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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Grumpy Uncles

A friend of mine recently accused me in particular, and libertarians (and probably conservatives) in general, of being "grumpy uncles":
"I'm still looking for the avowed libertarian who doesn't come across as a grumpy uncle."
I don't think I qualify as an "avowed" libertarian, but some background is in order.  I would describe my friend as being enamored with Statism and I take the definition of Statism right out of the dictionary: "the principle or policy of concentrating extensive economic, political, and related controls in the state at the cost of individual liberty."  He believes that the reduction of individual liberty is more than made up for by the solutions made possible using the resources available to a large and powerful government.

Each of us occasionally sends the other a book to read.  The last book I sent him was A Conflict of Visions by Thomas Sowell which makes the argument (compellingly, in my opinion) that a vast number of ideological disagreements can be traced back to assumptions about human nature and the extent of the malleability of human nature.

My friend continued with:
"Although I've experienced plenty of times with you when joy was the operative factor, your written language almost always comes across as negative when it comes to evaluating the human condition (starting with yourself)."
I'm no angel and I know it and I rather doubt that the world is populated with all that many angels or even saints.  Perhaps I'm projecting, but I think it's likely that most people are like me, and with the right incentives have a capacity to live good lives that are beneficial to themselves and those around them.  However, without those incentives or with the wrong incentives, they have the capacity for evil, perhaps great evil.

An example I've given both to my friend and detailed in comment sections of various blogs (including this one) is that I'd be a disaster if I was working within a government framework and had much power.  While I probably wouldn't hurt any fellow citizens if it didn't benefit me (and my family, friends, and communities), if I was presented with a situation where I could extract a penny from every citizen and line my pockets with it, I wouldn't hesitate.  A mere penny.  Even the poorest of poor would hardly miss a penny.  And given a population of 300 million, that would be $3,000,000 in my pocket.  Definitely a worthwhile tradeoff to me.  I wouldn't even feel guilty - a mere penny!

When a million politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists, government contractors, and constituents all do the same thing, it turns into many thousands of dollars out of the pockets of every citizen every year.  And that's pretty much how the whole lobbyist-bureaucrat game works.

So yes, starting with myself, I have a pretty skeptical view of the human condition when it comes to running governments.

The other reason I'm a grumpy uncle according to my friend, is my disdain for the concept of utilizing experts to tell me and the rest of us how we should live:
"The no-so-subtle loathing by people like Sowell for those of us who dare to imagine that we can actually make the world a better place by taking action at a level above that of the individual used to surprise me given how much empirical evidence there is for the progress wrought on behalf of collective ends.  Sowell and others deride "experts" as if experts have never accomplished something useful."
Yes, I am continually unenthusiastic about assigning yet more resources for yet more "experts" to come up with yet more regulations and programs administered by yet more government costing me yet more money while reducing my liberty every step of the way.  I can see how Statists would find my attitude as decidedly grumpy.

My friend can't understand why I might be grumpy just because I'm forced to fund and be subject to his beloved government and I wanted to try and enlighten him.  Conveniently, he's an avowed Atheist - the type that's certain that deities don't exist, that anyone who's not certain of their non-existence is seriously deluded, and that all religion is evil.  Given that, I wrote the following (unedited) to try to enlighten him as to the cause of my grumpiness:
But let me give an analogy that I think sheds light on why libertarians are "grumpy uncles"... 
So let's say that suddenly, the super majority of Christians in the country managed to get a constitutional amendment passed repealing freedom of religion and declaring the United States to be a Christian nation with forced daily church attendance and whatever the Christian version of sharia law is called including enforced donations to the church.  In addition, the Christians are absolutely certain that this move is required in order to halt and then reverse the rapidly degrading morality that, in their minds, is clearly leading to barbarism and the collapse of the nation.  Because of their certainty of the goodness of their cause, they're also convinced they have the moral high ground in addition to the constitutional and legal high ground. 
And let's take it one step further such that every country on earth also became a Christian country except a dozen poverty stricken hell holes.
So I rather imagine that if you found yourself in this Christian world with mandatory daily church attendance, you might be a rather grumpy uncle.  Or would you go to church with joy in your heart? 
That's what the world looks like to libertarians, except substitute centralized government for church.  That's why we're grumpy uncles.
I'm not religious and for me Big Church and Big Government look remarkably similar.  They have leaders, followers, power, corruption, certainty of rightness (moral superiority, better world or afterlife, etc.), evangelical leanings, ostracizing or dealing harshly with heretics, etc.

