Libertarians believe that Government is kind of like a really big bureaucratic company, except even less efficient and poorly managed in most respects, and instead of pitching investors (say) it sometimes just takes their money against their will. If something is important and we want it run well and efficiently, all the more reason to keep Government away from it.
The reason to involve Government in something is when Government's unique talents and position are helpful. Most good things can be provided without Government and therefore should be provided without Government.
Government has a more legitimate role to play when we need:
1) massive scale. our Government is big which is, in a few cases, an advantage
2) when we're dealing with law (courts) or force (police, military, CIA) because it's very tricky to let non-Government people do a lot in these areas
Libraries are also an example of a good where maintaining the "option to buy" is potentially more important than any service you consume. In other words, having a big pile of books in a building, available for close to no cost, enables us all to act more freely -- knowing we can get more information when we need it.
The sole benefit you describe, namely the ability to borrow books, is a private benefit. I borrow a book, read it and enjoy it. What benefit does this create for anyone besides me?
Since I am the sole beneficiary, the library can charge me for it, and prevent me from consuming it if I don't pay. Why should you be forced to pay for me to receive these benefits? Should you also be forced to pay for my netflix subscription?
But, the choice is not to eliminate these library's and watching identical private ones pop up, it's between having them and not, and by having them I benefit more than it costs me for them to be there.
Second, how much crime is prevented by libraries? Is this the cheapest way to prevent crime? Or would it be cheaper to devote the money to a few more beat cops?
Is it the cheapest way to prevent crime? Is a leading question. Where I live we spend a lot of money on a wide range of things from beat cops to parks and street lights that prevent crime. And library's provide many other services than just crime prevention.
A more realistic question might be; Assume 10% of their useful function to me was crime prevention would reallocating 10% of their funding to something else above and beyond what we already spend on it prevent more crime? And the answer to that question is no.
PS: In theory we might be able to say use subliminal messages to prevent crime more cheaply. But, of the options that are actually being considered Library's are surprisingly cost effective.
The cost/benefit to evaluate public subsidies is (public benefits) / (public costs). If 90% of the benefits of a library are gained by the users, then it's highly likely that this will be negative.
In such cases, a mixed model is best - i.e., if 10% of the benefits are public, 90% private, then a 10% subsidy for libraries might be justified.
Cost and benefit are also independent. It possible for a Polio vaccine to provide 100,000 times the public benefit relative to it's cost (eliminating a disease for all time can easily be worth vaccinating people on the other side of the planet). Research can also easily have that magnitude benefit ratio's.
And (public benefits) / (public costs) is only negative if public benefits or public costs are negative you might be thinking Benefits - Costs but that does not really fit the rest of your equations either. Anyway, the idea that public subsidy's should not exceed the ratio of (individual benefit) / (public benefit) sounds good until the public benefit exceeds the cost at which point there is little for an individual to pay the costs.
PS: There is a reason people get PHD's in economics it's a lot more complex than you might think. Just consider adding different levels of diminishing returns to all of those cost benefit equations and your still barely scratching the surface.
That actually made me feel sorry for you.
Are you really this much of an island, or do you just enjoy trolling? Is there no possible benefit for me that you might have learned something, or that perhaps you might now be able to tell me something I didn't know before? Is there no benefit to me that perhaps because someone in a library showed you how to apply for your housing benefit online you didn't feel the need to break into my car?
And yes, much crime like theft can be related to drugs. But a significant proportion can also be tied back to poverty.
You're like a parody of all that's bad about the libertarian ethos. Or whatever you think you are.
You are moving the goalposts. I asserted there is no "massive positive externality", not that there is no possible external externality.
I do concede that maybe people who spend time in the library are more interesting conversationalists. I just don't consider this benefit to be "massive". Do you?
I don't think I've seen anyone argue for a truly nihilist position as earnestly as you have here.
Do we have different definitions of "sole" and "private" - those words feel fairly absolute to me.
