An Economic Lesson from the Pilgrims

25 Nov

An Economic Lesson from the Pilgrims

We hope that you can count the health and safety of your loved ones as among your greatest blessings of this difficult year.  Our heart goes out to all of those that have encountered this pandemic.

We are grateful that 2020 has been such a good year for gold and silver and helping our friends and clients protect their wealth and profit.  We think next year will be just as profitable, if not more so.  

Among our Thanksgiving traditions, right along with turkey, family, and even football, is a story we like to tell each year, a story of our founding with moral that we hope is able to remain a part of national character, one remembered each Thanksgiving. 

It comes from the history of the Pilgrims, who arrived on the Mayflower and settled at Plymouth in 1620 in pursuit of religious freedom. 

But within five months of landing, half the company had died of sickness and starvation. 

The sponsors of the enterprise had insisted that for the first seven years the colony would have “all things in common.” This communal organization, socialism by another name, exacerbated the settlement’s woes. 

The pilgrim’s governor, William Bradford, wrote that men complained about working for other men’s wives and children without being compensated while the wives thought it a form of slavery “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.” 

Altogether the experience of communal property “was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.”

Eventually it was decided, wrote Bradford, that each family would be assigned its own parcel of land so “that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves.” 

The success of the new arrangement was predictable. 

After one year Bradford reported,

“This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. . . . 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 had their religious freedom, but prosperity wasn’t part of their experience until they had economic freedom as well.  In experimenting with collectivized economic organization, they discovered what everybody owns, nobody owns. 

It’s a lesson that mankind has had to learn and relearn after many bitter experiences, from the “starving times” of the pilgrims, to the millions of deaths from Stalin’s terror famine in the Ukraine, to many millions more deaths from the collectivized farming  under Mao Tse-tung in China.  

The result of an enforced collective ownership, socialized or what is often called public ownership, is waste, neglect, and overuse.  

What everybody owns, nobody owns. 

Here’s to a free and prosperous America!  And a happy Thanksgiving!

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