From the outside, all dogmas look the same and are annoying to everyone else.

Hence the grumpiness.


erp said...

Very interesting because just recently I have been informed that I am too negative and can't take joy in anything. I can and do take joy in many things, but I can't help being negative when I see my country becoming a fascist state. It permeates into everything. There are a vast number of books where I'm staying and yet every single modern book, fiction or non fiction, is another leftwing tome filled propaganda foolishness.

On p. vi of a book about language usage is a statement and I quote, "... we happen to inhabit neither the Trotskyite end of the spectrum nor the Mussolinian one." I surmise their meaning to be they’re neither on the left nor the right end of the spectrum.

The authors both distinguished professors of English have no clue to how moronic that statement is and may well be filled with joy and contentment that they are so even-handed and tolerant.

Bret, my answer to that accusation was only in ignorance can one be blissful in today’s world.

Bret said...


I was thinking about you when I wrote this post - in your honor, I'm almost titled it "grumpy uncles and aunts". I agree, it's tough not to be grumpy when things look like they're moving to a place I don't want to be.

I actually take joy in quite a lot, just not usually politics.

erp said...

Bret, how sweet. Having you guys to lament with is such great fun.

Peter said...

Of course, we non-libertarian conservatives just skip through life with songs in our throats and love in our hearts. Must be due to our beloved statism, which for some strange reason, you grumpy libertarians insist on capitalizing. Giving the Devil his due, I guess.

I don't know about grumpiness, but I am still trying to find a libertarian to debate who doesn't accuse me of being a "statist" within two minutes. It's like the joke about how the definition of an alcoholic is anyone who drinks more than his doctor.

I once jokingly described meeting a libertarian in a pub thus: "You'll quickly be wowed by his grasp of macroeconomic and fiscal theory and policy, but step away to the washroom for a minute and you may come back to hear him railing against the tyranny of public libraries."

erp said...

Capitalized Libertarians are a little extreme even for me.

My theory about people who call themselves lower-case libertarians is they don't want to be connected with the Republican Party (with good reason) and for some reason I can't understand, reject the designation of lower-case conservative. To my knowledge, there are no upper-case Conservatives as there is no organized party as such. If the so-called tea party folks had formed into a Conservative Party, they would have had my support, but calling themselves a tea party left themselves open for the left’s mighty wordsmiths' wit and IMO trivialized themselves.

In any case, semantics aside, your experience with creatures like me is correct because the "cause" or "narrative" if you prefer has its tentacles in everything including public libraries with librarians being among the most rabid lefties in the same category as the teachers' union leadership ... and before you wonder how can she make such a sweeping statement, I've hob nobbed with librarians from local libraries in a half dozen states to those who "man" the libraries in our most prestigious universities.

Check the new book shelves in your local library and you’ll get the picture.

Bret said...

Peter wrote: "I am still trying to find a libertarian to debate who doesn't accuse me of being a "statist" within two minutes."

Oh, come on, Peter. It took me at least five minutes (more like five years, actually) to accuse you of being a "statist"! :-)

The doctor/alcoholic joke is quite apropos because adherence to statism is a matter of degree. In theory, it would be possible to pare the central government so far back that even I would opine that it should be bigger.

So, okay, I take it back. You're not a statist in an absolute sense, you're simply farther towards the statist end of the spectrum than the grumpy uncle (that's me and proud of it!).

Peter said...