Sure it may not be a massive positive and direct benefit to you, but I find it hard to understand how you think there's no possible benefit at all. Do you feel the same way about teaching people to read, write and count?
Seems to me an outbreak of disease by the poor surely effects the whole and that we all would do well to pay a "tax" to prevent that?
In this case it is fair for the town government to pay for the dam with taxes. Given the net benefits of the dam it is even plausible that the increased property values and job revenues near the dam would increase the tax base.
Most people will care a lot more about, for example, how they are perceived in the community. So simply making the payers list public would, in some cases, prevent people from playing chicken.
Many other solutions are possible, depending on context and culture. It's the job of the businessman to use creativity to find a solution, a way to persuade people to voluntarily participate in his project.
What's wrong with Government action?
Two main things:
1) some people will be taxed to pay for the dam who were not playing chicken but genuinely would rather have kept their money and not had the dam than have paid for it. Why? Because their kid urgently needs new shoes or expensive, urgent cancer treatments. Or their roof leaks, or many other reasons. Just because the damn project is profitable for them doesn't mean they don't have more urgent uses of capital at the moment.
2) some proposed projects should not be done. Why? Well maybe people are mistaken about it being a net win. Maybe it has hidden costs which I noticed but other people didn't notice. And I try to tell them but they don't understand my point.
The solution to the "same projects are mistakes" issue is voluntary participation so people use their judgment and win or lose based on their own choices.
Taxing everyone means the dissenters pay for it, and lose out if it fails, even though their judgment was correct.
The Government has no special skill at knowing which dams should be built now, which later (because some other use of capital is more urgent), and which never. Nor at knowing which look highly profitable now but will be rendered obsolete by new technology next year.
It's pretty silly to talk about economics if you don't believe in rational economic actors. A public list is a nice theory, but then you would still have people trying to get on the list for the minimum amount possible and hoping that others would donate more to be higher on the list of donors. And what happens when you have 60 local farmers and 40 corporation farms. Most corporations would be pretty hard to shame into paying if they could somehow get others to pay.
Point #2 goes both ways. If the project becomes a net benefit then the dissenters get the benefit and win even though their judgement was incorrect.
Point #1 also goes both ways and points towards the need for public goods. In reality the sick farmer will benefit the most from public services such as dams and health care being shared by all of society. By sharing the cost of the dam and healthcare across all of the farmers they can help prevent one of them going bankrupt due to a bad case of cancer.
It's true that the government isn't better than everyone else at knowing which dams should built, but that doesn't mean that society can't figure out that some projects are best funded by the entire society.
Anyway - interesting perspective on your part. I wish more people could talk about the pros and cons without getting downvoted for disagreeing with the majority.
Lots of people dissented from the iPhone. Now they benefit. Their benefitting doesn't hurt Apple or prevent Apple from having funded the project themselves and from making plenty of profit. Apple got what they paid for and then some. Other people come out ahead too but that isn't Apple's loss. I don't think some people getting unearned benefit is something to worry about as long as the primary actors are able to make their profit.
The same point could be made more broadly about computers as a whole. Funded by a minority initially, now hugely benefitting many people who didn't take any of the initial risk.
I think there is an asymmetry. I'm far more concerned about people being forced to pay for failed projects or projects requiring capital they more urgently need elsewhere -- being actively, involuntarily hurt -- than I am worried about people gaining broad benefits from projects that benefit the primary actors and risk takers plenty (I actually regard this free stuff to lots of people, which is the result of many projects, as a positive, happy thing, not a negative.)
If you'd like to discuss further, with interesting people and no downvotes, you could come to:
Libertarian selectivenes again. Government grants have always had a large part to play in computer development, but aside from that, what's really benefitting people is the internet, which was most definitely a government project, 'funded by all US taxpayers' rather than 'funded by a minority'.
With respect: when you find rational economic actors in notable quantities, please do let the rest of us know. (My skepticism of the questionable assertions of libertarians is largely based on the conspicuous absence of such actors.)
