All Commentary
Tuesday, March 1, 1960

The Motivation to Conserve

Mr. Nymeyer is owner of the Libertarian Press. South Holland, Illinois, and publishes First Principles in Morality and Economics where this article first appeared in October 1959.

Private Property is not an insti­tution that men can abandon with­out penalty. The possession of private property gives to the owners a sense of responsibility and a wish to retain what they have, which means that they con­serve and become less wasteful. What men do not own, or do not have to pay for in accordance with their consumption, they always waste, more or less.

The water supply of the world will probably be the ultimate barricade at which the increase in population will be halted. Nearly everywhere the demand for water is increasing relative to the sup­ply, and the trend is that water will progressively need to be more carefully conserved than it is to­day.

The following is a paragraph taken from a commercial adver­tisement:

One proved way to stretch dwin­dling water supplies is to discour­age water waste through universal metering. Water consumption in the United States averages 150 gallons per day, per person. When water meters are installed in a previously unmetered community, per capita water consumption de­creases by about 50 per cent.

What people do not have to pay for in proportion to their consump­tion, and what is not their own possession, they waste. It is always that way. Even the most conscien­tious persons are less careful with what belongs to others, and es­pecially to the public, than with what belongs to themselves.

Socialism-communism always impoverishes a people because it does not utilize the motivation to conserve, which becomes operative only with private ownership and charges in accordance with use.

Socialism teaches: from each ac­cording to his ability, to each ac­cording to his need. What is the need of people? Is it 150 gallons of water per day per person? No­body knows what each person needs. He alone can appraise that. One person needs more and an­other needs less. No government decree can take care of variable needs for water by different per­sons, or by the same person at different times. The only effective way to conserve water is to charge for it, and let people determine their own consumption. But what they must pay for will certainly be less wasted than what they do not need to pay for.

Because socialism-communism does not stimulate human effort by incentive in the form of own­ership, and because it does not curb so effectively as capitalism does the universal propensity to be wasteful unless something must be paid for, there is an inherent tendency for socialist-communist societies to be poor. History sub­stantiates that.




Ideas on Liberty

A False Liberalism

A “liberal” is one who is so preoccupied with spending the fruits of a nation’s production, according to his own notion of how they should be spent and regardless of the cost in human liberty, that he is oblivious of the problem of how to produce those fruits in the first place.

CHADS 0. SKINNER, Bronxville, N. Y.