Timmy elsewhereAugust 5, 2012 Tim WorstallTimmy Elsewhere23 CommentsAt the ASI. Perhaps we should be closing the libraries? previous@kevinmarks, a too long for Twitter responsenextTimmy elsewhere 23 thoughts on “Timmy elsewhere” dearieme August 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm I gained enormously from our public library as a schoolboy, and gained nowt from our school library. So my emotions are with the public libraries. That doesn’t seem to me reason enough to rule out closing them: I’m too remote from the problem to have a useful view. Bernie Gudgeon August 5, 2012 at 2:24 pm Close public libraries! Where would I go to sleep it off during the afternoon. Edward Lud August 5, 2012 at 4:06 pm Of course they should be closed. The only people who want them open are gobby actaws and assorted thespian hangers on who can afford their own books. And if they can’t, they should get jobs which enable them to do so. And if your heart bleeds at the prospect, give ’em vouchers to spend on second hand books from charity shops, which is often where I buy books. For God’s sake, this isn’t the 18th century, we’ve got clean drinking water and everything now. john77 August 5, 2012 at 9:16 pm NO, NO, NO Have you not noticed that there are children? Children whose parents do not buy books can read them thanks to public libraries and those whose parents do buy serious books can read the trivia that makes up the bulk of modern English literature. @Edward Lud I am not a thespian nor am I unemployed – I have been working and earning my living for nearly 50 years. Have you? Martin Davies August 5, 2012 at 10:41 pm Some (all?) universities open their libraries to the public. Not free (my local one charges £35 a year). Had a large selection of electronic books. Then changed provider and those books suddenly could not be accessed. Physical books are expensive and often abused but at least are not likely to be disposed of in large numbers at one time. john malpas August 6, 2012 at 12:32 am You show a fine disregard for the aged pensioner. Especially those who are disabled with arthritis. You can buy and use all the fancy gadgets you want . The old often cannot. If you read five to six books a week where else could you do this but the public library. Over 65 are quite a large chunk of society. They should not be so casually ignored. Alex B August 6, 2012 at 8:11 am @John Malpas; I suspect that Tim reckons we could provide free 3G-enabled ebook (e.g. Kindle) readers for all our low income/65+ and provide a comprehensive ebook service for less than it costs to run libraries. Then you could read 6+ books a *day*, without having to return them, if you so wished. eInk screens are as readable as print+paper, and I would expect that the buttons are probably easier to use than pages are to turn for people with arthritis (my mum has it in both thumbs, for instance). James James August 6, 2012 at 10:05 am I did some numbers on this a while back. The total annual public library budget in the UK is £1bn. About 10m people use libraries. Therefore we could buy them all a Kindle for £50/each and have £50 left over for books. And that’s only in the first year! The next year, they can spend the whole £100 on books. Or they can make them read out-of-copyright for free. (Bonus: if everyone reads out-of-copyright books, reactionary opinions will become more popular.) Edward Lud August 6, 2012 at 1:52 pm John77, then presumably you can buy your own books. And as to the little children, are we not obliged to fund 12 years through school? And don’t schools have libraries? Not that I’d fund most other parents’ children through school if I had the choice, mind. And, John Malpas, as to pensioners, don’t get me started on those freeloaders. Surreptitious Evil August 6, 2012 at 9:09 pm And don’t schools have libraries? Only technically. Not in any form that the proponents of public (but not necessarily taxation funded – remember there is a meaningful difference between ‘public school’ and ‘private school’) libraries would care to acknowledge. BTW – I’m a great fan of public libraries. Especially the things they sell off for £1 simply because the rump illiterate are no longer interested in them … john77 August 6, 2012 at 11:34 pm @ Edward Lud I do buy books that I want to keep but it would be a waste of resources to buy and then throw away a book I only want to read once. Most pensioners have worked many years and their pensions are a right that they have earned through accepting lower immediate pay in exchange for a pension upon their retirement. Many of them have seen their savings eroded by inflation and negative real interest rates to subsidise the indebted younger generations (and property speculators) by enabling to pay back less than they borrowed. To call them “freeloaders” demonstrates either willful ignorance or deliberate falsehood. Edward Lud August 7, 2012 at 8:35 am John77, most pensioners have never paid in pension contributions more than a fraction of the sums they claim as their “right”. Indeed, for many and perhaps most, their paltry contributions were in fact doing no more than subsidising THEIR elders’ failure fully to prepare for their retirement. Not that pensioners are the