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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cameron's Capitalist Question-Libraries and Liberty

Cameron from the Free Papua Movement has a question that raises some interesting issues.

Hi Trev. Today I was in the Auckland University library reading old NZ left-wing publications from the 1990's. It is a hobby that I think you and I share...

I've been thinking about the issue in terms of economics. I doubt many people share our hobby, so in the free market place I doubt anyone would bother carefully archiving old communist publications to put on public display for research.

In a libertarian society how would you deal with these problems, ie keeping services going that aren't at all commercially viable but are definitely positive, such as libraries? I'm sure you've at some point utilised a public library for your profiles of leftist activists.

This is a very important issue Cameron. The state carries out many activities on the grounds that private sector is allegedly not able or willing to do.

Roading, libraries, parks and playgrounds, dams, art galleries and stadiums are often put in this category. The reality is that all could be and should be, done much better by the private sector.

There are two important points here.

Firstly in a libertarian society, not everything has to be motivated by money. Many on the left assume that "capitalist" societies are motivated solely by the accumulation of physical capital.

In fact, many libertarians, including myself, are far more motivated by ideas and concepts than we are by material wealth. In other words, we seek intellectual capital, or "wealth".

I don't pose this as a self proclaimed virtue by the way, I should be a lot more money motivated than I am.

A free society is a wealthy society.

Scholars and philosophers have traditionally been supported by the "nobility" or the taxpayer. This poses obvious limitations. In a wealthy capitalist society, the options for our academics are much wider. The universities will be much more richly endowed. They will be able to support a much wider base of academic, or non commercial research.

To be fair though, they will continually look for ways to "capitalise" on even the most arcane research topics. This will be a good thing, as obscure information will become more readily available to tiny "niche markets".

Libraries will be even more extensive than they are today. Political scientists and historians will study all strains of political thought. Universities, political parties, city libraries etc will all hold extensive periodical collections.

Private research foundations will spring up. Some will be commercially focused, some will not. Universities will compete among themselves for the reputation of having the best research libraries. Historical societies might contract to libraries to hold collections for them, in return for a share of the "profits" when researchers pay a nominal fee to access them.

Public figures may even sell their papers to libraries, rather than donating them as at present. Maybe much valuable historical material will be saved, rather than simply thrown out by ignorant relatives.

The possibilities, commercial, non commercial and semi-commercial are endless.

Secondly, capitalism has given us huge advances in information storage and sharing technology. More and more obscure information is being put online.

Some of this will remain free, some will be charged for. I can envisage, happily paying $20 to download the complete collection of "People's Voice" from 1940 to 1950.

You might be surprised Cameron, by just how many more people might be willing to help share in and finance our hobby.

All this information will have value of some kind, to some people. Let market forces free in our libraries and who knows what our information entrepeneurs will come up with.

Information, used correctly, is more valuable than any material item. Smart business people realise this, often better than do academics.

Freedom, technology and the profit motive may make our minority hobby, much more accessible, even than it is today.

Information is far too valuable to be monopolised by the state.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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With the best regards!

3:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly right Trev. Many lefties assume that those of us on the right are motivated only be greed and the accumulation of assets.

Not so. Along with my Dad, I collect and restore old tractors. With a few exceptions, we will never get the monay and time back on any of the mechanical monstrosities that we play with!

We do it to preserve our heritage, for the fun of taking a pile of scrap iron and putting it all back together again, to meet like minded people and to learn. Making money is low down on the list.


10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One point I like to make to people who claim the State needs to fund libraries because the "poor" must have access to info etc is to point out that the private sector already operates libraries that are mainly used by the middle to lowest income Kiwis who willingly spend millions with them weekly.

Theses are Blockbuster,Video-Ezy,Video Runner etc as well as Movieshack and DVD Unlimited who trade online.

The state and the taxpayer are not required to fund service's that people see value in and will happily pay to use.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

Good point James, capitalists are accused of being greedy bastards who will leave no stone unturned to make a dollar.

How come they cannot run a library, or a roading system for the benefit?

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of the stuff on offer at Video Ezy or block buster isn't exactly thought provoking educational stuff.

Cheers for getting back to my question Trev. I now have some idea how libertarians think libraries and things of the like will be provided in the future libertarian capitalist utopia land where you can be as happy as you can afford ;)

Also want to point out there are defintely quite a few lefties who oppose the Fiji coup government

2:07 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

A lot of stuff in libraries isn't either anon.

Alices video in Chch has lots of great stuff that anyone can afford.

Good to see a few lefties standing up to the Fijian coupsters.

Interesting that its mainly the younger, anarchist and Trot left.

The old Stalinist types seem to be right on board.

You won't see them challenging Bainimarama or the Chinese.

2:25 PM  

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