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April 21, 2011

HARBESON: Dispensing some book learning

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Last week, as part of my decluttering column, I mentioned local libraries and used $2 coffee as an example of people’s willingness to pay for what they want. As if to prove my point, the same day the paper also had an article about a coffee shop opening inside the New Albany-Floyd County library.

The article made it sound like the library had an innovative idea, which I found odd because the private voluntary market has been pairing coffee and books for years and years. In fact, my husband will tell you that pairing coffee and books really improved his life.

See, my husband loves coffee. He can hang out for hours in a coffee shop. On the other hand, I love books. I can hang out for hours in a bookstore.

But I don’t drink coffee and although my husband likes to read, he doesn’t want to hang around very long in bookstores. He has a problem because when we are out together he always has to do what I want.

But now that bookstores have coffee shops, when we’re out together and I want to browse books and all he wants is coffee, we no longer have a conflict. We just go to a bookstore and enjoy ourselves immensely. He can sit, slurp and burp while I shuffle and skip merrily along the rows of shelves.

Until we get kicked out anyway.

This may be the only thing that is holding our marriage together.

To get back to my point, the idea of pairing coffee shops and books is nothing new; the private market discovered it quite some time ago. So even though the library is a bit behind the times, I’m glad to see the coffee shop open because no one can deny that people will pay for what they want.

Well, politicians will probably still deny it and try to convince us of the need to continue government coercion, but we don’t have to listen to them. We can just throw cold coffee on their drivel.

We don’t need to use government force against our neighbors when we want a cup of coffee and it should be the same when we want to rent a book. That’s mostly what libraries are you know — just coercively funded book rental shops.

People rent stuff all the time. Cars are offered for loan and people rent them. Homes, apartments, furniture and appliances are offered for loan and people rent them. Tools and equipment are offered for loan and people rent them. Clothing for special occasions is offered for loan and people rent them.

You can even rent a date, which I probably would have done if bookstores had not added coffee shops.

I could go on for pages but then I’d be taking up space that this newspaper offers for loan and that people want to rent. This kind of voluntary action happens every day, all day long. No government force involved.

If society is able to find ways to borrow and rent all of these things on a voluntary basis, why should books be any different? There’s nothing special about books as far as a product people want to use on a temporary basis.

It’s completely unnecessary to use the government to force our neighbors to pay rental fees for the books and information we wish to access for a short period of time. We know this is true because if people were really so against voluntarily paying for what they want and use, there would be no coffee and pastry shop inside the government library.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson thinks the best use for coffee, hot or cold, is throwing it on politicians’ drivel. Write her at debbie@debbieharbeson.com

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