Monday, August 24, 2015

Little Free Books

We live in an age where we have all the information we ever need literally carried around in our pockets, and yet most people seem to be actively disinterested in learning about the world around them. This isn't new, although the scale and transparency of the whole thing is. It's probably a good thing to encourage that sort of thing, whether it be going to your local library or simply talking up a good bit of literature to someone who might not otherwise do so. One would think that the government, in its grand quest to make a great society, would actively want to encourage such things. But if you want the government at your door, all you have to do is put up a free little library in your own yard.

If you're not in the mood to be annoyed, the link above talks about how a lot of local city councils around the nation are starting to crack down on one of the more creative bits of enterprise we've seen lately--the little free library. Sometimes you'll see them (thankfully, officially sanctioned) in parks, but often you'll see them on the edge of people's yards. It runs almost wholly on the honor system of taking a book and leaving one, if so inclined, and generally speaking no one, even the most derelict of the mopiest whippit consumer, is going to bother messing up a bunch of books. Maybe the occasional confused squirrel, perhaps.

Of course, street-criminal teenagers and woodland creatures have nothing against the city. For various reasons, usually zoning infractions pulled from zoning laws that were made before the amazing horseless carriage sauntered down Main Street, people have been "asked" (i.e., cited) to remove their free-standing structures on their own property, what with them not having a permit or zoning variance on hand. As the article notes above, one council even simply stated that all they needed to do was fill out a permit form--oh, and pay for it, which they were sure a local arts grant would be happy to pay for. Because that's the sort of thing that arts funding should go towards paying shakedowns bribes permit fees to the local council.

This is the sort of thing that drives small-l libertarians like me mad. People get angry when we say we're against regulations, assuming we would rather have asbestos in our Juicy Juice than the iron fist of gummit telling us what to do. But this is the sort of business that's our bread and butter--a government entity, applying a nonsense rule that clearly doesn't apply, crowding out private individuals on their own private property from promoting the general welfare. Is it really controversial to think that adults can determine on their own what they can do with their actions without having to have it vetted through the government to make sure "it's ok"? Is it really the default opinion that if the stars are aligned and someone somehow is worse off because they took a book out of a box it's still worth negative the accumulated positive good it gives to everyone else? I fear that this is a controversial statement, if my social media feed and most people I hear under the age of 25 have anything to say about it.

Make no mistake about it: in this situation, it's the governments goal that less people should read, and for no other reason than they need to assert their power. Sure, this is a minor issue, but multiply this by tens and hundreds of similar actions every day, and you'll understand how frustrated people can get with their elected officials.

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