only freeloaders. Most of the country has been freeloading for the thick end of 100 years. My generation, and my daughter’s, will be picking up the bill. I’m 40. I expect to have to work until I drop. So much for my rights. Finally, on the subject of ignorance, the key driver of the cheap money you (and I, as it happens) deplore is the unrestrained government spending you seem so keen on. Edward Lud August 7, 2012 at 9:17 am Btw, John Malpas, anyone reading five or six books a week, no matter how much time they have on their hands, is reading brain-addling tripe. Such a person is therefore scarcely a poster child for the supposed intellect- and horizon-expanding merits of public libraries free at the point of delivery. john77 August 7, 2012 at 6:10 pm @ Edward Lud #12 Starting by demonstrably failing to read what I wrote and finishing with a blatant lie. Maybe you’ve been reading too much “brain-addling tripe”? Pay rates are and, more importantly were, lower for those offered a pension and the difference roughly reflected the expected cost of the pension: 50 or 60 years ago that was calculated assuming a 3 or 4% investment return. In the private sector final salary schemes were in a minority so the real value of the wages/salary sacrificed was greater than that of the pension that they received at NRA – in many insured schemes skilled workers were earning, for instance, £14 per annum of pension (with no provision for inflation-adjustments) for each year worked. Anyone who is now a pensioner lived through the 1970s which reduced the value of our cash-denominated savings by two-thirds. If you *have* to work until you drop you are either incredibly unlucky, spendthrift or totally incompetent (or, possibly, all three). Your generation has had much higher earnings (after adjusting for inflation) at each age than mine and I have saved enough so that I can live modestly but comfortably when I eventually retire. The National Insurance Scheme was set up with all workers paying the expected cost of their sickness and industrial injuries benefits and bachelors paying for more than their expected pension benefits, women in aggregate paying for the amount that would paid out to those women claiming pensions on the basis of their own contributions rather than their husbands’ and married men paying for their own pensions and a portion of those given to their wives/widows. There was a 16% contribution from the Treasury to meet the balance of the cost of widows’ pensions. All current pensioners paid into the NI scheme on this basis. May I suggest that on those occasions that you do not know what you are talking about you should just shut up? Edward Lud August 8, 2012 at 9:04 am As I understand it, John77, the NI scheme has never paid out to pensioners on the basis of what was paid in: it started in deficit, paying out to those who had never contributed, and each successive generation has been (partially) funding the last. It’s a pyramid scheme and, as with the separate but almost identical problem of public sector pensions, we’re approaching the Bernie Madoff moment. But you’re obviously a clever chap, rather than unlucky, incompetent or spendthrift, given that you haven’t retired after 50-odd years working, so you must be right, I’m an outlier, the highly unusual 40 year-old not so much lumbered with the bill for all those generations who’ve fiddled the numbers before now, as blatantly lying about my situation. Come to think of it, I take the trouble to comment here just so I can blatantly lie. I suspect you’re protesting too much, like an Olympics fan of my acquaintance when confronted by the fact that I’m payor her funand games, “if you’d just get behind it all and stop complaining'”. When the 20 year olds of 2032, realise how they’ve been stiffed, either up sticks or come fo r you, see how far those protests get you. The jig’s up, and I don’t care how virtuous you think you are, there’ll be blood. john77 August 8, 2012 at 11:01 am @ Edward Lud You clearly do not understand it. The National Insurance Scheme started in 1911, supplementing the sickness benefit and old-age pension schemes run by Friendly Societies with a government-backed scheme for unemployment benefit (previously also provided by some Friendly Societies). These schemes paid out strictly on terms linked to contribution records and the former were fully funded, taking heed of the different sickness and accident records of different industries – e.g miners needing higher funds than shopworkers due to the higher accident rate. In 1948 the Attlee government introduced their National Insurance scheme which covered sickness, injury, unemployment and old age pensions. Again this was based on contribution records and women receive(d) different pension benefits depending on whether they paid full stamp or only that covering industrial injuries and relied on their husbands’ contributions for entitlement to health services and old age pension. It was the contribution basis to this scheme that I described in # 14 since the number of current pensioners who were working before 1948 is relatively small compared to those who started working after 1948 and the number who have not worked since 1948 is negligible. This scheme