Thursday, November 1, 2007

Vote No on the Library Tax

If I hear another moving testimonial about how much some residents of Jefferson County love to read and how dearly they value the library as an institution, I may be ill. In the Courier-Journal's ongoing series, "What the Library Means to Me," we were subjected to myriad rationales as to why those guest columnists want their money go to the library.

Here's a thought: they can make a donation. All that money that the pro-library tax activists are spending on television advertising would make a nice contribution, for starters.

Some of the most beautiful libraries in the country attest to the generosity of Andrew Carnegie. Louisville's corporate base steps up and funds Thunder Over Louisville and much more. Why not the library?

The library is a worthy cause, to be sure. But donations, by definition, must be voluntary; when a patron is compelled to donate, through taxation, it's no longer a generous impulse. It's confiscatory, and that undermines personal liberty.

This tax suffers from other flaws. There is no reason why it should last forever. When the construction is complete, the tax's justification ceases to exist -- which is why a bond is a better mechanism to fund the libraries' construction than a tax.

Then there is the amount: $40 million a year -- in perpetuity. This will free up money that the Metro Council already budgeted for the library, but no one will say how these newly available funds will be spent. (How about a tax rebate to offset our tax increase!)

I'm glad that tax proponents enjoyed snuggling with Mom and reading Good Night Moon. It still doesn't follow that they know how to spend my money better than I do. If only they'd read Milton Friedman.

2 comments:

Adrienne said...

"But donations, by definition, must be voluntary; when a patron is compelled to donate, through taxation, it's no longer a generous impulse. It's confiscatory, and that undermines personal liberty."

Bravo Bridget! You've managed to cut right through all the rhetoric - thanks! Adrienne

John said...

Library tax supporters argue that more money for libraries will translate into more economic development for Louisville Metro, but the fact is that libraries are hardly ever listed on surveys of factors influencing business location decisions. High local taxes, however, are always reasons for a company not to relocate to a particular community. According to the lead article in today's Courier Journal, "[b]usinesses in Jefferson County would pay nearly a fifth of the cost" of the library tax. On October 21, 2007, the CJ also reported that the library tax "would make Louisville residents some of the most heavily taxed in the country." That doesn't sound like a plan for economic growth to me.