The problem libertarians face is not the left, who are hopeless and largely out of philosophical gas, it's to persuade what I call the "decent muddled middle", the non-ideological and not even particularly political segement of society that hold the balance of power and vote more on common sense, personality, familiarity, what they're lyin' eyes tell them, etc. than ideology. I value them mightily as our protection against extremisms and excess, and they don't seem to be responding terribly well to the exciting promise of dogmatic libertarianism, which in many cases seems to carry a utopianism that used to be associated with the left. I have a theory why.

Almost all the other "isms" in modern politics grew out of the great intellectual battles of the late 19th century. It was an exciting, tumultuous era of competing abstract philosophies, and most of them were untested, forward-looking efforts to design a better world. The key is untested, and the animated theoreticians of the time were able to convince themselves that their pet causes would unfold in predictable ways based on very sunny expectations of how people would respond to their genius. Revolutionaries could tell themselves a revolution in the name of the workers and peasants would actually benefit the workers and peasants. Marxists foresaw selfless community cooperation and common purpose in a world without greed and property. Nationalists could pretend it was all about safeguarding language and culture. Scientific materialists saw only the end of superstition and an endless stream of beneficent wonders. Royalists, ultramontanes and reactionaries dreamed of a stable natural order and spiritual growth. Socialists saw no reason people wouldn't work just as hard in a society of state-owned enterprises and confiscatory taxes. Even democrats were swept up in the promise of re-establishing an Athenian democracy comprised of sober, educated citizens finding wise solutions through rational debate. In all cases, who was to say history had proven any of them wrong?

Enter the twentieth century. Almost all these theories ran up against the realities of human caprice and scumminess with disastrous, oppressive or failed results in many cases. No honest, thinking person of either the traditional right or left today can escape the burden of historical failures. But libertarianism wasn't developed until the middle of the WWII in Central Europe, for perfectly understandable reasons. There never has been a libertarian state. The closest has been city-states like Hong Kong and tiny tax havens or gambling centers--hardly models for major modern states. This means libertarians get a pass on the judgement of history, but it also allows many of you to indulge in the same kind of utopianism that used to characterize the left and resulted in so much destruction.

The demonization of the bureaucrat and deification of the entrepreneur (John Galt may have been brilliant, but he was a bloodless jerk I wouldn't want near my daughter), the casual grandiose assumptions about charity (combined with an anti-religious animus in many cases---who do you think were the major players in private charity before the modern state? Ever hear of tithing?)and the almost mystical power of the market, not just to make us prosperous, but to weed out corruption, exploitation and fraud and thereby "level the playing field" are the prominent examples. Some of you also seem to believe the market will give us moral ballast in matters most people don't see as having anything to do with their economic lives. The idea that destroying the welfare state and things like lowering the minimum wage would lead to a burst of Horatio Alger-like character development and creative employment and enterprise among the poor, uneducated, stupid and dysfunstional strikes me as, to but it mildly, otherworldy. If I had to bet, I would bet it would mean a lot of them would die.

erp said...

Peter, nicely said and correct. Now we have to try to decide what in which combination will work the best. Unlike us, the sensible middle isn't obsessing about losing our freedoms. They're more interested in just living out their lives with as little hassle as possible and who can blame them?

The problem is the last two plus generations are not schooled in the three ‘R’s and everything they are taught has a leftwing spin that distorts the past, so without any real historical perspective they are far too susceptible to the snake oil salesman who promises easy fixes.

You say if we take away the welfare state, a lot of “them” will die. A lot of them are already dying in the violent streets of Chicago and other cities, of self-inflicted drug use and other risky behaviors.

Bret said...


As almost always, your comments far exceed my posts in terms of eloquence, clarity, and persuasiveness.

A couple of points.

In my view, libertarianism is a spectrum, endpoint, or a matter of degree. A State can be more or less libertarian just as it can be more or less socialist. So I'll readily agree that if tomorrow, we totally disassembled the United States government(s) and reconstructed those in the image of pure libertarianism, that would be catastrophic to the point that it might make the failed Soviet experiment look like a picnic in the park. But, to gradually head from where we are, with the bloated, corrupt, and inefficient State we currently have, towards the libertarian endpoint, is completely different and unlikely to be a disaster. Indeed, should it prove to cause significant problems, it can always be undone - or redone as is more likely the case.