That article doesn't seem to give much sway to the issue of transaction costs in letting people organise to provide a public good, which is really central to the issue..
There are transaction costs for Government action too. In general they are higher. Government has no special ability to keep transaction costs low.
> Surely as argued above, contagious disease prevention would qualify as a public good
It has excludable ("public") and non-excludable aspects like all goods. It's certainly possible, in theory, to make a profit off it. But today no such thing is organized, meanwhile the Government does have it under control, and the total cost isn't very high relative to the country's wealth. So there's much, much higher priorities to privatize like the postal system or social security.
I think reform needs to go one step at a time. Do I predict that contagious disease control will and should one day be done differently? Yes I guess so, though the far future is quite hazy. Let's not worry too much about that because by the time we get closer to doing something it will be a lot clearer what works or not.
But when you bring up something like education, where we already have many private educational institutions, and public schools are widely regarded as largely failing, no I don't think the Government is good at this and no I don't want to spend billions in taxes on throwing money at stuff with institutional problems other than underfunding (e.g. teacher's unions and the wrong epistemology).
A good transitional proposal is vouchers. In this way the Government can subsidize poor people or any other favored group while not actually running any schools. So if what you want is access to education, paid for by the Government, you can still have that without Government actually running schools. I think that'd be a good step forward.
Transitions are important because if you cut off aid to some group overnight then they are going to get fucked in the meantime before alternatives are created. And transitions are also important in that alternatives are not created before some sort of transitional steps are implemented to allow alternatives a purpose and ability to be useful.
> There are transaction costs for Government action too. In general they are higher. Government has no special ability to keep transaction costs low.
Of course they do --- it's called fiat. When a variety of beneficial options exist but a lack of cooperation prevents an overall resolution, the government has the power to step in and dictate what should be done. If you don't like it, other options are still available --- there are other countries to migrate to.
I don't consider proposing emigration as a reasonable response to proposed reforms of our country.
I have no particular ideas about changes for dealing with contagious diseases. It's low priority and I haven't thought about it. If you'd like several examples (but not that one), I suggest the book The Machinery of Freedom, now free: http://daviddfriedman.com/The_Machinery_of_Freedom_.pdf
> how do we make everyone who benefits from an educated populace pay a fair price towards the education of the next generation
I don't understand the necessity of making everyone who benefits pay. The real problems, as I see them, are getting stuff to happen and be paid for in such a way that everyone directly involved mutually benefits. If someone else benefits to, that isn't hurting anyone and is not a problem.
What actual problem do you want to solve? Having schools and having them paid for? I don't see that as terribly hard. We already have schools, public and private, people already pay for them (both types), it works. I don't see any fundamental difficulty in getting the Government out of the education equation unless your goal is redistribution of wealth (for educational purposes) to poor people or other groups, and you want to redistribute more than voluntary charity will do (in other words: you want to redistribute wealth from people who think it's best used on X, for purpose Y, against their best judgment).
If you want to do that redistribution you need Government because it has the special power of using force against innocent people who disagree with you. But vouchers are still adequate.
Don't get me wrong - I generally find the libertarian mindset quite agreeable but there are certain examples where I'm unable to reach the conclusions truer libertarians do, and this would be one of them.
Edit: You are getting downvoted, so at least you should have a chance to explain your position.
The problem with that argument is there is Nothing that get's past it.
People talk about creating wealth like it exists in a vacuum but without the knowledge and resources that comes from living in society You can't create such things. Bill gates would have been completely incapable of creating 99.99999% of his wealth if he had been born a mere 10,000 years ago. That's not to suggest society should the vast majority of your output but giving up 1/3 of your income to keep things running smoothly is in no way unfair. If you really think you would be better off fending for your self without tools or knowledge then feel free to get a lobotomy and move to an island somewhere otherwise you do owe society a great deal.
