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I leans heavily toward the libertarian side, but I think libraries are one of the most important social services provided by local governments. Unlike other programs, absolutely everyone can get some direct benefit from the library - no matter what age or income level.

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.

One example of how unliberal our society has become today I think is "imagine libraries being invented today: media industry would scream piracy"! Those libraries that today experiment with e-books pay ridiculous prices per loan to do so. It's yet another angle where I think it's evident that the copyright lobby is losing perspective and society has lost the compromise struck once over copyright.

> media industry would scream piracy

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.

What are the economics of Overdrive or the other e-book lending systems? From what I saw in googling, it's something like $10-100k/yr to be a member institution (depending on size), plus access fees of a few thousand per month, plus per-item acquisition costs (much less than physical media; maybe $1.00 for a book?).

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 like to believe that but the tone I got from the story is that we shouldn't be using our local libraries.

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.

This simply isn't true. The library keeps stats on how many books are being loaned out, and when they drop, they lose an argument for funding the service. Meanwhile, the people who genuinely need the library don't need it to take books out; lending out books is a service that disproportionately helps people with the leisure time to develop a taste for reading books for pleasure.

As the son of a librarian, I can confirm this is true.

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.

As the son of another librarian I can also confirm this is true, and point out that just today I overheard a children's librarian lamenting that her library just discarded all their Lloyd Alexander. "They just didn't circulate," she said with evident sorrow.

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.

... you're agreeing with me, right?

Oops, yes. I must learn to use pronouns more precisely...

Agreed. I recently went to the Boston Public Library to get a specific book that was supposed to be on the shelf. I couldn't find it so a librarian put in a request to have it found and held for me. She noticed that it had been checked out 6 times in the last year, which she said was a lot, and therefore if it couldn't be found they'd make sure to order another copy. (It was http://beinggeek.com/, and it eventually turned up.)

Theres a second effect, too. When someone who has any resource in the world available to them goes to use the library, you can be damn sure they'll have standards. If libraries are only for those without other options, those who have seen what can be will not be there to demand improvement.

I recently went to the Boston Public Library to get a specific book that was supposed to be on the shelf. I couldn't find it so a librarian put in a request to have it found and held for me. She noticed that it had been checked out 6 times in the last year, which she said was a lot, and therefore if it couldn't be found they'd make sure to order another copy. (It was http://beinggeek.com/, and it eventually turned up.)

It's a sad commentary to think that the best way to improve the system is to pretend to use its services.

Yeah, it's hard to attack libraries. They're one of the best examples of a truly equitable program I can think of. I'd much rather cut even university funding: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3608264

> I think libraries are one of the most important social services provided by local governments

How about other needs governments sometimes provide to the less fortunate, such as food, shelter, medical care, and universal education?

The problem I have with government provided food, shelter, and to a large extent medical care is that they are charities, only benefit a small subset of the population, while encouraging self destructive behavior in some cases (they are easy systems to exploit and are regularly exploited). This makes them expensive and inequitable. I have no problem with charity and there is a ligitimate place for it within a community, but I disagree that governments are effecient at running them.

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.

If one tallied up all the money spent on improving the lives of the poor in the last 50 years, I expect people would be shocked at how little improvement has actually resulted.

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.

> encouraging self destructive behavior

While that is likely true, in other segments of the population, such as vulnerable children, providing food, shelter and health care encourages "not dying".

> Next time you think of buying a book, seriously check out your local library system.

I agree, but there are something like 250,000[1] books published each year.

At just $5[2] 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.

[1] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Books_published_per_country_per...) (but go careful because who knows where the wikipedia numbers come from)

[2] 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)

Isn't that what inter-library loan is for?

i'd rather not pay for other people's benefits unless the benefit returns to me with reasonable probability and period of time. on one hand i'd like to see libraries turn profit (like 'lite' version of video rental model) or at least be self sufficient. on the other hand i want to enjoy reasonably educated population with easy access to methods for self improvement and economic mobility (both up and down) and a 'safety net' in case of uninsured unforeseen events. there's a balance between socialism and pure libertarian model but its so local and complicated and constantly evolving that i just resign myself toward the purest liberty and self responsibility and say fuck the libraries.

When I was <18, most of the books I read were from libraries. My parents aren't poor, by any measure, but they don't believe in paying for a lump of dead tree you only read once. Books can inspire. They help you improve your literacy.

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.

