|Public and Private Theft|
friend of mind-- let us call him Brian-- taught me a powerful lesson about communism the other day. He had expressed to me his admiration of a certain Marky Mark poster, and boasted of his exploit in "appropriating" one of them from a bus kiosk here in San Francisco. I asked Brian if he would have "appropriated" the poster from someone's living room if he could have gotten away with it; he answered "of course not!" and indeed seemed startled by my question. I explained that it struck me that the sum-total loss of esthetic pleasure by the citizenry was probably much greater in the case of the public as opposed to the private poster; but Brian simply replied, "Oh, they'll replace the poster that I took!"
This interaction-- I shall always think of it as "my epiphany from Brian"-- demonstrated the important distinction between the "they" (as in "they'll replace the poster...") whose public property can be abused with impunity, and the "he" whose private property is sacrosanct.
Another example can readily be seen by observing the brown United Parcel Service vans as they conduct the day's business on the streets of a city. It takes the UPS driver an average of three minutes to deliver a package; what is noteworthy is where the van is parked for that interval. Often the driver has two alternatives, equally convenient for him: to pull into a nearby driveway, or to double-park in a nearby traffic lane. Now, in three minutes' time, it is unlikely that the driveway's owner will be inconvenienced, but it is quite likely that several drivers will find their lane of traffic blocked and will be obliged to change lanes. Yet the UPS driver will almost always make that latter choice, because it feels so much safer to offend the anonymous public citizenry than a specific private citizen. The strategy chosen by UPS (and by truck and van drivers in general) damages the overall public welfare by many times more than the alternative, and yet it will prevail, because the alternative contains the great deterrent of the keen and heartfelt (albeit rare) outrage of the private citizen.
A third example can be found in the phenomenon of graffiti. Note the prevalence of graffiti in your city: how much of it is on public property, and how much on private? My own informal survey disclosed that most was on public property, such as buses, bus stops, park walls, and freeways. Most of the remainder was on "corporate" property, such as the sides of large buildings. Interestingly, public housing accounted for the bulk of defacement of residential property. I believe that the tag artist operates under the same ethics as the UPS driver: never mind the faceless public, but beware the outrage of the private property owner.
Communism was the great failed utopia of the Twentieth Century; even the Germans couldn't make it work. The examples I've cited give a glimpse into the key reason for that failure: governments simply couldn't manage to instill into their people(printer friendly version)