However it's no reason to reject all libertarian or classical liberal type ideas. Just because society brings value, and Steve Jobs made his fortune in context, does not mean taxes should pay for all sorts of stuff or that it's necessary to either give up a third of my income or find for myself without tools or knowledge. That's a false dichotomy. It'd be possible to have a functional society, with knowledge and tools and so on, with a lot less being provided by taxes and more being provided by non-Government entities.
In general terms government consists of 3 choices. What do we prohibit(1), promote(2), and how much do we forfeit(3). The libertarian view is to focus on minimize 1 and 2 with the assumption that it minimizes 3. But, as soon as you pick a sacred cow like defense and say this is governments job there is no clear limits, should we build 10,000 nukes? how about 100,000?
In my view if you instead pick how many resources government has to work with and focus on maximizing benefit you naturally start to balance collage scholarships and attack subs. You also tend to avoid budget deficits because if you assume you only have a given budget to work with you don't do the I need do do all these things and taxes must be below _ so I guess we need to barrow a little bit more. Basically, stepping from what can the government do, to how well can the government afford to do X,Y and Z. Which fit's with the reality of diminishing returns while your 10th nuke is worth more than an extra math scholarship your 100,010th is not. As well as differing option on just how important various things are.
PS: As to why 1/3, well at best I might get to keep 50% more money, but government is going to take something so it's just a classic compromise. Also, while it's probably not the top of the laughter curve it's closer to the top than 20% so lowering it is not going to provide more income for the government.
Just as one example, what if libraries had some ads somewhere? Then they could be provided for free to poor people but also gain some revenue. (And you offer premium membership with no adds for a yearly fee.)
If that would work (I don't know), then the question would become: should we charge people taxes so that poor people don't have to deal with ads at libraries? And I think the answer to that would be "no" -- if you want to help poor people see fewer ads you could pay money for that yourself without the tax system (e.g. the libraries could directly accept money and the more they get paid the fewer ads they show according to a formula).
Perhaps when people borrow a book they are only given the first four chapters; they have to promote the library to get access to the next three chapters; and they have to pay to get access to the last four chapters?
I doubt freemium models will translate well to libraries.
E.g., Intuit or private accountants just to pay their taxes, lawyers, and so on.
This question is nonsensical in the context of economic theory.
Because, in this specific case, the people who most need libraries can often barely afford to pay for food and shelter.
Libraries are such an obvious public good that I will never understand why they're not treated (both in the US and in the UK, and perhaps in other countries), as a basic and absolute necessity.
[edited to add not which I left out in my rush to get my point across]
You value them. Why don't you pay something voluntarily? And a thousand other yous? Why doesn't Bill Gates throw some money at it if it's a super efficient use of resources?
He will, and many other non-poor people will, if they are persuaded it's a better use of their resources than Greenpeace, Oxfam, malaria medicine for Africa, clean water for Africa, and so on.
If such people can't be persuaded of this -- that it's an efficient use of resources -- then that's no time to send the tax man to take their money for this purpose and divert it away from the purposes they judge to be more important.
I'm willing to pay $1 for a public good if everyone else pays $1. But it is utterly irrational for me to pay voluntarily for this public good, for at least two reasons: 1) since most people won't be paying for it, if I want it I'll have to pay much more, and 2) whether or not it exists is entirely independent of my actions anyway, so why pay a thing?
In order for fundamentalist libertarianism to work it will need to come up with a solution to the free-rider problem. Got one?
For your reasoning to have been good and fair, you would have had to consider the scenario that puts your position in the worst possible light and then show that it still holds. Imagine a dam that costs $100 but provides $10,000 of benefit to 20 users. Imagine, further, that all 20 users are competing with each other for status and customers, they are all roughly equally wealthy, and that paying for the dam will be a significant expense for most of them. Even though the dam could be built by any five of the users, any user who doesn't pay will gain a comparative advantage over the others. The libertarian might propose that they collectively participate in a contract. But why should anyone agree to participate in this contract, if they know that the dam will be built irrespective of their participation, and if they will get an advantage over others by not participating? No doubt the hold-outs will claim that they can't afford to pay for it, or that they don't want it -- but this is just a negotiating strategy.
