Since 2008 half of America was lured into voting socialist despite the harsh lessons of our socialist beginnings. Plymouth and Jamestown rejected socialism and so must we to provide the level of universal prosperity America has provided its citizens for centuries.
This Thanksgiving Day, we think of the Pilgrims enjoying abundant food, but this was not their true reality. Too few note the difficult times of their first year in 1620 when half died of starvation. Harvests were not bountiful the first year nor the next. Plymouth was beset by laziness and thievery.
William Bradford, the governor of the colony, in his History of Plymouth Plantation, reported that "much was stolen both by night and day" to alleviate the prevailing condition of hunger. The somewhat mythical "feast" of the first Thanksgiving did fill their bellies, he reported, and they were grateful, but abundance had been anything but common. Why? Because they had fallen victim to the socialistic lure of "share the wealth." This disincentivized the productive base of society.
Then suddenly, as though night changed to day, the crop of 1623 was bounteous, and those thereafter as well, and it had nothing to do with the weather. Bradford wrote, "Instead of famine, now God gave them plenty and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God." He concluded later, "Any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day." They ended universal poverty.
One variable alone made the difference and ended the famine. They abandoned the notion of government (or corporation) owning the means of production and distribution in favor of the individual having property and being responsible to take care of himself. Every family was issued its own land. Before, no one benefited by working for the common store because he received the same compensation as those who did not. After the change, everyone retained the benefits of his labor. Those who chose not to work basically chose also to be poor and the government (corporation) no longer confiscated from those who produced to give to those who did not. There were no government food stamps here.
Ironically, all this could have been avoided had Plymouth consulted history and communicated with their neighboring colony some distance south, which had previously been down the same trail. Jamestown too was first a socialist society where each produced according to his ability and received according to his need, which, of course, affected supply. One cannot divide what does not exist. Our textbooks tell us that only one of twelve survived the first two years for precisely the same reason, starvation. The problem, as noted by Tom Bethel in his work, The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity through the Ages, was identified by an unnamed participant as "want of providence, industrie and government, and not the bareness and defect of the Countrie."
Captain John Smith is credited with having saved the floundering colony by his "no workie, no eatie" government program (the Virginia Company was the government) and was hated for it. Addicted to the promise of getting something for nothing, even if it is always less than promised, the receiving part of the population will always oppose their not getting their "fair share."
Sound familiar? Captain Smith was eventually carted off to England in chains as fast as the parasitic population could do so. Once again, why? Philip A. Bruce, in his Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century, page 121, called it agricultural socialism. "The settlers did not have even a modified interest in the soil. ... Everything produced by them went into the store, in which they had no proprietorship." When settlers finally were allowed to own their own property and keep what they produced, things changed overnight.
Colony secretary Ralph Hamor wrote of incoming prosperity, beginning in 1614 after ownership of land was allowed: "When our people were fed out of the common store, and labored jointly together, glad was he [who] could slip from his labor, or slumber over his tasks he cared not how, nay, the most honest among them would hardly take so much true pains in a week, as now for themselves they will do in a day, neither cared they for the increase, presuming that however the harvest prospered, the general store must maintain them, so that we reaped not so much corn from the labors of thirty as now three or four do provide for themselves."
This Thanksgiving, let us be grateful for the prosperity that we have -- even the poorest among us. Jamestown and Plymouth set us upon a course that recognized that prosperity requires an incentive to flourish and that the profit motive stimulates industry. We are so grateful that, having recognized the poison of the "share the wealth" philosophy, they purged it from their midst and proceeded to make what eventually became America the most prosperous country on earth.
On January 20, 2021, democratic socialists took over the White House and both branches of Congress. In ten short months of socialist rule, food prices have skyrocketed and shelves are emptying. Once totally energy independent, we now see fuel prices soar and severe shortages are predicted this winter. Joe Biden's prediction of a dark winter appears on the horizon under his administration rather than Trump's. Socialism kills the incentive to produce -- it always has and always will.
Plymouth and Jamestown rejected socialism and so must we. Will we be as smart as they? Let us share this message at the table as we feast upon turkey and pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving Day so that our children will know how prosperity is really produced.
Harold W. Pease, Ph.D., is an expert on the United States Consitution and a syndicated columnist. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He taught history and political science from this perspective for more than 30 years. To read more of his weekly articles, visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.