Last week I was at the Lincoln Park Campus in McGaw Hall, my favorite building for intellectual stimulation. Home of the English Department, the Department of Modern Languages, and let’s not forget the UCWbL, McGaw has always struck me as a place for open discussion and challenges to standard practices everywhere. Thus, though excited, I was not surprised to see that a prominent and permanent “Free Books” table has sprung up in the atrium of this building.
It has become something of a tradition to see what benefactors have donated each week. I’ve gotten a Norton Anthology of American Literature and journals like The Milton Quarterly and the PMLA. For free. The free aspect is way exciting for me. Yes, it probably stems from my mother dragging a young me to garage sales, to Unique Thrift Stores (believe me, they’re less attractive than they sound), and through (groan) alley’s in the nice neighborhoods for “finds.” However, it may also have to do with the fact that to stay abreast in the literary community takes time and money.
Indeed, as I found upon glancing at the inside cover of a certain issue of the PMLA, there is an opportunity for membership, which gets you a yearly subscription and a chance to pay dues to the association. What I found so strange though, was that the cost of membership varies by income. If you make under $15,000, for example, your yearly membership fee is $25; at $50,000, you jump to $100 for membership; if you are making over $200,000, your membership costs you $280 big ones each year.
I find this strange, and I guess I just can’t put my finger on why. The politics seem muddled.
I’m all for taxing the 1% more. The purpose of taxes is to better the society we live in. If the poor are taxed too much, they will never get on their feet, while if the rich are taxed more, it won’t hurt them as much, and they will end up being a greater help to the society they live in, or so the argument goes.
However, the PMLA is not a government service. It is a good that is purchased. Should it really be more expensive for some and less expensive for others? Is this gradation of price, dare I say, too liberal? I’m still really not sure because one could certainly argue that the PMLA is bettering society (just as taxes are), and therefore, should be set at a different price for everyone. I mean tuition is adjusted for income, is it not?
But, but….doesn’t food better society? And clothing? And rent? And cable? Why are these things not priced on an income-based scale?
I have one last concern about this income-based dues situation. Don’t consumers have a right to keep their income private? Indeed, if the salespeople at Lori’s knew how much I made each year, I would never have the nerve to set foot (ha) in their store. Why is it any of the PMLA’s business how much money I don’t make?
I guess I can take comfort in the fact that they don’t know because I don’t have a subscription. The income-based price scale was not liberal enough for some at DePaul; they just gave it to me for free. I suppose this is a pay system that I can’t complain about at all.
Is it fair or unfair to have income-based prices for certain goods? How about for educational ones? What do you think?