There have been a number of people calling for the destruction of multiple Confederate statues. Ignoring the nuance of the historical record, they assume that any statue of a southern soldier in the time of the Confederacy must be a shrine to racism and hatred. This is a tough situation for the government, as it can’t really please both sides of this issue. Considering the fact that they are owned by the government, it will also be really difficult to tear down one without tearing them all down. It will be equally challenging to preserve one statue without preserving them all.
What if we could preserve the profitable ones and tear down the ones which tend to be hated more? Let us now consider what may happen were the statues private.
Private ownership of a statue would have a stronger incentive to respond quickly to public demand for a change in their park than the government does. This is because the private business will see loss in revenue if they fail to do as the consumers please. The government, however does not see profits and losses depending on the actions they take. Unless, then, the demand is exceptionally great on one side, the government’s decision will be arbitrary and slow. Clearly, then, the private owner has an edge due to its access to profit and loss and other market research on how to improve what they’re selling.
The public would clearly be better served if the controversial parks and other areas home to confederate monuments were auctioned to private businesses and individuals.
In addition to the profit incentives to please consumers, the private business will not want to see a statue of Lee torn down by a wrecking ball. Even if more people refuse to pay admission to the park, or enough vendors begin to terminate contracts with the park that it becomes profitable to remove it, it isn’t intelligent to destroy it. The owner will likely donate it to a history museum or maybe sell it to a history enthusiast or Confederate gallery. Due to an incentive to avoid bad press, the owner would not sell it to some unsavory buyer. Thus, of the remaining pool of candidates, the one which values it most will either buy it or have it donated to them. This will provide that the statues are removed from places in which they are despised to places in which they can be appreciated.
The tools of price, supply and demand available in free enterprise, are capable of facilitating the future of controversial statues better than any government can.