was also funded *and started with a cashflow surplus* but the fund was invested in unissued government bonds – so that the apparent level of government debt was reduced after 1948 (giving rise to the leftie claims that the Attlee government reduced government debt as a % of GDP after the 1948 devaluation wiped out 40% of the US$ value of outstanding debt) – and earning a notional 3%. It was not a Ponzi scheme since it did not depend on future contributions but on the government honouring its liabilities which in the days of balanced budgets and redemption at par of gilt-edged securities was a perfectly sound assumption. You also have misread the starting situation – there was an option for those who had been ineligible for the previous schemes to opt-in *for a payment* (I have forgotten the amount). The second Wilson government introduced SERPS, which again linked benefits to contributions but in a distorted way calculated to benefit the then current generation of skilled workers at the expense of those in higher-paid occupations. This did have the very unwelcome aspect of subsidies from future workers for initial entrants in the absence of investment returns but all contracted-out schemes wre required by law to be fully funded. I am still working after nearly 50 years because I find my job more interesting than gardening or watching TV and there is a limit to the number of books I can (or want to) read. I did not say that you were blatantly lying about *your* situation – that would have been remarkably silly of me since you know more about that than I do. I said, if you bother to read it, that you were blatantly lying when you said I seem keen on unrestrained government spending. *Inadequate* restraint on government spending has, again, got the country into a horrendous mess with lower economic growth and higher unemployment than periods of balanced budgets, as I have repeatedly pointed out. I *cannot* seem to be keen on unrestrained government spending. Edward Lud August 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm John77, you did not specify the “blatant lie” until your last comment. Your protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, I take it that you’re an enthusiast for unrestrained government spending because you’re an enthusiast for taxpayer funded entertainment. If you’re unwilling to see that cut back, I can’t imagine what you would trim. Nor do you bolster your case by accepting that the actions of Wilson’s second ministry required subsidies from future workers, and byignoring my complaint about public sector pensions which are, frankly, a fraud. However I’m prepared to accept that I may be wrong as to whether state pensions were initially run at a deficit. Either way, for many decades, very many millions of people, my parents included, who had children they could not afford but for state support, who benefitted from colossal house price increases on the back of cheap money and planning restrictions, have retired in their fifties or at sixty or, heaven forbid, at 65, and have then gone on to spend what turned out to be about a third of their lives in leisured complacency, bus passes paid for, winter fuel allowance unearnt, late night painting classes funded by muggins and hip replacements and dialysis paid for to the nth degree. Neither I, nor most of my generation, or the generations that follow us, will ever know that leisured idleness. In the abstract there’s no reason why any of us should if we’ve failed to provide for our old age adequately. But failing to provide adequately for their old age didn’t stop our ancestors, we’re stuck with the bill. And that makes them freeloaders who can buy their own books. As it happens, I bought my grandmother a kindle for Christmas, because she’s 92, had recently had a fall and I thought it would avoid the need for her to go to the library. But I don’t think she uses it. She foesnt agree with the internet. But she does love her brain-addling tripe. A good five or six books a week. And funnily enough, although she only worked for what used to be called the town clerk in a clerical capacity, I’m reliably informed she’s sitting on saving, accrued through her pension, of £300,000. I’m a barrister, earning in the top five per cent. Yet that quantity of savings is unimaginable to me. john77 August 8, 2012 at 8:49 pm @ Edward Lud #17 So many factual errors – where do I start? At the beginning, carry on until I get tired and finish later. i) I said “finishing with” – I cannot see even a lawyer can argue that means other than the last clause, so your pretence otherwise is disingenuous ii) Since I am not in favour of tax-funded entertainment like subsidies to Opera and Ballet, tax relief on three times the amount invested in film finance, you *cannot* “take it” that I am an enthusiast for tax-funded entertainment. I support libraries, inter alia, for their educational role. iii) I ignored your whine about public sector pensions because I had already dealt with it. Prior to New Labour public sector nominal rates of pay were lower than those in the private sector to reflect greater job security and the better pension provided. iv) I mentioned the SERPS subsidy because I choose to argue honestly