What Everybody Owns, Nobody Owns

Collective ownership didn't work at Plymouth Rock. John Aman shares the collectivist failure that occurred under a charter which imposed a seven-year period of joint ownership on the original settlers at Plymouth Rock.

Governor Bradford wrote that common ownership "was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment which would have been to the general benefit and comfort."
After much debate, Governor Bradford
allowed each man to plant corn for his own particular [for his own household] and to trust themselves for that ... so every family was assigned a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number ... this was very successful. It made all hands very industrious, so that much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the governor or any other could devise.
When the incentive for personal gain is removed by collectivist economies, stewardship of the property does not occur as readily when one directly benefits from his/her own labor. It flies in the face of human nature to believe that a person will work as hard for the benefit of a stranger as he will for himself or his family.

The Pilgrims were much more successful when the political economy aligned with human nature and acknowledged that incentives do matter.

Mike Rosen often uses an analogy to demonstrate the differences in stewardship between collective ownership and individual ownership. He notes that public restrooms are often dirty and have graffiti on the walls. But have you ever seen graffiti on the walls of a private home?

The Occupy Wall Street demonstrators inadvertently confirmed this idea with their stewardship of the public spaces they occupied. The destruction and fouling of many of the occupied areas is positive proof that when everybody owns it, nobody owns it. They are able to just walk away from the problem rather than deal with it.

Capitalism recognizes this tendency of human nature.

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