When you wrote, "there never has been a libertarian state," I'm inclined to disagree. First, because as I noted above, it's a spectrum. Second, I think the United States government at the federal level from the late 1700s to the mid 1800s was well towards the libertarian end of the spectrum. Was it completely libertarian? No. Was it way more libertarian than what we have now? Oh yeah. Was it successful? Quite. So in some sense, what libertarians in the United States want, is simply to go back to the founding constitutional constructs and push the power down to the States and then hopefully to the communities and individuals in at least a few of the States. Again, totally proven to be effective by history.

Peter said...


Your raising of the ravages of the urban drug culture is a pretty good example of my concern about today's conservatives succumbing to the lure of simplicity and ideological quick fixes. A lot of us who used to support the war on drugs are starting to see that the cost in terms of expense, corruption and even injustice is simply too high. I have noticed a lot of libertarian-minded folks, using Prohibition as a model, are coming around to blaming it all on government and suggesting that if government just retreated, the "market" would make it all healthier, safer, etc. This strikes me as a very simplistic and dangerous approach to a very complex problem that will take years of subtle trial and error to fix. Legalizing vice doesn't make it mainstream or respectable (porn is now effectively legal, but I don't see Disney in the Triple XXX market). Maybe we have to bite the bullet and experiment with legalization, but let's not ignore the greater legal protections suppliers and pushers would have, the greater potential access of youth or the tendency of different vices to act as magnets for one another. Prohibition may indeed warn us of the limits of state effectiveness in regulating vice, but how the English dealt with the social and moral cesspools of mid-19th centry urban cities tells a more ambiguous and complicated story. Jamais trop de zèle.

BTW, I've been thinking of your pegging of public librarians as lefties. I think you are basically right, but in my experience, the same can also generally be said about private booksellers. Look at Hollywood, a citadel of cutthroat capitalism with nary a Republican in sight. Culture counts, and I'm afraid the artsy and the bookish are largely enemy territory no matter who signs the paycheques. I'd still march to save public libraries.

Peter said...


Using history to define a modern ideal is worthy of a dozen posts. I can think of many cautions, starting with your antipathy to religion. Let's not forget how 19th century American public life and values were defined by dissenting Protestantism, which encouraged people to make money, but not necessarily to enjoy it. :-)

Also, I'm not too comfortable with your suggestion we are just arguing about points on a line. I think it goes beyond that to how we view society and governance in general. Do you know Robert Conquest, scourge of the left, advisor to Thatcher and one of the most brilliant and perceptive thinkers on ideological excess? Allow me to quote in the comment below a passage that inspires me and explains my discomfort with simplistic libertarianism. I should add that I am aware this plays out differently in different political cultures, even in countries as similar as the U.S. and Canada, never mind Brazil.

Peter said...

"General ideas, general concepts, general principles, interpreted as absolutes rather than approximations, are mere kindling for a new conflagration. But of course we must use general ideas and general concepts. General words are necessary and natural--as long as those who use them understand that their generality is a convenience, bringing together certain phemomena for certain purposes, but not a monolith. We must keep a balance, and not allow these to get out of hand and take over. They must be our servants, and not our masters. In fact, as in all our arrangements, we must once again seek a balance. We must learn from experience, yet not believe we can see far into the future. We must take short views, but not too short. We must allow the state a role in social affairs, but not a dominance. We must grant the legitimate claims of nationality, but reject its extreme manifestations. This undogmatic type of approach has been among the essentials of the civic and pluralist culture."

"There is no formula that can give us infallible answers to political, social, economic, ecological and other human problems. There is no simple concept which will answer such questions as how much the state can do (though we have learned to give it too much power is disastrous), or how far market forces can give positive results (though we have learned that their abolition is disastrous). Nor is there a simple guide to the conduct of foreign policy."

--Robert Conquest, Relections on a Ravaged Century-p. 15

erp said...


Conquest is right in a general (pun intended) sort of way, but alas the devil is in the details.

A bunch of very smart well intentioned people got together and gave us an incredible blue print for governing known as our founding documents. They tried to iron out every wrinkle and did a remarkably good job of it.

