Thanksgiving Story: The Pilgrims, Socialism, and Free Markets

pilgrims-300x215The story of the Mayflower, the Pilgrims, and Thanksgiving is widely taught in all our schools. What is seldom taught, however, is what those Pilgrims learned, at great pain, about Socialism versus Free Markets.

The Pilgrim experience stands as the most authentic-ever, real-life comparison of socialism versus free-markets for human interaction, commerce, and governance.

As a reminder, the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in November, 1620. They promptly lost half their population to starvation, sickness, and exposure that first winter, and they fared little better the second winter. We were all taught that a Native American named Squanto taught the survivors to fish, plant corn, use fertilizer, and hunt deer.

What most of us never learned (or glossed over) was that the original contract the Pilgrims brokered with their London sponsors required that everything the Pilgrims produced was to go into a common store, and every member was to be allotted one equal share.  Further, all the land they cleared and all the buildings they constructed were to belong to the whole community rather than to any individual.

To those with visions of utopian egalitarianism (which today’s Left piously calls Social Justice), this must have sounded like the ideal society.  Free of outside evil influences from Europe, personal property and greed were to be banished.  Everyone was to work hard for thecommon good, and altruism was to be its own reward.

How did it work out?

williambradford.statue3Horribly!

In the two winters beginning in 1621 & 1622, many died from starvation, pneumonia, or both.  Here are excerpts from Governor William Bradford’s own retrospective summary of the community’s experience with what we now variously call collectivism, socialism, or communism:

This community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.

For the young men, that were most able and fit for labour and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. 

And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it.

Let none object this is men’s corruption, and nothing to the course itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in His wisdom saw another course fitter for them.

In other words, said the Governor, it simply didn’t work. Mankind’s nature simply wouldn’t accommodate it, no matter how “ideal” it may have seemed.

Bradford had discovered that even these most idealistic of peoples had no reason to put in any extra effort without the motivation of personal incentives to do so.

Wisely, in April, 1623, Bradford abruptly abandoned collectivism. Instead, he assigned a plot of land to each family, permitting them to keep everything they grew or made and to market anything they didn’t consume themselves.  He actually harnessed all that awful human ”greed” and put it to work in a free-market system.

So how did free markets and private property work out for the same people in the same place under the same circumstances?

corn-187781_640Boffo!

The Pilgrims soon had more food than they could eat or trade among themselves.  So they set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Native Americans.  They paid off their debts to their London sponsors and soon attracted a great European migration. They still had plenty of problems, but hunger was never again one of them.

As Bradford summarized the new approach:

The women now went willing into the field, and took their little ones with them to plant corn, while before they would allege weakness and inability, and to have compelled them would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.

This [new approach] had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content.

Most importantly for us today, Bradford wrote about the bitter lessons learned from the failure of original plan:

Let none argue that this is due to human failing rather than to this communistic plan of life in itself ...

In modern times, when confronted with the undeniable historical record of socialism’s failures, the Left usually argues that the “right people” weren’t in charge, and if only they had been, their utopian socialist vision would have succeeded. If Bradford could speak, he would surely disagree based on the Pilgrims’ real-life experience.

So …

Why isn’t this lesson featured up front, in neon lights, in American history classes? Why isn’t it the lead story of the Pilgrim experience?  Why has the history even been falsified and its most important lesson ignored?

Perhaps it’s because the people who write our history textbooks still don’t want to believe it. Perhaps those authors still cling to the hope that some form of their beloved utopian socialism, collectivism, Marxism, communism, … will one day triumph over Private Property and Free Markets.

Unfortunately for those authors, the historical record couldn’t be clearer. For Americans, the Pilgrims’ experience should rightfully be our Exhibit One. In our own time, Milton Friedman said much the same in this now-classic video clip.

milton-friedmanWhen it comes to bettering the life of the common man, Free Markets and Private Property work — the alternatives don’t.

Granted, socialism, fascism, communism and other grand central-planning systems may work for a little while, after a fashion, most especially for those in power. But eventually they always fail, hurting most the people those systems were supposed to help — to the point of killing them. Yet even to this day, people keep falling for the false promises of those failed systems of human interaction and governance.

Finally —

For more than 3000 years at Passover, Jews around the world have been re-telling the story of their deliverance from slavery. And for over 2000 years at Easter, Christians have been re-telling the story of their redemption.  Now that it’s been nearly 400 years since the Pilgrims landed in America, perhaps we could begin re-telling the real story of Thanksgiving every year, headlining those life-and-death lessons the Pilgrims learned about the differences between Socialism and Free Markets.

_____________________________________________________

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings;
the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
Winston Churchill

[Note: This is an updated version of articles written in January, 2011, and the Novembers of 2012, 2013, and 2014. This article was originally published at http://www.westernfreepress.com/2015/11/22/thanksgiving-story-the-pilgrims-socialism-and-free-markets-2/]

Thanksgiving Story: The Pilgrims, Collectivism, and Free Markets

pilgrims-300x215The story of the Mayflower, the Pilgrims, and Thanksgiving is widely taught in all our schools. What is seldom taught, however, is what those Pilgrims learned, at great pain, about Collectivism versus Free Markets.

This story stands as perhaps the clearest and starkest-ever before-and-after comparison between those two rival systems for human interaction and governance.

Read the full article at this link.

