I think my last post might have caused some political confusion. I was making fun of an ignorant tea partier in North Carolina, and some of the comments seemed to assume that Ol’ JT was some sort of conservative. To some of us, this is just crazy talk. The tea partiers and the libertarians aren’t conservatives, they’re radicals, as radical as the regressive librarians but a lot more numerous. There’s nothing they want to conserve.
True conservatives are against all abuses of government, just like everyone else is, but they’re not against all government services. What they’re especially against is radicalism and sweeping change. Public libraries of a sort have been an American institution for over 150 years. Their predecessors, the various subscription and circulating libraries that often served as de facto public libraries, are older than the USA itself. These are sturdy and longstanding public agencies that have helped generations of Americans improve themselves, and only radicals want to destroy such institutions. Like the provision of roads or water, they do what can’t be done individually.
Conservatives traditionally like libraries, for all sorts of reasons. Libraries conserve the best of human culture and make it available for the masses. I realize a lot of libraries don’t take this mission seriously, and they think that they’re somehow fulfilling their public mission by providing access to Internet porn and videogames, but in theory this is what libraries do, and frequently in practice as well.
Conservatives are a lot smarter than the tea partiers and libertarians. They recognize that society is a relationship between the dead, the living, and the yet unborn that exists to help us do things that we can’t do on our own. Public institutions and agencies are fully justified in many instances. Conservatives just think more carefully about what government agencies are worth funding with public monies and which are not.
One crucial distinction is between government agencies that sap the virtues of individual effort, self-improvement, and personal responsibility and those that foster them.
Cradle-to-grave welfare that makes no allowance for personal initiative or effort destroys those virtues, and should not be funded. Here we also get the common distinction among conservatives of the deserving and the undeserving poor. Communists, socialists, and varieties of liberal think all the poor are deserving.
Conservatives don’t. Those who, despite being given opportunities, make no effort to improve their lot are the undeserving poor. However, to distinguish between the deserving and the undeserving poor, the opportunity to improve oneself must be made available. Hence, institutions such as public schools and public libraries.
Andrew Carnegie is a good example of such a conservative. He funded public libraries so that people could improve themselves if they made the effort. The same opportunities are still necessary today. Conservatives want people to succeed, and they realize this success has to come from self-effort, not government handouts. But absolutely no one, rich or poor, succeeds without being given the tools and support for success. Libraries are one way to provide this support.
Are libraries perfect in meeting their mission? Absolutely not. The utter foolishness of fighting efforts to combat Internet porn in public libraries shows lots of librarians don’t understand what they should be doing. In their zeal to destroy government, tea partying radicals are too stupid to discern between public agencies that serve the public good and those that undermine it. In their zeal to promote access to "information," some librarians are too stupid to discern between information for self-improvement and information for self-abuse.
Librarians can babble on about intellectual freedom all they like, but it’s clear to sane observers that many librarians can’t distinguish between liberty and license. Is this driving the radical forces attempt to destroy our public institutions? I don’t know. Conservative librarians know how liberal the ALA is, but outside of the profession no one really cares what librarians have to say about politics.
I have noticed one similarity between radicals of all stripes, and that’s their desire for "change." Across the country we have radicals voting out perfectly good conservatives because they want "change." This isn’t much different from the radical librarians like the twopointopians who are always yammering at us about how we need to change because change is good. Things change, they tell us, and we need to keep up!
Radicals inside the profession have been claiming we need to change in all sorts of incompatible ways for a while now. Guess what? Libraries are changing. They’re shrinking. They’re going out of business.
This should make all the radicals happy. Defunct libraries won’t be doing a disservice to the community by picking Ol’ JT’s pockets or failing to create a blog. Radicals in conservative clothing are just as bad as radicals in radical clothing.