As Jefferson (or per Wikipedia perhaps Adams or Paine or even Napoleon!) said, “Who governs least, governs best.”

Unfortunately lesser minds with dubious motives want to amend these blueprints to fit modern life with predictably disastrous consequences. Kudos to the FF for making amending the Constitution so darn difficult. Thanks dad.

We were given only the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Simplistic? I plead guilty.

Libraries: My favorite places on earth. I didn’t speak English until I started school and then became a prodigious reader. I doubt I could convey the reverence in which I held our local library. It was a magnificent building with a lower level only for kids with a balcony around holding treasure far greater in my mind than all the treasures of Araby.

Last year as a small token repayment for all the pleasure libraries have given me, I spent almost an entire year personally computerizing the 25,000 book collection at our local independent town library. It was a labor of love interrupted last September by an even deeper labor of love which required that we leave our home to stay with my daughter and son-in-law to help them recover from a serious accident.

My earlier statement about the leftward swing of librarians as well as almost every other part of life stands.

Sorry to be so long-winded, but the senseless destruction of a magnificent country that few of the younger generation even know ever existed distresses me greatly.

Anonymous said...

When librarians get involved in contentious politics then they it is hardly unjust that they reap the consequences.

Peter writes "A lot of us who used to support the war on drugs are starting to see that the cost in terms of expense, corruption and even injustice is simply too high." and "the 'market' would make it all healthier, safer, etc." without apparently realizing these are the same thing, simply phrased differently. Peter, why are you castigating libertarians for having the same view as you do? I think you are conflating comparatives and absolutes - "safer" is not the same as "safe". As always, I am in the "the cure is worse than the disease" view on this subject.

Clovis e Adri said...

I have a plead to do to all good Libertarians of America.

Please do close all your public libraries: save money and get rid of those powerfull lefty librarians.

But instead of burning all those books, please send them here to Brazil - I am sure we can make good use of them. You can send some good old librarians too (they may be right or left, we don't care). They may even make extra money giving English classes in the same libraries they move to.

Where should we sign up the deal? I hear our president will visit Obama later this year in a state visit, can we include this deal in the package? (I happen to know a few diplomats to intermediate it)

Warning: if you think this is a bad joke, what to say of all this talk of closing libraries?

Anonymous said...

Actually, we just had a local controversy where the head librarian sent off about 1/3 of the books in the public library to be shredded. Beyond that, no one is talking for closing the libraries, only removing coerced funding. If they can get community support without coercion, that's fine.

Tellingly, it appears that Clovis' view is partisanship by public employees is just fine, and those on the other side have no justification for complaining when their taxes explicitly fund their political opposition.

erp said...


Librarians have a strong public sector union so even if the libraries are closed because more and more books are being read on a device, there will always be librarians on the public payroll.

Anyway, it would be far cheaper to have Mexican billionaire and Obama crony, Carlos Slim, send all poor Brazilians an Obama phone also paid for by us taxpayers, so they can read the approved books and other propaganda for freeeeeeee.

All the old books need to be burned or shredded because they may contain information contrary to that approved by Dear Leader. Information formerly known as the truth.

Your Madam President better watch out, Obama holds grudges and your former president beat out his cronies for the Olympics. His special "advisor" Valerie Jarrett owns the land in Chicago where Olympic Viilage was supposed to be built. I some how don't think that was a NYT headline.

aog, as Bret said, Clovis' English is excellent, but I've encountered this before with people whose written English is practically flawless, he knows all the words, but doesn't get the meaning.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG: I've already bought used books at Amazon that were previously from libraries (they have the stamps and so on), I imagine they were sold or donated to bookstores for that purpose - why is it that your local head librarian did not follow such procedure? (Looks to me far better than shredding them all)

As for condoning patisanship by public employees, I am for sure against it. But the news you pointed to only described them helping to implement a government program approved both by the executive branch and the legislative one - so it is no longer politics, but policy. But please correct me if my logic is faulty here.

