Monday, September 27, 2010

A politician tells the truth

From the New York Times, an article on a company that runs "public" libraries under contract to city governments:

"The libraries are still going to be public libraries," said the mayor pro tem, Marsha McLean. "When people say we're privatizing libraries, that is just not a true statement, period."

I've written about this kind of faux "privatization" in the past, at C4SS.

It's the worst of both worlds. The "privatized" services are still paid for through coercive taxation, but operated by less accountable "private" management. The only thing that really changes is that the two entities -- the government funding a "public" service and the "private" company actually delivering it -- shift the blame for every problem with that service back and forth.

I love libraries. Always have (my elementary school librarian recognized me instantly, as I did her, when I walked past her 20 years after leaving that school; I'd probably read every book in the place before I left). I'd prefer that they be privately operated, but they need to be either privately or "publicly" operated, not a little bit of each with the worst features of both.

The American way, from the beginning, was "private" and "charitable" (in any number of towns across America to this day, if you look at the plaque on your oldest local library building, there's a very good chance it was built with the help of Andrew Carnegie).

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