Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tragedy of the Commons – John Stossel on Sharing and other Liberal Ideas

Nov. 29, 2011

What’s best, public or private? In a family, as a general rule, everyone shares equally in the successes of the others. On the Stossel TV show on FOX News Channel over Thanksgiving, the socialism of the family was shown to work because all the members know each other and, as a result, are willing to work together and share. Liberal causes try to push this into the public sector, but it’s an ill-conceived idea. It seems so nice. It also sounds like common sense: If everyone shares, society would be a better place. John Stossel revealed why public ownership falls short.

Examples abound. When sheep are herded in a socialistic setting, where everyone owns the large meadow (a commons), each sheepherder will add sheep until the land becomes ruined by over-grazing. If the land is divided amongst the people, however, each person tends to use more care over the land and will stop adding sheep before his field becomes overcrowded. When the pilgrims first arrived in America, they wanted to share the land, and share in the profits. It sounds wonderful, but they nearly starved. Gov. Bradford, after two years of his colony’s failure, gave parcels of land to individuals, and the settlement prospered.

In the communal setting, if I let the other people work hard and I slack a bit, that’s ok because I’ll get my share anyway. But when I own it, as is the case with private property, I’ll tend to take care of it with more diligence. Stossel cited the example of Bryant Park in New York City. When publicly owned in the 1980’s, the park suffered a steep decline. Now it is privately owned and the park is well manicured, fun to visit, and safe. In general, liberals fear such an arrangement because they don’t trust any corporation in charge of anything. Yet, Bryant Park is a shining example of what private ownership can do.

The American and Canadian Indians find themselves in quite a predicament. Stossel said, “No group has been more taken care of than the American Indian, and no group has done worse.” A Canadian Indian appeared on the show to point out that when Indians make use of private property rights, they prosper. When they don’t, they remain impoverished. Oh, and one last thing. To use a question asked on Stossel’s show: What comes to mind when you hear the term, “Public Toilet?” Aha!

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1 comment:

Dan McConnell said...

On that tragedy of the commons thing: It's a good thing we came along to show the natives how to live off the land. There's a perfect example of the tragedy.They had no idea how to make plantations and create jobs.