Although I don't see governments involved in the program--and let's call it what it is, a Universal Library--I do see the possibility that a government would take the responsibility of paying for its citizens' access to the UL, and taxing the public as part of its "utility" taxes to finance it. I see this as an essential function of a government, because I see information as being available to all, like any other utility.
This model would work in the U.S.: It gives everyone equal access, and the tax system can make individual adjustments for income to even out payments across the constituency (as it supposedly does now). But other parts of the world may want more control over exactly who has access to the UL... clearly, it's up to them to work that out.
However, there may need to be a distinction set as to what constitutes "a book everyone should have access to," "a book that should have limited access," and "a book that's entertaining, but otherwise non-essential." In other words, should my government pay to allow me to have free access to Star Trek: The Undiscovered Nose Appliance, or should I have to pay for it as pure entertainment? Is a weight loss book by Dr. Phil considered a textbook, general informational, or comedy? Should my taxes go to making Dianetics or Mein Campf available? And then there's porn...
There is a similar situation regarding food, in which certain U.S. states will charge a larger tax on fast food like hamburgers than on "subsistence" groceries like vegetables. And this situation is already controversial, with people arguing over what is considered "fast food" and "subsistence food." (Riddle me this, Batman: When is beef considered worthless? When it's been given to you by McDonald's!)
In order to avoid such distinctions, everyone should have an account of their own, and decide for themselves what they should have access to. But many governments simply won't allow that, including the U.S. (You don't think the government will want to restrict the reading choices of pedophiles, rapists, suspected terrorists, etc? Think again).
Last edited by Steven Lyle Jordan; 09-08-2007 at 11:13 PM.