Sure, setting up a government to deal with the provision of a single collective good is extremely inefficient. The issue is that there are many thousands of such public goods (and services). The empirical argument, here, is that on balance the inefficiency is worth it.
It does not appear, from your essay, that you have carefully and sympathetically examined the relevant counter-positions. If you haven't already looked at it carefully, I would recommend http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/free-rider/
It is interesting that free market fundamentalists seem to have trouble deciding whether their argument is an empirical or a philosophical/moral/ideological one. They will claim that libertarianism is the answer because government-based collective action is always less efficient (an empirical claim). When evidence is provided that this need not always be true, they switch to an argument of "freedom" and natural rights. When this argument is shown wanting, they then revert to their efficiency-related arguments. This flip-flop frequently works to fool many, it seems.
That's a moral not empirical claim. You can't measure what is morally better than what.
Also that isn't my claim: I said nothing about what outweighs what, and I object to such arguments.
You complain that I don't give a sympathetic reading to free rider problems -- without details, presumably simply because you disagree with me -- but then what do you do? You characterize my views grossly inaccurately by throwing in a bunch of your own assumptions.
HN has terrible UI for finding new replies to comments like this, where they are nested under other comments I wrote, so I don't intend to check again. If you want to have a serious discussion and perhaps learn something, reply at: http://groups.google.com/group/rational-politics-list?hl=en
This is an appeal to wealth fallacy.
It's quite possible that the wealthy might have interests that diverge significantly from the common good and the overall wealth of society.
Jared Diamond's 'collapse' makes a strong case for this having occurred numerous times in history.
Volunteer charity also only works for <i>visible</i> problems. There's no need for it to go away, but to suggest it could replace (and improve on!) governmental social services is just silly. Everyone gave money to Katrina funds... when it happened. What percentage of the original donators were still donating 6 months later? 12 months? 24 months? Same question for Haiti. Private charity is good for the initial burst for visible causes, but it sucks for ongoing support on the grand scale.
People who have the money to support them, don't need them.
By the time there are enough sufferers, and discontented others who create an externality where libraries are useful, the solution for those who can afford it is personal protection.
So as a result, libraries wont get funded.
The fact that their customers are broke (but not so broke they can't afford cable TV) doesn't change this.
edit: That is definitely information. Appreciate the references (that were given as a reply to the other comment.) Will look at them later to see if they answer the question that came to mind as I was reading your numbers; what's the churn? How many people were in that 14% during any particular period?
For example, if I did a survey during a famine to find out how many people had a meal that day, and found out 2/3s had, it would be incorrect to say that only 1/3 of people had been effected.
There are apparently 1.5 million homeless children in the US. Are they watching cable tv?
But it's ok - you can link to the correct definition of public vs private good.
I'm actually disgusted by your attitude.
Because the US government did a survey measured this. I link to the raw data in a separate post on this thread, currently downmodded for reasons unknown.
First, a library is most assuredly a public good in that it provides services that it can only provide which are not directed at profit-making. It serves many civic purposes and provides many services to the community. This is empirically true. It can be observed. Go to a public library in a city center and you will observe these functions being carried out to the great good of the patrons and the community at large. Your links to Wikipedia notwithstanding, you've made no real argument that libraries do not provide the public goods of communal learning, discourse, shared meeting spaces, free internet access (in intervals). I'm sure you'll go read your Wikipedia definition and come back to split hairs, but it really comes down to the notion of shared services and their potential for enriching the lives of the people in a given community. You've exhibited a great disdain for such here. It's distasteful, but I'm accustomed to it here on the internet, where every engineer who read a Rand novel got the idea that he was John Galt. So it goes.
