Ludwig von Mises Institute

Public library

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A public library is a noncommercial library often supported with public funds, intended for use by the general public.[1]

Public libraries in the US[edit]

In the past public libraries have banned such classics as Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Regarded by many as America’s greatest novel, Huckleberry Finn was banned from numerous public libraries, including the Concord (Massachusetts) Public Library in 1885, the year of publication; the Brooklyn Public Library; and the Denver Public Library. Reasons for the ban have ranged from the book’s dialect and grammar to its irreverence to Huck’s references to his friend, the slave Jim.

Book-selection bias is a political issue because the overwhelming majority of our public libraries are funded and controlled by government. Privately owned and operated libraries could set their own policies. Those who objected to them could patronize a competing library with different policies. This free-market model has an overwhelmingly successful track record in providing other kinds of consumer choices.

Of course, only a small percentage of library materials are overtly political or controversial. Although a case can be made that all materials have political assumptions embedded in them, much of what the average library stocks in books, records, tapes, CDs, and videos falls into the entertainment category. But that raises another issue. Do we really need government libraries buying 50 copies of the latest Spenser mystery or Madonna’s new CD? Or is this just another case of people voting themselves benefits at the expense of their neighbors? Private libraries would also satisfy this moral objection to government-funded libraries.[2]

References[edit]

  1. "public library", The Free Dictionary, referenced 2012-12-06.
  2. Chris Cardiff. "The Paradox of Carnegie Libraries", The Freeman, October 2001. Referenced 2012-12-06.

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