but SERPS only comprises a small proportion of the pension benefits of a minority of pensioners and nothing at all for the majority who are contracted-out or had earnings below the threshold, so it doesn’t support your ridiculous and slightly offensive claim that “most pensioners have never paid in pension contributions more than a fraction of the sums they claim as their “right””. v) I could not comment about your parents’ ability to afford children but there are certainly NOT millions of people among current and past pensioners who had children they could not afford without state support. Child Benefit was tiny and Children’s Tax Credit did not exist so parents had to support their children out of their earnings. vi) The current life expectancy of a man retiring at age 65 with a substantial pension is about 22 years not 32 years. Your grandmother is not the norm. vii) Most economists nowadays expect a continuation of economic growth and productivity, albeit at a slower pace than in 1945-97, with mechanisation and computerisation reducing the time and effort involved in producing goods and services so in the absence of ever-increasing bureaucratic burdens future generations should have more leisure than past ones. When I started work the mandated level of annual leave was two weeks and senior staff got three, nobody got more than four – now 5.6 weeks is the minimum. Your generation has already had more than a whole year’s more leisure than mine at the same age and you will have another before you reach normal retirement age. viii) I can’t answer for your ancestors but, with one exception, all of mine whom I have been able to trace did make provision for their old age, so kindly do not allege that they did not ix) Nothing that you can say makes me a freeloader because I am not. x) The Town Clerk had to be a Qualified Solicitor and acted as both the legal adviser and chief executive of a borough with between 50,000 and 500,000 inhabitants (anything bigger was a city, anything smaller should not have qualified as a borough). This was a pretty important job so “only” is out of place. (I cannot comment on why none of her savings came from your grandfather). xi) Although current real rates of interest on gilts are around zero, they may be expected to rise after the next election and in any case the Equity Risk Premium tends to be around 3% so to have an additional £300k by the time you reach 65 you would only need to put aside just over £8k per annum. There are doubtless good reasons why a barrister earning in the top 5% (say, £80k) cannot put £8k p.a. into a pension fund, but I cannot think of them. Edward Lud August 9, 2012 at 10:22 am John77, you’re quite right. The fact that the country is broke is a complete bolt from the blue. No one saw it coming, it just sort of happened about three years ago, nothing at all to do with generations of people racking up freebies at other people’s expense. As to my personal circumstances, the primary reason why I’ve had to stop paying into my pension is because the government agencies responsible for paying the bulk of my fees (and I would very much prefer my fees not to be paid for by the taxpayer) are delaying so doing. The government’s got other important things like the Olympics and other entertainment to pay for. For any given day’s work I tend to have to wait between seven and fifteen months to be paid, and there is no predictability at all to the actual amount of delay in a given case. There’s a difference between earnings and receipts, you see? As to the blatant lie nonsense, had it occurred to you that your best shot was to accuse me of misunderstanding your purported commitment to restrained government spending rather than your childish accusation of deliberate falsehood (you seem to assume I’ve kept a note of your comments on this site and therefore ought to know your views, incidentally), then it might have been clearer to me what you were taking issue with, but since I wasn’t lying, it didn’t. I had no idea, until you specified the allegation. I agree with you about subsidies to opera etc. (indeed, I am opposed to all state subsidies on principle) but can see more educational merit in The Magic Flute than half a dozen Grisham bestsellers and a few bollywood DVDs. Nevertheless, I think education is overrated (especially past a certain point), and I remain unpersuaded that a commitment to public libraries free at the point of delivery equates to a commitment to restrained government spending, not the least because it’s not a commitment of any argumentative value: if you concede that the taxpayer should be funding free books, you’re left with no argument against those who say it should be funding “free” opera, or “free” anything else. john77 August 9, 2012 at 10:44 pm Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. I am on record as pointing out, nearly a dozen years ago, that Brown’s economic policy was totally unsound – his “golden rule” of only borrowing for investment ignored depreciation so it was like a consumer borrowing to buy a new car and when it wore out borrowing more money to replace it until he had £100k debt and a worn-out BMW – and later that the consumer boom was unsustainably based on