Friday, 5 May 2017

Public or private? - a real storm in tough economic times

 Western governments, led by neo-liberal leaders of all stripes since at least the 1980's have reduced expenditures in real  terms by cutting taxes, while axing some services and charging for others. As a result supporters of the public good, which no political party can be guaranteed to serve, are faced with a dilemma: agitate for public action to address human need, or act independently. This is a dilemma as old as modern government and did not exist in medieval times, when peasants' revolts against high handed aritocrats were the only option.

A recent and revealing example in this 21st century age of the "Great Recession"  is the storm over an apparently teacup sized issue is the hot debate in some media about "little free libraries," as raised by a Toronto native, Jane Schmidt. Should those with the resources to do so create such book oases in areas already, even if inadequately, served by public libraries, or should they agitate for more of them in under-served areas that need them? The debate, framed as such is answered by posing it. Of course we should do both;how could one stop them? In the dirty 1930's should the soup  kitchen providers have argued against the New Deal? Of course not, and they didn't. The long run is not the short run and as far as we know Keynes was right: in the long run we'll all be dead.

The strategic question metaphorically buried in these little book boxes is a serious one that must be part of any progressive action. what  to do for the best for the most. Best to pull the drowning out of the water, yes, whether it's food  for the mid or the body, but make sure you have a plan to prevent further drownings. In history well meaning governments have been changed or have been corrupted. We can't ignore the need to do something when they're not available. Like now.         

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