Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pilgrims - America's First Socialist Experiment


About this time every year schools across the country will spend a bit of time teaching students about the history and origin of Thanksgiving.  But what the public school system won’t be talking about is how America’s oldest national holiday was born out of the failure of the continents first failed experiment in socialism.

When the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620 they set out into the brave new world in search of religious freedom.  With the noblest of intentions they organized their new colony into a communal system where there existed no private property and no division of labor, every person entitled to them same as that of any other.

For two and a half years the pilgrims labored under the communal system.  But as time faded so too did the pilgrims work ethic.  Young men began to resent working long hours in the fields just to watch older men’s wives and children sit back and reap what they had sowed.  Workers began harvesting crops early in order to insure they got their fair share which resulted in lower crop yields.  The pilgrims began to starve.

In 1623, with the death toll mounting Governor William Bradford called for a change.  “The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato's and other ancients applauded by some of later times; that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For 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.”

Plymouth’s leaders listened.  They began allocating private plots of land to the workers.  It didn’t take long for what Adam Smith called the “invisible hand” of greed to take hold of the Pilgrims and lift them out of destitution.

Bradford said of this, “So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advise of the chiefest among them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to go in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of the number, for that end, only for present use (but made no division for inheritance) and ranged all boys and youth under some family. This had very good success, for it made all hands 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. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.

The pilgrims now finding themselves with more food than they could eat began setting up trading posts in the new world.  They exchanged goods with the Indians and other travelers to the new world.

Now, nearly 400 years later, Americans still take time out to celebrate Thanksgiving each year by giving thanks to God for granting the pilgrims the wisdom to throw off the shackles of socialism and embrace private property and capitalism.


Anonymous said...

The time it will take before someone comments that this post is historically inaccurate at best and racist at worst because it doesn't mention the Native Americans; three, two, one.....

James said...

I'd be glad to provide footnotes for anything you believe "historically innaccurate", just point to the inaccuracies.

Todd K said...

Well said. Is there a writers name for this article for quoting purposes?