What belongs to all belongs to no one. In Russia even today hallways
and shared spaces are often unkempt and rundown while private
apartments are lovingly maintained inside. Travel the Chinese
highways and you will see abundant litter scattered along the
roadside where it is no one's particular job to pick it up. Travel
American highways and you will find much less litter, and frequent
signs boasting that a particular stretch is being maintained by
some volunteer civic group out of pure idealism.
A unified culture in which the citizens generally feel benefitted
by the system as a whole--say, Japan--can maintain clean and safe
public spaces. Diverse cultures with many citizens who feel disenfranchised
and alienated, like the U.S., have a much more difficult time
doing so. Clearly small projects--a village well, a community
garden, even a credit union--can generate loyalty and pride in
shared ownership; but no one has demonstrated that such cooperation
can be scaled up to a national level and sustained. The evidence
is heavily against those who maintain that it can.
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