increasing levels of debt; consumers borrowed an extra TRILLION pounds in a mere ten years – the extent that this was for living beyond their income was concealed by “equity withdrawal” increasing, instead of paying off borrowing secured on their homes. I admit that I *was* caught by surprise by the collapse of Lehman after the US bailed out Bear Sterns which I thought was worse and deserved to go to the wall but lots of us pointed out that Brown’s bubble was a bubble before it burst. Now if you read the above you will learn that it wasn’t generations over decades – it was mainly overspending by New Labour and *your* generation over one decade (mine, in aggregate, paid down their mortgages ahead of retirement). More people declared themselves in one quarter under Brown than in the record year for all previous governments. There has been an increase in insolvent pensioners – my generation has more spendthrifts than earlier ones – but the largest number and value of personal insolvencies are in the 35-50 bracket. I can sympathise with the late payment problem which is a chronic one for small businesses and self-employed professionals (there was a period of several years when I sent one of my clients invoices and assumed they would pay me as and when they got paid themselves and had enough cash: debtors swallowed up the bulk of their capital). [They always have paid when they could – my bad debts comprise two small firms which went bust and two supra-national organisations which I can’t afford to sue]. However it should only stop you paying into a pension during the time that outstanding debtors are increasing: once they plateau your cash flow (apart from the interest that you are not getting paid on the cash that should be in your bank) will be the same as if they paid on time, so you can/will be able to build up a pension (subject of course to other priorities about which I know nothing). Further demonstrations of ignorance: i) Libraries are not funded by taxpayers but by ratepayers (“those paying the Community Charge”) which is much wider body of people including pensioners and almost everyone not in receipt of income support. Pensioners using libraries are not freeloader as they are contributing to the cost; ii) Libraries are not primarily, let alone solely, as you seem to suggest based upon your grandmother’s reading pattern, providers of entertainment. If that is your experience then may I suggest that you take it up with your County Councillor (or one of your Common Councilmen if you live in The City)? My local library has three sections: Children’s, Adult Lending and Reference – the Reference section occupies the whole of the upper floor; in the Adult section non-fiction books take up roughly the same space as fiction (I have not analysed the split among the large-print books so I cannot be precise). Unless you regard the print version of Encyclopaedia Britannica as entertainment compared to De Zulueta on Roman Law, I have to conclude that on libraries, as on the National Insurance Scheme, you really don’t know what you are talking about. There is, yes, a small section for lending DVDs which makes a profit which is used to subsidise/offset the cost of providing the library service on books: in this case entertainment is subsidising education. No I did not consider “my best shot” – you have spent a lot of time making false and baseless accusations against me and accusing *me* of ignorance while displaying your own was asking for a slap-down on the Piers Morgan level (at least you don’t accuse me of being a forgery of John Major). Maybe you might consider thinking before throwing around baseless insults? Your insults appear to be based on (a) ignoring what I actually wrote; (b) taking a wrong view on libraries – they are not entertainment and you are not paying for mine or for any others outside your own county; (c) ascribing views to me that are contrary to those expressed on threads in which you personally have participated; (d) an unwillingness to admit that you are wrong – maybe you don’t think that but your skipping over the first ten points of #18 and most of the points of #16, after ignoring *all* the points in #11 and #14 makes an a priori case. john77 August 9, 2012 at 11:31 pm Err – typo “…more people declared themselves *insolvent* in one quarter under Brown…” Edward Lud August 10, 2012 at 11:50 am You’re on record? You’re THAT John77! But seriously, back of a fag packet calculation: I received 14 years of taxpayer-funded school education (almost certainly further subsidised by teachers being underpaid), call it £4k a year at today’s prices: £56k. Plus five years of largely taxpayer-funded higher education, call it £10k pa at today’s prices: £50k. Plus 40 years of NHS spend (although I’ve made little use of this and have had private provision for about 30 years), again call it £4k pa at today’s prices: £160k. Total: £266k. Excluding the use I’ve made of roads, street lamps, rubbish collection, public libraries (yes, indeed) and all the rest of it. Now, I don’t know how much tax I’ve paid in my working life, or how much I’ll end up paying, and I’m not one of the millions (yes, millions…I deal with them every day in my working life: cradle to grave