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Another article identifies why public libraries are amazing

Current Affairs: “…It’s worth appreciating just how extraordinary libraries are, why they matter, and what they can tell us about the kinds of institutions we should build. They’re spaces of absolute equality, where anyone can come, regardless of financial resources, to study, learn, and hang out. You don’t have to purchase anything in order to get to sit in them, you don’t have to be means-tested or background-checked. They give the same things to everybody, and there’s something beautiful (and increasingly rare) about that. Privatization generally involves the elimination of that kind of place. Economist Noah Smith has explained what the results of that can be: when everything costs money, life becomes far more stressful (though that stress is distributed unequally). He discusses the situation in Japan:

What would it really feel like to live in a society where almost every single thing is privately owned and priced?  Walking around urban Japan, I feel like I am seeing a society that is several steps closer to that ideal than the United States. You may have heard that Japan is a government-directed society, and in many ways it is. But in terms of the constituents of daily life being privately owned and marginally priced, it is a libertarian’s dream world. For example, there are relatively few free city parks. Many green spaces are private and gated off (admission is usually around $5). On the streets, there are very few trashcans; people respond to this in the way libertarians would want, by exercising personal responsibility and carrying their trash home with them in little baggies. There are also very few public benches. In cafes, each customer must order something promptly or be kicked out; outside your house or office, there is basically nowhere to sit down that will not cost you a little bit of money. Public buildings generally have no drinking fountains; you must buy or bring your own water. Free wireless? Good luck finding that! Does all this private property make me feel free? Absolutely not! Quite the opposite—the lack of a “commons” makes me feel constrained. It forces me to expend a constant stream of mental effort, calculating whether it’s worth it to spend $4 to sit and rest for 10 minutes, whether it’s worth $2 to get a drink…” [h/t Susan Fournier]

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