Revolution at the Public Library

Public LibraryI was over at the library, just roaming around. That’s the great thing about libraries and used bookstores: you never know what you’ll come upon. That exists online with blogs, but not at, say, Amazon. For one thing, you don’t get to browse older books. And the newer ones where you can “Look inside!” you are limited to what it has decided to show you. You can’t look at the table of contents and think, “Chapter 3 looks interesting, let me take a look at it!” Amazon has told you as much as it thinks maximizes its profits. But as used bookstores drop like flies, libraries continue on.

Have you given much thought to public libraries, though? Imagine we had no history of public libraries. And some person who cared about knowledge and society and the good of all humanity rose up and said, “Let there be public libraries!” What do you think would happen? Well, I know what would happen. The publishers would rush to Congress and get laws made. They would say, “A single book could be read by a thousand people! The writers will stop writing!” You see: it would be all about the writers. It would have nothing to do with the publishers who make far more from books than the writers. Nor would it have anything to do with Amazon that makes a huge amount of money just because they are Amazon. (And note: the fact that they don’t show profits is just because they are buying up everything in sight.)

At the very core of my being, I am a writer. I always have been. I like telling stories whether they are about things that are going on in the world or just bizarre things that are going on in my mind. And yes, I would like to make some money from it—at least enough to pay for the hosting of this site. And I probably will do something along those lines one of these days, throwing up a couple of ads. It would be my wildest dream to actually be able to make a living writing. The thought of making $40,000 a year is just amazing to me. But my writing here, much less what I consider my more serious private (for now) writing has nothing to do with making money.

Do you know what a lot of money does for writers? It turns them into hacks. Consider Jonathan Kellerman. I haven’t read his first book, but it was thought to be pretty good and I’m sure that it was. Since then, he’s pumped out almost three novels for every two years for the last three decades. I reviewed one of his novels, Twisted Stretched. A number of fans have come by to tell me that I’m wrong, but it’s a total piece of garbage. Then there’s Stephen King. I actually think he is a great writer. He’s published 59 novels in four decades. This does not include his numerous novellas, short story collections, screenplays, and non-fiction books. In his case, however, I will admit that he does seem to simply be a madman and he maintains a high level of quality, unlike Jonathan Kellerman or many other writers I could mention. And I think King would write like a madman even if he weren’t making millions.

So money really isn’t the key to causing people to create things whether they be books, hand carved statues, or cool new high tech devices. (On this last issue, my partner and I have been doing this very cool, cutting edge work for a year; and although we do hope to make some money from it, we don’t expect to become millionaires; in fact, we expect only the thrill of doing something totally new.) But the world is not run by the writers and the other creators of things that make life worth living. Today, the world is run by the wealthy who are only really interested in becoming more wealthy, because wealth is what they “create”—even if it in itself is not something that anyone wants.

Roam around your public library—that relic of Enlightenment thinking, which paleoconservatives would destroy if they could. It is a wonderful thing. It will change your mind. As I walked about, I came upon Ann Coulter’s book, Never Trust a Liberal Over 3—Especially a Republican, a common sort of title for conservatives. It rightly implies that the writer is still thinking at that preschool level. She’s going for that hippy slogan (most conservatives have not moved beyond the silliest 1960s revolutionary thinking), “Never trust anyone over 30!”

But right there next to Coulter’s commodity book was Penguin Books’ Greet Ideas series edition, Common Sense. I picked it up. So you see: Ann Coulter isn’t completely useless. And I found that the book was downright subversive. It wasn’t just the one pamphlet. It also included Paine’s far better and more revolutionary Agrarian Justice. But when I checked on Amazon, I noticed no mention of it. It is only if you “Look Inside!” that you will even know that it is included. Out of 204 reader reviews, not one mentioned that it contains the other essay. The top reader review stated simply, “This book should be required reading for every American. It lays out the logic of the founding fathers in separating from England but also lays out the logical and philosophical foundations of freedom. Eye opening and enlightening.” In fact, this is not true at all. It lays out Thomas Paine’s logic for separating from England. The rich guys had their own reasons. What did The Oracle say in The Matrix Reloaded? “What do all men with power want? More power.”

A browser at Amazon would just find the sanitized version of the Revolutionary War. But the browser of the public library found actual revolutionary thought from long after the war. I’ve read it twice before, but I checked it out anyway.

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