I wouldn't mind having a paid membership in a library that carries O'Reilly's books and like. I would also probably try to convince my company to have one (and that would mean much bigger budget there). Most of such books are needed only for a relatively short periods of time and then sit there gathering dust for years. The library would be ideal for such things. I don't say this would necessarily work, there are many problems with this idea that would need to be resolved, but on the face of it I don't see why it couldn't work.

Private libraries exist today. The Mechanics' Institute is an example. My impression is they have a diverse collection, though I don't know for sure. http://www.milibrary.org/

> i'd rather not pay for other people's benefits unless the benefit returns to me with reasonable probability and period of time

Then pay for the warm, fuzzy feeling you'll get for doing something that benefits others.

yes. i think the warm fuzzy feeling is how the body internally represents the vague and unspecific expectation of 'social' reward from 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?

>.. 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?

neighbourhood watch and locally funded andor volunteer police, vigilanteesm & personal responsibility

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

>fire insurance includes fire department service. you can go cheap and risk burning down

One of the reasons for a nationalised fire service was because Insurance-company funded firemen had a tendency to be arsonists.

i'm puzzled and somewhat amused with the downvotes because i'm aiming for maximum honesty and truth. the market organises to elevate the best and raise standards for all others - it's like a force of nature, whereas government seems to systematically mismanage libraries into mediocre grey soulless underused smelly wastelands.

Here's essentially the thought process behind the downvotes:

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.

Further, people don't curl up and die, they tend to do what it takes to survive.

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.

Ah, the old "criminals will rob you if you don't consent to have the government take your money to hand out to them" argument. Often peddled by those who also believe criminals are not responsible for their actions, they're just oppressed/had a bad childhood/whatever.

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?

Your outline of the thought process behind Mikey7 downvotes is a lucid, intelligent argument with his belief about "the market." And you're saying this is the reason you vote to have him silenced?

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.

If you think "You are making wild and horrible claims without any substantiating evidence" is the same thing as "I disagree with you," I don't know what to say but that you're wrong. My objection is that he appears to be mindlessly spouting dogma, and a dangerous one at that. If he made a cogent argument that disagreed with my beliefs, that would be one thing, but his comments are the libertarian equivalent of "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve."

Firstly, the downvotes are a recent manifestation of creeping groupthink. They're disheartening, but they're actually a good example in this particular instance as an illustration that people as a whole, even in places where you'd expect them to be, aren't so smart. It's much easier to have a gut reaction to a position and grunt a downvote out than actually engage in reasoned discussion and THINK about it.

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.

> Firstly, the downvotes are a recent manifestation of creeping groupthink.

Political discussion has, for a long time, been discouraged on HN. Down-voting is one way to encourage people to stop.

This whole discussion is political. Downvoting mickey7's comments for that is extremely hypocritical, unless you downvote all comments and flag the submission.

That really is not true. I appreciated the post because it gave me a perspective on what life is like for people who aren't like me; it has nothing to do with politics unless you want to start arguing about politics.

I said the discussion, not the post (which in any case did have a political perspective on its second half). mickey7 was replying to jonhohle's post, who was already stating his opinion on politics.

Maybe some points of view are seen as trolling and not as genuine discourse?

That seems a very uncharitable position to me. I strongly disagree with her/him, but unless you consider any opinion that strongly deviates from the median to be trolling, I don't see why would it be.

I think it's more that his arguments didn't seem to have considered the situation he was addressing at all. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, but he provided no evidence or reasoning at all. His comments were not particularly more substantial than "I like pizza," though their implications were a lot more harmful. I understand that you don't like to see unpopular opinions downvoted, but at the same time, vapid comments should not be protected just because they express an unpopular opinion.

It's not just this instance, I've noticed in an increasingly broad variety of topics that when something goes against the accepted groupthink it is prone to silent downvoting. Even in the absence of ad homs, whining in general, etc.

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.

I was muzzled for arguing that Craigslist middlemen are bad. Then again I did say some things so out-of-bounds they should not be heard:

"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." http://news.ycombinator.org/item?id=3515735

... and:

"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." http://news.ycombinator.org/item?id=3515689

Pretty outrageous, in retrospect.

That's exactly what I'm talking about, and the main comment I made that was at +4 when I went to bed last night is now at just +1 so I take it as fairly obvious that this people trying to muzzle well presented / supported positions that they happen to disagree with is really going on. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3596880 also was in a tug of war between 0 and +5 for a few days but has settled now on +4.

Two in just the past hour with a quick look at recent comments + one 40 days ago where I noticed it first started happening;




This doesn't deserve downvotes. Mickey7 has described (albeit without capital letters) a common viewpoint, one that deserves to be considered when discussing this issue.

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.

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