Second, you've brought in this cable TV nonsense, as if it reveals that the poor are in fact not poor at all because they've found a way to scrape together enough money to enjoy just one small pleasure. Would you like to commission a study on how many poor children eat one or more pieces of candy during a given month? Would that vindicate your view that nobody is poor and that nobody benefits from shared services and that people with less money and opportunity than you are all lazy idiots looking for a way to mooch off of your bootstrapped successes? I think not. I think you'd still be dissatisfied after having ripped off the mask of those greedy little children in the bad neighborhoods, pretending to be poor while eating a piece of candy now and then. For shame! It's almost as bad as having a Playstation! You went looking for these data points as if they prove something. You went looking for data with a clear agenda. You didn't point out how few of these households have usable kitchen appliances or access to healthy, affordable foods. You didn't check out their schools. No, you went looking for evidence that nobody's really poor. I wish you were right.
Third, instead of picking on public libraries, let's talk about the NSF grant that you say is funding your own lifestyle on your homepage at NYU. Is that a public good? I'm paying for scientific research. You're sucking just as hard on the government teat as anybody. Shouldn't you explain to us why it's worth it when our libraries aren't? The truth is, I'm a big believer in funding scientific research and public libraries. You seem to want it both ways here, though. You want to bash libraries as useless and go on and on with these badly built, parsing arguments. Why don't you feel the same way about NSF grants? Are those a public good? I'd say by your criteria, they are not, since a grant for you means no grant for somebody else. I suspect that your logic only really applies to those less motivated, less gifted souls who haunt the dim and sad hallways of our dying public libraries. Is that it?
Fourth, your attitudes here, I'm sure, seem logical to you and your friends on the internet who love John Galt as much as you do. But these economic and social issues are about outcomes in systems which are (effectively) infinitely complex. And they carry moral weight. Your approach to these questions, in their selfishness and proud disregard for your fellow man and neighbor, is, as Gore Vidal described Ayn Rand's philosophy, "almost perfect in its immorality." An easier way of saying that is that you just sound like a dick. Sure, you're pompous and kind of a smartass, but that's most of us here in computerland. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about how painfully careless you are with the hopes, the well-being, or simply the lives of others. You reduce our collective existence to atomic miseries, as if you've escaped most of them by your own virtue rather than through a series of accidents. You place blame where it isn't due and heap glory where it doesn't belong.
You can call it libertarianism. I just call it being an asshole.
See you at the library (not now - I'm headed to the bar).
Just because you stick the word "public good" and "free" in front of something you want other people to pay for doesn't make those services non-rivalrous and non-excludible.
As for NSF grants (note: webpage is way outdated, haven't been at NYU for years), the theory behind their public benefit is that published scientific research helps everyone - you are free to build a medical or other device based on the basic research I published.
I'm not going to defend this empirically since I'm unconvinced it's true. The large chunks of grants pilfered by universities, the paywalled publications, and the patented inventions exploited by universities seriously undermine the public benefits.
As for your ad-hominem attacks, I'll ignore those. I recommend reading this, since you seem new here: http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html
The cost of medical benefits for all the soldiers who are mamed but now can survive for 50 years is staggering and will choke our culture to death. All those weapons, fuel, R&D, "homeland security theater", etc. all part of the massive war machine.
But war will always be funded because it's the ultimate high of money and power, to be able to send people to kill and be killed, heck it gives the politicians special "war powers", why would they not want it?
Doesn't matter if it's the left or right in charge, they do love their war and will never, ever stop.
I'm glad someone pointed this out, because I came here to do this. But that money has actually gone two places: war and welfare transfer payments, as Alex Tabarrok describes in Launching the Innovation Renaissance, where he says that "the big four of defense, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security eat up $2.2 trillion, or nearly two-thirds of the U.S. federal budget."
We—collectively, as a society—have elected to spend steadily more money on war and transfer payments. A lot of library funding comes from the local and state level, but local taxing abilities are partially contingent on how much the federal government is taking, and what the federal government is spending that money on.
All those injured vets get tons of welfare, well before their elderly years instead of how the system was designed for as a safetynet.
