Self-Sustaining and Good For the Public

I hear the expectation that not-for-profit endeavors have some prospect for sustaining their existence (if not exactly a “business plan,” at least a responsible budgetary path), and I understand that especially when we hear of mismanaged charities and institutions we heighten our sense that generous donations not underwrite high livers and wastrels.

At the same time: I remain aggrieved that this rhetoric rules out from the start projects for which there is an explicable absence of market support, which nonetheless stand to benefit a wide public. The report on “University Publishing in a Digital Age” (via Inside Higher Education) provides a case in point; there’s a strong case, I would argue, that disseminating scholarly discourse can’t be a break-even proposition any more than (for instance) the public library system can support itself.

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