The Great Thanksgiving Hoax

We ran across a great commentary about Thanksgiving – the First Thanksgiving(s) – that are definitely worth reposting. 

This is especially insightful given the Occupy Movement taking place across the country. Perhaps the “occupiers” might take a lesson from this.

By Richard J. Maybury

Each year at this time school children all over America are taught the official Thanksgiving story, and newspapers, radio, TV, and magazines devote vast amounts of time and space to it. It is all very colorful and fascinating.

It is also very deceiving. This official story is nothing like what really happened. It is a fairy tale, a whitewashed and sanitized collection of half-truths which divert attention away from Thanksgiving’s real meaning.

The official story has the pilgrims boarding the Mayflower, coming to America and establishing the Plymouth colony in the winter of 1620-21. This first winter is hard, and half the colonists die. But the survivors are hard working and tenacious, and they learn new farming techniques from the Indians. The harvest of 1621 is bountiful. The Pilgrims hold a celebration, and give thanks to God. They are grateful for the wonderful new abundant land He has given them.

The official story then has the Pilgrims living more or less happily ever after, each year repeating the first Thanksgiving. Other early colonies also have hard times at first, but they soon prosper and adopt the annual tradition of giving thanks for this prosperous new land called America.

The problem with this official story is that the harvest of 1621 was not bountiful, nor were the colonists hardworking or tenacious. 1621 was a famine year and many of the colonists were lazy thieves.

In his ‘History of Plymouth Plantation,’ the governor of the colony, William Bradford, reported that the colonists went hungry for years, because they refused to work in the fields. They preferred instead to steal food. He says the colony was riddled with “corruption,” and with “confusion and discontent.” The crops were small because “much was stolen both by night and day, before it became scarce eatable.”

In the harvest feasts of 1621 and 1622, “all had their hungry bellies filled,” but only briefly. The prevailing condition during those years was not the abundance the official story claims, it was famine and death. The first “Thanksgiving” was not so much a celebration as it was the last meal of condemned men.

But in subsequent years something changes. The harvest of 1623 was different. Suddenly, “instead of famine now God gave them plenty,” Bradford wrote, “and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God.” Thereafter, he wrote, “any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day.” In fact, in 1624, so much food was produced that the colonists were able to begin exporting corn.

What happened?

After the poor harvest of 1622, writes Bradford, “they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop.” They began to question their form of economic organization.

This had required that “all profits & benefits that are got by trade, working, fishing, or any other means” were to be placed in the common stock of the colony, and that, “all such persons as are of this colony, are to have their meat, drink, apparel, and all provisions out of the common stock.” A person was to put into the common stock all he could, and take out only what he needed.

This “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” was an early form of socialism, and it is why the Pilgrims were starving. Bradford writes that “young men that are most able and fit for labor and service” complained about being forced to “spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children.” Also, “the strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes, than he that was weak.” So the young and strong refused to work and the total amount of food produced was never adequate.

To rectify this situation, in 1623 Bradford abolished socialism. He gave each household a parcel of land and told them they could keep what they produced, or trade it away as they saw fit. In other words, he replaced socialism with a free market, and that was the end of famines.

Many early groups of colonists set up socialist states, all with the same terrible results. At Jamestown, established in 1607, out of every shipload of settlers that arrived, less than half would survive their first twelve months in America. Most of the work was being done by only one-fifth of the men, the other four-fifths choosing to be parasites. In the winter of 1609-10, called “The Starving Time,” the population fell from five-hundred to sixty.

Then the Jamestown colony was converted to a free market, and the results were every bit as dramatic as those at Plymouth. In 1614, Colony Secretary Ralph Hamor wrote that after the switch there was “plenty of food, which every man by his own industry may easily and doth procure.” He said that when the socialist system had prevailed, “we reaped not so much corn from the labors of thirty men as three men have done for themselves now.”

Before these free markets were established, the colonists had nothing for which to be thankful. They were in the same situation as Ethiopians are today, and for the same reasons. But after free markets were established, the resulting abundance was so dramatic that the annual Thanksgiving celebrations became common throughout the colonies, and in 1863, Thanksgiving became a national holiday.

Thus the real reason for Thanksgiving, deleted from the official story, is: Socialism does not work; the one and only source of abundance is free markets, and we thank God we live in a country where we can have them.

* * * * *

Mr. Maybury writes on investments. This article originally appeared in The Free Market, November 1985. source: Mises Daily

Happy Thanksgiving!

Norman Rockwell ThanksgivingToday we celebrate the 388th anniversary of Thanksgiving – a Holiday that many of us still consider to be an important religious observance in our Republic’s history. It wasn’t until October 6, 1941 that the U.S. Congress officially recognized and established the holiday to be held on the last Thursday in November. (In December of that same year, the Senate had to pass an amendment changing the date to the 4th Thursday of November.)

Regardless of whatever the US Congress decided, Americans across the country have been giving God thanks for a very long time.

Today, despite the secularization of our culture, our country will celebrate this important religious occurrence by spending time with family and friends and by reaching out to others in need.

Today, prayers will be lifted, thanks will be given to God and hopefully, relationships will be renewed and strengthened.

As you gather with those you cherish and those who may test your ability to extend grace, may God bless your time together and may you remember from Whom all blessings come.

On behalf of all the writers here at Sonoran Alliance, we wish you a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!