BTW, could you please explain to me the finacing of public libraries in the US? It is interesting to see that you call them federal employees - here, for example, almost all public libraries are funded by states or municipalities, few librarians are in the federal payroll. Is it different in the US?

Erp: I disagree that digital books will completely displace libraries, but I guess this is off topic at this point.

I hold the same grudge as Obama - I am not happy that we have got the worldcup and the olympics here. You see, I would very much prefer to see the US taxpayer money funding all these stadiums and other white elephants that have little use other than to excuse lots of corruption. My taxpayer money I would prefer to see in the service of... libraries, for example.

It is sad that you've got the libraries and we the stadiums.

I do think a little bit of libertarianism could help us too. I just do not think the same is true for most of the complaints I see here concerning the US. Either I just do no get you (as you stress), or you are trying to kill the goose that lays the golden egg, as unwittingly as in the old fable.

erp said...


I think eventually digital books will replace libraries as we know them. If you read my comment, you can see that I have a very special place in my heart for them, but reading devices are getting more and more convenient and I find myself looking for the search button to look up something when I’m reading a paper book. The younger people will look at books the same we look at the parchment manuscripts copied by monks and it won’t be long in coming.

I'm not being critical when I say you understand the words, but not the music. You can't know how things are here because we are a very big and diverse country and information you get is only that which moves the narrative to the left.

Most public libraries (google Andrew Carnegie for background) are funded by local communities in the same way the public schools are funded mostly through real estate taxes (the tax on the property a person owns). In other words, local taxpayers pay the salaries of librarians and school teachers even though the unions control them. Unfortunately in recent years, the state and the federal governments have intruded more and more into the local schools through various mandates, etc. reducing local control to the detriment of education.

As for the Olympics, here the taxpayer doesn’t pay for the Olympics. It’s a bit complicated, but there are interested people who raise money to build the venues, etc. Or course, it doesn’t hurt if these people have friends in high places to smooth the way for them as was Ms Jarrett’s case. I don’t follow sports that much, but I do like to watch the Olympic athletes when they march in. I get a tear in my eye after seeing all the other countries with athletes representing their people, when our kids march in almost at the very end, they are an amalgamation of every country on earth. We have kids as white as snow, black kids as dark as any from Equatorial Africa and every shade in between. Tall, short, dark hair and blond, blue eyes and black – all wearing the red, white and blue. That’s my country and I can’t bear that it is being destroyed.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp: I agree that digital books will change the role of libraries - but my crystal ball tells me they will still exist in future, even if in somewhat different roles. At big cities, they are very important as a place of silent study amid chaotic daylife, for example.

An thank you for explaining their financing system in US. I guess that the people describing librarians as federal employees are somewhat misguided then.

I confess I was never an olympics fan, but I agree their openings are beautiful indeed.

As for my alledged lack of understanding of the US, I think I will abstain from commenting further on such issues. Not because I agree that I have such a bad viewpoint from here, but only because everything I argue will be always dismissed just because I am not American. Pointless to even try then...

Bret said...

Peter wrote: "...starting with your antipathy to religion."

I don't have antipathy to religion. I'm not personally religious but I don't have antipathy. For example, I was perfectly happy to take my children to services and enroll them in Sunday school when they were into that sort of thing.

You must be thinking of someone else.

Indeed, I do expect that religious organization will pick up some of the slack should the federal welfare state be reduced.

Peter wrote: "Using history to define a modern ideal is worthy of a dozen posts."

That was a response to you writing "There has never been a libertarian state" and stating that all of the other 20th century utopias didn't have historical precedence before they were tried and that was why they were disastrous.

I was just pointing out that libertarianism had been mostly tried and it had been mostly successful.

Again, I think we should head in a libertarian direction. I'm NOT proposing dismantling the state overnight and reassembling as a minarchy or anything like that.

One of the anti-libertarian arguments is this never been successful meme. Not true, but then that same argument was made for not giving women the vote and many other innovations.

erp said...


You are not being dismissed because you aren’t an American. Your views of the U.S. do not reflect reality even in as non-controversial area as libraries.

