In Pittsburgh you can go to the Carnegie Free Library. Here in Baltimore, I have a library card at the local public library system, which is called the Enoch Pratt Free Library. Why "free"? Aren't all libraries free by definition? No of course not. Free libraries evolved in this country as a philanthropic devotion of the rich. Before that there were libraries, run on a for-profit basis - private libraries. But a public library can always undercut a private one, which cannot tax. So private libraries don't exist anymore.

Or rather, private libraries don't exist called that. Private video rental libraries do exist - Blockbuster, Hollywood, etc. They aren't called libraries, but they are.

All of this reflection brought on by Lew Rockwell: Sell the Public Libraries. He's right, as usual.
Private libraries are not subject to the crazy political controversies that constantly afflict public libraries. Should public-library computers be able to access porn and hate sites? Should they carry Mark Twain? Shouldn’t they have a section designed only for blacks? What about gays and lesbians, who pay taxes to support the libraries. Why shouldn’t their interests be observed as well? But that offends other people who similarly pay for libraries.

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