welfarists, armies of them) who claim any kind of explicit welfare support, but can I honestly say that my existence is taxpayer cost-neutral? Or will be? I’m not that sure I can. I realise the above takes no account of the taxes my father was paying whilst I was growing up, but as I say, it’s a back of a fag packet calculation. And if I, as a reasonably unburdensome member of society cannot say that I’m cost-neutral, just how many can? Oh, sure, there are millionaires fleeced for sums far in excess of the amounts they cost, but for most of the last 100 years, the government has been running deficits. Granted, there were war costs, but just as important and possibly more so are the entitlements incrementally added, quickly accepted as rights and predicated on full employment and people dying at 68 (or whatever). And it hasn’t worked out like that, has it? Most people in this country, it seems to me, have been fleecing their successors for decades and pensioners, by definition, have been doing it for longer than anyone else. Not all pensioners, for sure, but yes, millions upon millions. And one day, it’ll stop, because people like my daughter will say, “Nuts to this, I’m off to somewhere sensible like Azerbaijan”. And that’s the best-case scenario the pensioners of 20 years from now, if not sooner, can hope for. Other points: 1) yes, things got much, much worse under McRuin. But bear in mind that for someone of my generation the McRuin era and its legacy period constitutes most of our adult life to date, and a period during which millions more have climbed on the gravy train and retired on it. Another feature you may not appreciate when talking about the indebtedness of my generation (and I’m not sure whether you’re referring to shop girls using credit cards to buy Prada handbags or people generally acquiring grotesque mortgage debt) is that for many of us, by the end of the 90s, it became abundantly clear that no amount of saving in the absence of a lottery win would ever amount to a deposit on even the meanest domestic residence, house price inflation being what it was. Ironically perhaps, in the years between 1995, when I started work full-time, and 2003, when my father in-law stepped in with a mortgage deposit (he’d spent 30 years holding down a tax-free sinecure at the IMF in DC), I spent most of my then paltry surplus income on books. 2) As to the contents and use to be made of public libraries, I am tolerably well-acquainted with both and am struck by the overwhelming preponderance of video games and DVDs. You might argue, I suppose, that video games perform a role in terms of maintaining manual dexterity and alertness. You might argue that DVDs can have the educational merit you attach to books. For that matter, given your aversion to state-funded opera, you may deprecate them, I don’t know, but I see little difference between Miller’s Crossing or Vertigo and Tolstoy or Stern. Ultimately it’s taxpayer-funded leisure, whatever the mix of education versus entertainment. And remember, the pensioners in respect of whom you say public libraries books have an important educational role, will already have had between eight and fourteen years of taxpayer funded education themselves, depending on their age. In fact that’s why my grandmother reads tripe: she’d read all of Dickens by the age of 15. But anyway, I simply don’t buy the suggestion that users of the local library are all, or even mostly, interested in the Encyclopaedia Britannica or the Two Treatises on Government or whatever. Moreover, wikipedia access is cheaper, and the web overall a better source of information, and you can buy a book to keep you occupied for a week a two from the local charity shop for 50p. So far as concerns the distinction between what you call ratepayers, and taxpayers, last time I looked (which, admittedly, was several years ago) council funding is overwhelmingly derived from central government (about 75% of their funding, if memory serves) and the rest comes from council taxpayers. So of course right there you have subsidies from richer parts of the country to poorer. But you let the cat out of the bag when you say pensioners are “contributing” to the cost. Well, is it cost-neutral in the given case, or is it not? See my back of a fag packet calculation above: who knows? My problem is that I’m against all subsidies always and everywhere. Let the cost lie where it falls, I say. You, on the other hand, are cool with some subsidies but not with others (I’m thinking particularly about you characterising my complaint about public sector pensions as a “whinge”; I mean, if you’re not angry about public sector pensions then in fact are there any subsidies that do bother you? Whinge? Seriously?). And you reckon, I suppose, that pensioners, broadly speaking, have given more than they’ve taken and even if they haven’t, they should still get free books. Sorry, can’t agree. 3) As for when my aged debt will plateau, there’s no way of telling. Regrettably, I have only one client, the government, and it keeps changing its terms of trade. There is no predictability to it and the aim is to drive as many of us out of business as possible. 