Each little town and village has its own public library -- big cities have dozens perhaps hundreds. In order to borrow books from such a library, one must obtain a library card usually free of charge for residents, but even non-residents may usually get a card for a nominal charge usually a few dollars. Nowadays, there are computers available either free of charge or again for a nominal fee and are open to all. Most libraries also offer WIFI so those with their own devices may use the service – again free of charge or for a nominal fee.

These are typically not research libraries although most have pretty extensive reference works and non-fiction sections suitable for most non-scholarly reading. Public libraries are funded through taxes collected by the town or city mostly from real estate taxes on property owners.

Then there are large research libraries like the big one on 5th Avenue and 42nd Street in New York City (the one with the big steps guarded by stone lions frequently pictured in movies). That’s also financed through city taxes and serves all comers. Cities and towns also offer residents and visitors access to museums, parks, etc. mostly also financed through local taxes, although some are privately funded, and may charge an entrance fee, but that’s usually pretty nominal, so they’re also usually available to all comers.

Almost every public school, except maybe a very small rural one, will have its own library larger or smaller depending on the size of the school. Large public high schools like the one I went to in NYC with a student population of over 7,000 had a very extensive library. All these librarians and staff are employees of the public school system and are paid by the local taxpayers. Private schools fund their institutions through tuition and fund raising although there is still some taxpayer money in the mix.

There are also libraries at public and private colleges and universities all over the country financed either through local taxes and tuition or in the case of the large land-grant universities by the individual states through their taxes.

There are perhaps some libraries like the Library of Congress and others staffed by federal employees, but none of the librarians or other workers in the various libraries described above are federal employees.

I’d be interested to learn why you thought all librarians were federal workers. You can see from the brief description of our library system above how far from the truth that belief is.

Instead of telling us how you think our library system works, why not ask us to tell you about it and then you can tell us how the libraries work in Brazil.

I, for one, would be fascinated to learn about that.

Clovis e Adri said...


Thank you again for expanding your previous explanation on library funding.

The whole misunderstanding is my fault, for the link above provided by AOG states:

"If government workers of any and every stripe are really just a free-floating labor force for the feds, ready to be enlisted for whatever policy priority the ruling administration has in mind, how come librarians and mailmen haven’t been coopted to coordinate jobs programs for the unemployed?"

I misunderstood this as meaning that librarians and mailmen were federal employees. I assumed the phrase "government workers of any end every stripe" implied federal govt. workers of every profession, when he is in fact meaning of every profession *and* govt. level (including states and cities).

You see, my English is really not in the best shape, for I get the words but not the meaning :-)

erp said...

Ah. I see now. aog was being sarcastic and even if he weren't, public service unions and that includes post office workers as well as librarians would prevent their members from doing any work other than the one stipulated in their union contract.

Just another barrier to understanding.

I'd like to know about everyday life in your world, for instance, do you gave a tradition of free public libraries like the ones Andrew Carnegie provided for us?

Clovis e Adri said...


The structure of libraries here is very much like yours. Most common libraries in any given city are funded by local taxes (of which real estate tax is one of many), and then usually major cities in a state may have bigger libraries also funded by the state. Federal ones are only a few (related to congress, the national library, or federal universities and research centers).

Since the structure is alike, I was finding unusual that librarians would be federal employees in the US (hence my questions about this point).

Of course, when I say the structure is alike, it does not mean their number and quality is too. The US has far more libraries, and far better ones at that, as far as I can tell.

In many ways, Erp, we are not so different a country - a usual joke here is that the US is a much improved Brazil.

Our political structure was mirrored in the US in many ways. Even our administrative order too: for example, we have built a city (in 1960) only to be our federal capital (does Washington come to mind?), which by the way is where I live today (Brasilia). When we kicked out the monarchy and declared ourselves a Republic in 1889, guess who was our role model?

To the extent I could study the history of my country and of yours, you can take the following approximation: Brazil used to be a lot like that South of the US that lost the civil war. And we probably are what they would be if they had become a country of their own (we were the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery). BTW, an ilustrative trivia: some rich farmers who lived in the South did not accept to lose the civil war and moved to Brazil, we have a city named "Americana" founded by them.

