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.