10 April 2012

TANSTAAFL even at libraries

I like libraries. But this post rubs me the wrong way.

Bng Bng | Cory Doctorow | Cheapskates love libraries (it's mutual)

(1) Allow me to make Doctorow's point more concisely: "It's really nice that I can have other people pay for services that I consume and would have paid for myself." No shit. That is nice. It's not exactly the strongest moral argument in favor of tax-financed libraries though.

(2) The post includes a graphic reading "Cutting Libraries in a Recession is like Cutting Hospitals in a Plague." Okay. A word of advice to all public institutions: if you don't want to be cut too much during the bust, it behooves you not to grow too much in the boom. If you don't want to have to eat less when the pie shrinks, you don't get to eat more when the pie grows.

I would take the "but it's a recession; people need us now!" pleas more seriously if I ever heard the same people saying "times are good and people are flush, so you can cut our budget this year." You can't be entitled to a monotonically increasing budget.

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