You cannot eliminate the safetynet for poor and elderly - well you could, but whomever does it would be a heartless bastard and march our nation right into hell itself as crime becomes exponential.
You can however eliminate war and the TSA and all these billions of dollars we are wasting to spy on every American.
How many people become soldiers because they are patriots who want to give their lives for their country, and how many become soldiers because the alternative is poverty?
No matter your stance on public vs private services, what good does it do to argue on the internet about how other people are running things. What happened to the government formed of the people and by the people, and the intrinsic responsibility in these types of matters that we all should bear? When will we all grow tired of commenting from the sidelines and begin to get in the game?
This group as a whole consists of some very smart, creative people, with a heavy lean towards entrepreneurialism. I would be willing to bet that if we all put our heads together we could come up with a solution that would not only put these libraries back in the black, but could generate extra revenue for our companies as well.
To kick things off I will throw out the first idea. Obviously, companies producing web applications have a vested interest in the universal access of technology. What if we could fund some of these training classes by offering these public libraries referral programs that would allow them to profit from teaching customers how to use our applications and services? Citizens learn new technology critical to their well being, we receive new signups for our services, libraries make a cut. Obviously this is very general and ripe with logistical complexities. It is meant to spark the minds of people much smarter than I am.
Not to sound too ridiculous here, but I for one still believe that we can fix this country if we ditch the someone else's problem attitude and start focusing on solutions.
I haven't been sick in 12 years. Yet, every year, I pay taxes to keep the public healthcare system running. Even though it's not something I use, undoubtedly, there are people who need it, and wouldn't be able to pay for it if it wasn't public.
About a month ago, I exhibited the symptoms of some kind of ventricular tachycardia (heart arrhythmia). As advised by a friend in medicine (in a different city), I tried to get myself booked for an ECG, to see what exactly was wrong. Without getting into the details, let's just say that even to this day, I haven't been able to get one.
I can definitely see why people don't want to pay, not just for services that they'll never use, but for services they'll probably be unable to use, even if they ever need to.
Procedures like ECGs arent performed at patient request, they're performed by specialists when a qualified physician determines a need for one and refers you to a specialist.
You can't get yourself an ECG not because they're unavailable, but simply because "Joe Random from city X says you need one" caries as much weight with Heart Specialists as "my cousin Bob says you should give me a new laptop" does with warrantee repairmen.
Like msbarnett says, you can't just roll into a clinic and say "I don't feel well and I'm scared and my cousin who's totally a doctor thinks this is what I should do! Also an MRI please!" Go see a doctor, and let them decide what diagnostic tests are appropriate, and you'll get them done.
The amount of inefficiency, conflicts of interest, hypocrisy, bureaucracy, and redundancy in the U.S. system beggars belief.
This is by design, not by necessity - cuts to programs that people enjoy or support are more like to encourage voters to accept bond measures, tax increases, etc in order to avoid those cuts.
California spent $10 BILLION on prisons in 2011-2012. The country spent over $80B fighting drugs.
Funding libraries is a rounding error compared to the actual activities voters choose to allow their governments to engage in. If you want well funded libraries - stop voting for politicians whose only solutions involve more jails, more arrests, more wars, and more handouts.
That is, the fact that some people just really don't understand the most basic concepts of using a computer. And it's not their fault.
Your breath seizes in your chest, and you realize you have no idea what to do. You have the form that they gave you at the social services office, which has an address, which you sort of know what that does, but you can't quite remember – 17 minutes, by the way. You try typing X City Social Services in a box at the top, a page comes back and says “address not found” with a list of things below it. You're panicking...
I'm all for increasing the use of technology in order to make things work more smoothly and efficiently, but this story points out just how left-behind this can leave some people.
I guess the answer is better education, and not just in schools. I guess I can be glad that there are a lot of people working in that space. Even then, before anyone can use Khan Academy or enroll in online classes, they need to have a better idea of "what a [web] address does", and sometimes even whether to "do a left or right click".
My point is would you want to work with someone who when faced with the issue of having to write a paper doesn't have the spike of genius to search for "word processor" in google?