Of course there are many differences that we can easily trace to the fact that our inheritance comes from the Portuguese, yours from the English, and those were already quite different people.

Anonymous said...

Let us note, with regard to the librarians, that Clovis' missed point is at the heart of the matter. These librarians are not doing this as part of their job, because President Obama is their boss, but as a union doing a political favor for a favored politician (Obama). That is partisanship.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG: Touché - you win.

I can not argue in contrary, even though I do not see it as a monstrous example of partisanship, since they are after all only informing people of their rights. Is it beyond their job contract? Sure, but so it is for so many other things in other professions (public or not).

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp: I did write an answer for your question, but somehow it did get lost.

We have basically the same structure of free libraries here - the taxes that fund it are not necessarily from real estate, but still, it looks all very alike.

(That's the reason I was finding it strange that your librarians would be fed. employees - but now this is settled).

Of course, to say the structure is the same is not to say everything is alike. The US has far more libraries, and far better ones at that, as far as I can tell.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "Erp: I did write an answer for your question, but somehow it did get lost."

Sorry, the blogger spam filter ate it. It should show up now.

Harry Eagar said...

Bizarre. I'll take the comments about libraries seriously just as soon as the libertarians call for the plowing under of municipal tennis courts, which I have never heard of.

But I digress. Some time back, Skipper wrote a bit about the decline of violence.

Does this have something to do with more and bigger government?

Of course it does.

erp said...

Harry, so you believe librarians and libraries are not left wing?

Harry Eagar said...

I believe they are not ideological. I know (because I have a daughter with a master's in library science) that they are trained to cover all topics.

I also know that they defend freedom of expression. That does not make them left, but it does make them antiright.

erp said...

They defend freedom of expression that agrees with their leftist views.

Mazel tov!

As alaways, Harry, you make my points for me.

Harry Eagar said...

Just go look at the ALA annual list of banned books and try repeating that with a straight face.

erp said...

Banned books? Link please

Bret said...


I'm not sure you and Harry are talking about the same thing.

erp said...

Harry, cancel my request for a link to the list of the books banned by the ALA.

Thanks Bret. You're right even after all this time I still think Harry is making sense. I guess I'll never learn.

Bret said...


Harry is correct that librarians don't ban books and virtually every request for a ban is from the right.

Harry is incorrect that that makes librarians neutral. Librarians don't need to ban books. They simply don't buy and make available books they don't like. No library has all books. On controversial topics, libraries generally have more books written from the Left's perspective. As an example, consider Potential Collection Development Bias: Some Evidence on a Controversial Topic in California which shows that a set of libraries has far more books from the "pro-choice" perspective than the "pro-life" perspective on the topic of abortion.

erp said...

aog: I use the word, fascism, advisedly. It's the only one I know which fits, but I'm open to suggestions for another word(s) that describes what's going on in our country.

I forgot to mention that Obama compared his boyhood with Martin's and said his life could have been very similar. Sure if he had grown up in the 'hood instead of in Indonesia and at a posh private school in Hawaii living with his white grandmother who was president of a bank.

BTW Zimmerman and Obama each have a white parent, so if Zimmerman is a white Hispanic, why isn't Obama a white African?

Lofo should be changed to novo for readers of the msm.


As you correctly brought up in another post comment, Harry brings up a topic, i.e., banning books and then decries ones support of it.

I said librarians are lefties and most far lefties (I personally never met one who was even mildly moderate). I never said that librarians ban books because, as you pointed out, they simply don't order them and BTW if somebody donates a book written by a non-lefty, it simply doesn't get on the shelf. Shelf space is limited doncha know.

Harry's daughter may be a librarian, but I've probably had more experience with their workings at every level than she has.

Harry Eagar said...

What I actually said was 'they defend freedom of expression,' which is true.

erp said...

Which is very far from true.

Harry Eagar said...

erp, I feel sure you have specific examples in mind. What are they?

erp said...


Their numbers are legion and I feel quite sure you are acquainted with most of them.