THE WAY I SEE IT by Don Polson Red Bluff Daily News 11/20/2012
Pilgrim lessons: collectivism vs. free market
Thanksgiving has inspired two themes over the last six years: the centrality of faith in God among our forebears, as well as the first attempts by the Pilgrims to eke out subsistence in unforgiving and harsh circumstances, including failure and near death. 2006 was a time of relative abundance, low unemployment and healthy economic growth. However, some troubling signs called for warnings: schools had little use for inculcating an understanding, let alone eagerness, to promote and appreciate the vitality of economic freedom and resulting prosperity; those on the left side of the spectrum regaled us with their praise for universal, single-payer, collectivist “Medicare-for-all” health care.
Thanksgiving columns in 2008 and 2010 recognized our economic difficulties and prompted further warnings that those seeking bigger governmental solutions were still proclaiming the supposed superiority of centrally planned, tax-and-spend stimulus. Such policies, which resulted in the worst economic recovery of nearly all recoveries, are revealed to anyone without partisan blinders to be utter failures. Those with the wherewithal, means and ingenuity to start businesses, create jobs and thereby spread true economic wealth are reluctant for the same reasons that those long ago Pilgrims almost starved.
The traditional history is accurate regarding the hardship, sickness and death visited upon the English settlers at Plymouth during the bitter winter of 1620-21, their struggle to grow the seeds they brought, and how friendly Indians taught them to plant corn. This modest harvest, together with fish and game they were fortunate to acquire from the land, was indeed shared with Indians at a feast proclaimed by Governor William Bradford after the summer of 1621.
However, history might have left us without America’s Thanksgiving celebration, if the settlers had not abandoned collectivism. Though surrounded by nature’s bounty, they would surely have starved and faded into the mists of oblivion along with the cause of their demise.
Like many before and after, the Pilgrims sought a utopian ideal: “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his need.” Communism, pure and simple, is what the Pilgrims established with rules that strictly enforced shared ownership and provision of needs. Their signed agreement said “All profits and benefits that are got by trade, traffic, trucking, working, fishing, or any other means” were to become part of “the common stock.”
In addition, “all such persons as are in this colony are to have their meat, drink, apparel, and all provisions out of the common stock and goods of the colony.” It sounds appealing and idealistic to have no “private ownership” — everyone works for everyone’s benefit and no one reaps rewards greater than another’s. But someone decides what “rewards” each one “needs.” Harder work gains nothing.
Governor Bradford wrote about the predictable results, as the system “was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment. (DP: sound relevant?) For the young men that were most 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 any recompense.
“Attitudes declined as the strong, for their greater work, received no more than the weak, and wives found themselves resentful over working, essentially, for other men’s wives, regarding it as tantamount to slavery.” Crops, without which they would no doubt starve, were not only inefficiently produced, but “much was stolen both by night and day,” Bradford wrote of the 1622 harvest. (DP: like those who prefer benefits over work?)
Unlike more recent totalitarian communism, they were free to change their course so in the spring of 1623 they tried…capitalism! “And so assigned to every family a parcel of land … This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise ….” The acreage planted, and harvested, increased seven-fold from 1621 to 1623. Bradford wrote of that next harvest that “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 shared with their Native American neighbors.
No one would have remembered that first Thanksgiving if the colony, tethered to a failing economic model of depending on everyone’s labor to provide for everyone’s needs, had starved and faded into historical oblivion. The feast of abundance that they shared remains testimony to the superiority and efficiency of private enterprise to provide for individual needs. (With credit and thanks to Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe, 2002, and economist Judd W. Patton, Bellevue University)
The Pilgrim lessons we need to remember and pass on to children are simple but profound: Thank God for our abundance, share it, and acknowledge infallible economic principles, learned through hardship by those early settlers.
“A democracy is always temporary in nature … and will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy … is always followed by a dictatorship.” (Alexander Tyler, 1787) “If the majority distributes among itself the things of a minority, it is evident that it will destroy the city.” (Aristotle)