If they can learn the material, get a very reasonable grade, an AB and spend far far less time I want to work with that person. This person is more likely to be a hacker because they see that there is such a thing as diminishing returns with grades.
Consider a business tender. The brief is to get the best result by a specific day. Multiple contractors have the same time to complete the brief. Those who can provide the best result on the final day will win the contract.
Using your memory is a great hacking tool, probably the best there is. Those students used any tool available to get the job done. That's the true hacker spirit.
in my experience, i'd estimate that a solid 25% of the population has no idea how to navigate to an arbitrary website. 'the internet' for them consists of the shortcut icons that dell placed on the desktop when they sold the computer, search results, and links that get emailed to them.
So for them to invest $15 each in free classes for someone seems like a no-brainer. Plus it buys good PR and goodwill. Plus it's almost certainly tax deductible.
There's a tradition of plutocrats contributing in this way , and like the commenter said, it actually would help Google's business.
If boroughs and counties had more relevance in society they could easily do things like this if they feel it would be beneficial (IE, they are a rural community with little techie knowledge, so offer training and info sessions to the populace at the local library!)
This can interact badly with some of the (contingent) ways we’ve come to practice capitalism.
Ideally, a government can act as an internalizing force that allows economic actors to step out of local maxima – bad Nash equilibriums where everyone knows how to fix problems but gets punished by the market/shareholders for taking initiative to fix them.
It doesn’t have to be a government that solves a CAP – it can be an industry standards body, for example – but when they deal with things like individuals and libraries, we tend to call them governments.
One problem we face now is that the time scale of government is being shortened to that of the corporation. Government shouldn't think quarterly or annually but in terms of decades and generations.
We've given a significant portion of the world personal computers. And told almost nobody how to use them.
I'm home and I'm using online resources from my library at this very moment. I use online library resources about 20-30 hours per week.
I regularly send off emails and notes of appreciation for their services they offer. I've also established a relationship with IT in several libraries as a go to person when they need an external check on a service that I regularly use (EZProxy issues usually). Why do I do that? It's actually completely selfish of me. I want them to know that the esoteric and underused databases that they are subscribing to are in fact being used and offering aid diagnosing helps uptime. I was actually told that they were going to unsubscribe to my favourite portion of a database because they didn't think anyone was using it!
I made a random comment to a librarian about a year ago. She started showing me their subscription databases and in 10 minutes I was hooked.
Librarians are so god damn helpful.
I helped someone fill out few of these once because they were having trouble. Even when I had all the information in front of me and the person next to me to organize the information it still timed out. I managed to do one of them on the third try.
There is no way that someone with limited computer experience could fill out a lot of these online forms. Phoning gets you nowhere, and visiting the office for help is a waste of a day.
If only government entities could spend some time into making these online forms and applications usable. Fortunately libraries still exist but I fear for how much longer.
It took me 32 working hours to pull together the records to satisfy that form, of which 16 hours were "PTO" from my day job. Mostly because it was effectively necessary to get our 2011 joint tax return done, and my spouse has an (excruciatingly) small business. Once the taxes were done, I used a kitchen timer to make sure I clicked on that "I'm timing out" box which was hidden in another window while I was getting transaction reports.
Someone on NPR had the gall to claim the form would take at most a half hour. The only way I can see that working is if you had no complications in your life (investments, medical expenses, one employer).
Words matter. People skim, people read headlines. If I read "libraries are in trouble" or "more support for libraries" needed I think "no, anyone with a free smart phone can access the entire internet". They can get a netbook for under $300 or probably a used one for under $50.
Yea, I read the entire post and I understand the guy is poor. I'm just saying that the word "library" is negatively framing the issue.
If we need places for disadvantaged people to be able to use computers and the internet for free and get instruction great! I'm all for that. But that's not a "library"
That is the exactly what large parts of the Internet is. That they are physically books, cd's, dvds' is absolutely immaterial.