What is the true lesson we should take from the first Thanksgiving? The Pilgrims came to the New World for religious freedom, having been prosecuted for their beliefs in Europe. Once they arrived, they had to build a new society from the ground up. What form that new society was to take reflected their religious beliefs of charity. They adopted principles that would look familiar to any student of the Communist Manifesto: From each according to their ability; To each according to their need.
In that sense, socialism has been tried on our American continent before. When the pilgrims first landed and began to carve out an existence, they tried collectivism. The food and other resources were shared without regard to how it was produced or who produced what. It was a dismal failure that was nearly fatal for the new colony. Lots of pilgrims starved to death under this primitive brand of communism.
The governor of the colony, William Bradford, documented the results of that experiment in collectivism in his diaries:
“For the young men who were able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work
for other men’s wives and children without recompense. The strong, or men of parts, had no more division of food, clothes, etc., than he who was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labor and food, clothes, etc., with the meaner and younger
sort thought it some indignant and disrespect unto them. 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 husbands brook it.
The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years, and that amongst the godly and sober men, may well convince of the vanity and conceit of Plato’s and other
ancients that the taking away of property and bringing into a common wealth 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 confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.”
Even in 1620, the pilgrims determined that collectivism led to poverty, starvation, shortages, and misery. Being forced to employ their talents, time, and labor only to have their fledgling, omnipotent government redistribute it was “deemed a kind of slavery.”
The pilgrims knew something had to be done; people were dying. What did they do? They were smart enough to observe the disastrous effects of what they were doing, determine a cause, and then try something else. Because collectivism, a government-run utopia, failed, they tried privatization or free-market capitalism.
Bradford documented what happened next:
“And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their
number for that end.…This had a very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted then 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.
By this time harvest was come, and 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. And the effect of their planting was well seen, for all had, one way or other, pretty well to bring the year about, and some of the abler sort and more industrious had to spare, and sell to others, so as any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day.”
Oh my goodness! So a government forcing its citizens to work only to have the fruits of their labor seized from them and redistributed to people who do not work is not the best way to run a country? Allowing people to own what they produce and produce what they own consistently results in abundance and prosperity? These are novel concepts. Not so much. We only have to look back at the many instances when collectivism has failed. Why is it, then, that over and over throughout the world, despots and tyrants keep promising that communism, socialism, progressivism, or whatever they call their particular brand of collectivism will solve the world’s problems?
It won’t. It never has. Collectivism always, without exception results in concentrated power and force. What if a citizen doesn’t want to work and then have the product of their labor given to someone else who has not worked for it? They must be forced to comply.
Only when a free market economy, in the primitive Pilgrim manner was adopted did the people thrive.
The real lesson we should take away from the story of the first Thanksgiving is that freedom works. Liberty works. No other form of government and no other form of economics will ever bring more prosperity and wealth to the greatest number than Freedom.