An elderly widow woman named Mrs. Tree lives up the street. She’s had some health issues recently, and has been unable to maintain her yard. The grass is now over a foot long, and it’s looking rather shabby.
Now, in a rather simplistic style, I will attempt to illustrate how various types of government will deal with this issue.
While driving down my street, I notice how bad Mrs. Tree’s lawn is looking. Knowing her situation, and wanting to find some way to assist her, I grab my lawn mower, string trimmer, and rake, and head on over. An hour later, her lawn looking much better, Mrs. Tree thanks me profusely and I feel very good that I was able to help her out.
Acting without coercion from anyone by following the dictates of your own conscience is called Individualism.
I find out that, while I was at work, Mrs. Tree’s recalcitrant son Jimmy broke into my house and stole $40. Apparently he paid $10 to Carl – who lives up the street – to mow his mother’s lawn, then bought drugs with the rest of the money. Carl, the only witness to the event, chose to deny seeing anything when asked by the police.
Stealing what you think you need, even if the goal is noble, is called Plunder.
I’m sitting in my living room and hear a loud commotion outside. I open the front door to find a group of my neighbors standing there. One of them speaks up: "Hey, we all got together and decided that since you seem to have so much money, you can afford to have Mrs. Tree’s lawn maintained. Give us $40." I figure if I don’t comply they will make my life miserable, so I pull out my wallet and hand them a $50 bill, since that’s all I have. They take the money and leave. The mob pays Carl $5 to mow Mrs. Tree’s yard, and when he complains, they tell him that he’s lucky to get that much. Nobody’s quite sure what happened to the rest of the money.
The tyranny by a mob of people is called Democracy.
I’m sitting in my living room and hear a knock at the front door. I open the door to find a woman and a police officer standing there. The woman introduces herself as Karla, and says, "I have been appointed as the representative by your neighbors, who have decided that you need to voluntarily give $40 to the ‘Support Neighborhood Yard Care’ initiative." When I explain that I have no interest in volunteering any such money, the police office speaks up, saying, "If you do not hand over the $40 immediately, I shall be forced to arrest you, and you will also pay severe penalties."
Having no choice, I hand my $50 bill to the "neighborhood representative", who then tells me I’ll get the $10 in change back via mailed check in 6 to 8 weeks.
The "neighborhood representative" pays $10 to Carl to mow Mrs. Tree’s yard, and keeps the other $30 to cover administrative overhead. The $10 refund check gets lost in the mail.
Forcing people to pay for something they neither want or need is called Socialism.
I’m sitting in my living room and hear my garage door open. I quickly run down the stairs to the garage, where I find Carl rolling my lawn mower out the door. I ask him what he’s doing, and he responds, "I was just up at the Worker Security office, and someone named Karla gave me $10 and told me that Mrs. Tree’s lawn needed mowing. I told them I didn’t have a mower, and they suggested I appropriate one. Knowing you were not using this one, I figured I’d use it." He then proceeds down the street with the mower.
Worried and frustrated, I wait several hours for the return of my mower. Finally losing all patience, I head off to Mrs. Tree’s house.
I find my mower, abandoned and out of fuel, on Mrs. Tree’s half-mowed lawn.
Appropriating others’ means of production for the good of the community is called Communism.
I’m sitting in my living room and hear a loud commotion outside. I open the front door to find a group of my neighbors standing there. One of them speaks up: "Hey, we all got together and decided that, since you seem to have so much money, you can afford to have Mrs. Tree’s lawn maintained. Give us $40." I reply, "I didn’t agree to that, so go find your money somewhere else." They then start threatening me with bodily harm if I don’t cooperate. In fear for my life, I begin to reach for my gun when a police office drives up. The police officer addresses the mob, saying, "You people are trespassing on this man’s private property and disturbing the peace. You have no right to demand money from this man. If you don’t disperse immediately, I shall be forced to arrest you."
The mob, under threat of punishment, soon disperses.
Protecting your rights with the backing of codified law is called Republicanism.