Libraries, Netflix and the collapsing public sector

03 Apr

Librarians are bemoaning the plight of their libraries because of the state’s fiscal crisis.  Supposedly, the public will be shortchanged if Governor Christie’s budget cuts are implemented, even though libraries are providing great services…for free!   So-called free government services is one of the most widespread myths perpetuated by not only librarians, teachers and school administrators but anyone who asserts that the government provides services for ‘free.”

Government services are not free and never have been.  They are paid by taxes–income, sales, excise and other coerced  levies.  In short, the public sector is funded by an array of “forced extractions,” known as taxes.  And yet government institutions are constantly complaining they are “underfunded” by the municipality, the county, state or the federal government.

Contrast a “public” library with Netflix, the mail order DVD rental firm that now can stream DVDs on to your computer or television.  Both provide a similar service, the renting of any item that people want to use to entertain themselves and/or gain knowledge.  Last year Netflix had $1.67 billion in revenue and generated a profit of $116 million.  It has $320 million of cash on its balance sheet.

Netflix, for all intent and purposes, is a private sector library.  And it is hugely successful, using the ultimate acid test,  meaning consumers are voting with their dollars, they are voluntarily paying for Netflix’s services and the company is making a profit.

What a concept!  Stop the presses!  Free enterprise satisfies both buyers and sellers at reasonable prices.

Meanwhile, the post office is losing billions of dollars, even though it has a monopoly on first class mail, while FedEx and UPS are making billions delivering packages.  In short, the private sector “delivers” the goods the public wants, while the public sector it seems is in perpetual financial crisis.

Our legislators, the president of the United States, governors, mayors and other public officials, pundits, as well as the general public should read Murray Rothbard’s classic essay about the public sector.  After our lords and masters in government –and the public– read Rothbard’s demolition of the myth that the public sector can satisfy human needs, the outcry against ineffective and costly public sector service should be defeaning.

Why would anyone want to maintain a collapsing public sector and prevent it from being replaced with a dynamic, vibrant, free enterprise system in the United States that provides everyone with an astonishing array of goods and services that improves the quality of life for all?  Inquiring minds want to know.

And after we abolish the source of economic instability, the Federal Reserve. we will then be on road to sustainable prosperity.

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