Taxing is Crowdfunding (Sorta)

I have to stop by the library to drop off books on my way to pick up Misty from the train station tonight. Unless you’re a student, it’s unlikely you hear that statement very often nowadays. I mentioned getting my library card a couple of weeks ago. I’ve checked out a number of books since then — this will be my third trip, at least — and returned them. The library building is quite new, and it is well-enough-used. My mom sometimes tutors there. I’ve seen others studying there. They don’t seem to lack in patrons (or “customers,” if you like).

I also mentioned at the time that the library was small and mostly devoted to kids’ books and a hefty large-print edition collection. I’m not finding much to quench my thirst for tech and design and economic works — or even fiction. They have a couple of copies of Bradbury, but not his entire works. No autobiography of Andrew Jackson. Their new-to-us section can be more interesting than their recently released shelf. Libraries like these make me want to donate my collection to them. (Though I’m afraid it would just be locked away in a storage unit gathering dust until a remainder sale, if lucky.)

We’ve allowed our libraries to fall into disrepair. They may be housed in new buildings, but their collections are being degraded and depleted.

Astra Taylor notes in her recent book The People’s Platform that taxes are a form of crowdfunding. So true! I hadn’t thought of taxes that way — neither had the technolibertarians, I’ll bet. They’ll argue that because it’s coerced, it isn’t the same thing. That may be so (and I don’t intend to get into an argument about it here), but it can also be put to good use, including funding libraries where they can find Hayek and von Mises.

Brian Chesky explains the sharing economy to Stephen Colbert. [At the end of the interview, Misty immediately turned to me for my opinion. Ha!] All of which brings me to Airbnb. The company is touted (and touts itself) as a beacon of the “sharing economy.”

Someone shares his or her couch for you to sleep on. Uber drivers share their cars. Of course, contrary to Brian Chesky, head of Airbnb, if you have a crappy house on the wrong side of town or want to be picked up in that part of town, best of luck engaging in the sharing economy where everyone can become and benefit from “microentrepreneurs.” That’s right — there’s the sharing part and then the economy part. We’ve commodified sharing. This is a business transaction. Don’t forget that. And Airbnb taking thirteen percent off the top so you can be your own boss is a pretty crap position in which to start. (Also, hotels pay taxes.)

As for Uber, they can’t wait until they can deploy driverless cars. So much for the sharing economy then.

With libraries, you really do share. There isn’t a business transaction. You borrow and return. Someone else borrows and, generally, returns the book or DVD or record. It’s sharing without the economy, the monetization. It’s . . . sharing.

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