4) I’m not going to bother with your accusations. I’ve tried to conduct this exchange with a modicum of courtesy and to eschew ad hominem barbs, despite a certain amount of provocation. Physician, heal thyself. john77 August 10, 2012 at 4:46 pm The majority of local government spending is on schools which is funded by an earmarked central government grant. Various other specific grants which covered a part but not all of the cost of certain services (major roads, magistrate’s courts, fire and social services) were bundled into a package in 2007. The services for which local government is financially responsible and over which it has some control is between one-third and one-half (depending on the area) of the total and my county council’s accounts which exclude education show that the domestic ratepayers contribute more than two-thirds of the total (including earmarked grants). The earmarked grants made up one-twentieth, the bit it kept of business rates from local businesses one-fifth and general government grants another twentieth – not *very* redistributive. Libraries are one of the services that have been totally locally financed for as long as I can remember (I started reading* local authority accounts more than 50 years ago) and hence were one of those subject to cuts when the government twisted local authorities to freeze their rate precepts. You contribute to the cost of my local schools but *not* to that of my local library. I am not that keen on my library renting out DVDs but tolerate on the grounds (i) that the profit it makes subsidises the library and (ii) it puts pricing pressure on the commercial chains which had been ripping off consumers by over-charging. I was serious when I said that you should talk to your County Councillor if your library is focused on entertainment instead of information. One reason why I am more relaxed about (in some cases even in favour of) certain subsidies is that I have long been convinced that I have been a net contributor to the Exchequer virtually all my adult life and, on a cumulative basis, since my late twenties (thanks to a healthy childhood, scholarships and generous parents who valued the balance of the cost of my education over cars, TVs, foreign holidays etc). I have never been paid as much as you earn but don’t get paid but I can afford to pay my share for schools, libraries, NHS, police, fire etc (I was genuinely struggling in the late 70s but never thought about not paying for those). I take your point about the difficulty of saving up for a house during a house-price bubble and accept that was a reason why some people stopped trying. [If I had been eligible for a mortgage in my twenties I should be a millionaire by now but Building Societies did not lend to bachelors as they rightly saw their role as enabling families to own a home.] Books occupy most of the walls of my living room and a significant minority of the walls of the dining-room, my study and each bedroom (except for my elder son’s where the ones he has left behind occupy a majority). I think that making books freely available free is worth the tiny cost to me – so we shall have agree to differ. I wasn’t intending to attack your generation, just to rebut the suggestion that those now pensioners were responsible in any significant way for the current mess. I can’t remember the date but a famous quote is that when Mrs Thatcher was told by her Chancellor on the eve of Budget Day that at then current rates the National Debt would be totally repaid within 17 years she relied “Only 17 years!” What you have seen in your adult life is only a minority of what I have seen in mine. As to whether pensioners contribute more or less to the cost of libraries than their usage I just do not know – nor does anyone else. Most pensioners don’t have children and, on average, they have higher-priced houses than younger adults, but no-one wastes time keeping score of library usage by pensioners vs younger adults vs children. Your attempts to avoid “ad hominem” attacks have improved with practice. If you had started off that way I should probably have assumed you were merely ignorant and not have jumped to the reasonable (too much exposure to “Arnald”) conclusion that you were lying. I was grossly offended but it seems that I was wrong and therefore I apologise for that. I am still willing to pay a few pounds a year for local libraries (less than 3% of my County Council’s precept excluding schools). Public sector pensions are a whole separate debate – compulsory saving to ensure that aged civil servants do not become a burden on the parish and end up in the workhouse. My view is that public sector salaries should take account of the value of the pension rather than scrap the pension. Defined Benefit Pensions create a cross-subsidy between your grandmother and others who die at 66 but improves total human happiness (utility function) – I am not competent to debate philosophy, leaving that to my brighter sibling, but it seems right to me so I shall leave that as my opinion. * The Borough Architect was somewhat unhappy when I, in short trousers, pointed out that he was fiddling some of the figures Leave a Reply Cancel replyYour email address will not be published. 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