Friday, February 04, 2011

Save our Public Libraries:Philip Pullman on the ‘greedy ghost’ of market fundamentalism


The free market fanatics came for our utilities, our railways and our airports.
Now they’re coming to destroy our health service, our postal service, our publicly owned forests and our public libraries.

Market fundamentalism, this madness that's infected the human race, is like a greedy ghost that haunts the boardrooms and council chambers and committee rooms from which the world is run these days. The greedy ghost understands profit all right. But that's all. What he doesn't understand is enterprises that don't make a profit, because they're set up to do something different. He doesn't understand libraries at all, for instance.

Like all fundamentalists who get their clammy hands on the levers of power, the market fanatics are going to kill off every humane, life-enhancing, generous, imaginative and decent corner of our public life. We're coming to see that old Karl Marx had his finger on the heart of the matter when he pointed out that the market in the end will destroy everything we thought was safe and solid.
"Everything solid melts into air," he said. "All that is holy is profaned."
You can read the whole of author Philip Pullman’s brilliant speech in defence of public libraries cuts over at False Economy website.

And an abridged version was published in last Saturday’s Guardian.
Let's not allow the market fundamentalists who have already destroyed so much that was good about Britain, destroy our libraries.

In the words of author Mark Haddon: "Libraries are being destroyed to save a banker’s bonus”.
UPDATE: For an example of the extremist free market fundamentalism that Philip Pullman highlights, take a look at this anti-public library piece by Eamon Butler of the Adam Smith Institute. Apparently those concerned about public library closures are all middle-class Radio 4 listeners.
 

7 comments:

John said...

Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but I think market fundamentalists are happy to destroy public libraries because they don’t want working-class people actually learning about things outside of what they need to know for whatever job they have.

The workers might read the wrong books and absorb the wrong ideas and they might get uppity! If the market fundamentalists had their way, the proles would only read trashy tabloids or violent, salacious comic books to keep their minds off of how they are being ripped off by the bankers and others.

Czarny Kot said...

"They don't burn books they just remove them."

jock mctrousers said...

This Tory lot are just motivated by a lust to punish the greedy oiks. They're all millionaires; they don't need the directorships and lecture tours like Blair, and no doubt Clegg.

This is the ruling class revenge for the French and Russian revolutions, for all the small victories of trade unionism and token gestures they had to make towards the proles after WWII. They know they've finished off the Labour party and the trade unions, and now they're going for the kill. You could see it in Cameron's face in that shot of him entering No 10 for the first time; no more little boy blue, but the face of Uncle Ernie when he knows mum and dad are out of the way.

It's not about 'the market' - that's just pseudo-economic bullshit masking a power-relation, as Marx might have put it if he wasn't so posh. IS there a market? A market is by definition regulated; it has transparent rules, otherwise it's just a war or a robbery. Regulated to create a 'level-playing field'? Ring a bell? Cameron's fond of that term - it's what he wants to introduce into the health service. The sort of level-playing field that sees Tory donors getting their pick of what they want (yes Cameron and the boys might not care about the money, but they get their power to hurt people by pandering to those who do). Level like the Qinetic sale? Level like the playing field Microsoft plays on in software, or Halliburton faces in US military supplies.

It's a rigged game. There is no market, but a class war aimed at robbing us of everything up to and including life itself for those they can't squeeze some profit out of, like the old and infirm. They think we can't or won't fight back now. Or we're afraid they'll take their money and jobs to India and China, where the proles don't get time to read. Libraries indeed!

Neil Clark said...

Hi everyone- many thanks for the comments.
For a great example of the extreme
market fundamentalism that Philip Pullman highlights- or as Jock would put it, the "pseudo-economic bullshit masking a power-relation"
take a look at this anti-public library piece from the Adam Smith Institute.
http://www.adamsmith.org/blog/media-and-culture/rewriting-the-book-on-libraries/
Apparently those concerned about the closure of public libraries are all middle-class Radio 4 listeners.

jock mctrousers said...

I read that piece Neil - truly nauseating. ' their huge footprint crowds out the private and voluntary sector' seems to be the mantra of the day. According to one of the commenters, the author is a 'socialist' - something like 'nice to hears some sense from a socialist'. They don't make 'em like they used to.

Douglas said...

My library has a quote from author Doris Lessing, saying that libraries are the most democratic place in the world, as no one can tell you what to read. Ms. Lessing is sadly mistaken.

The St. Paul Public Library system has three individuals who decide what books are carried in what branches. Their decision is final, there is no appeal. If one wishes to be fully accurate, one could describe the current arrangement in St. Paul as a totalitarian system. But it is considered as a benign dictatorship because they put successful books in the library. In other words, they respond to market forces. For now, anyway.

Rudi Affolter said...

Alas, Douglas & John in particular are correct. A 55 year old, I have a huge private collection of books amassed over the years, most from University onwards. A few are very academic, but most could be read by the "average" person - if there is such a thing. I enquired of the Library authorities of various counties (as well as Universities) if they would accept them and received a pretty rude refusal in all cases. They do want the masses thinking for themselves. All they are concerned with is a modern day version of "bread & circuses" - eg TV, DVD's and computer games. How very sad.