When making the argument for free markets, conservatives typically look to various European countries for examples of how socialism has failed or is now failing. Liberals then respond: “Yes, but that is Europe. This is America. We can practice socialism the right way and make it work.” This liberal argument is pure nonsense. In fact, one of the best examples of the shortcomings of socialism happened right here in America. A dirty little secret of American history you will not find in public school textbooks is that socialism almost killed America before it even got started.
Historians and informed history buffs are familiar with the story, but too many Americans are not, and that is just how liberals want it to be. We have all heard the story of the first Thanksgiving, but thanks to the liberals who control public education many Americans have not heard the whole story. When Governor Bradford and the Pilgrims settled Plymouth Colony, they established a communal (socialist) economy. All farmland belonged to the community (the state) and all residents were to be given an equal share of the harvest to feed their families. To the Pilgrims, this seemed a “fair” system that would benefit all. They soon learned how wrong they were, and almost starved to death as a result.
John Stossel writes about the Pilgrims and their misguided view of economics in his new book, NO THEY CAN’T. This is what he has to say about the communal system established by the Pilgrims: “…sharing seemed fair. But because of it, the Pilgrims nearly starved. When workers can get an equal return for less effort, workers make less effort. Plymouth settlers often faked illness rather than work the common property. Some stole, despite their Puritan convictions. Total production was too meager to support the population.”
To anyone old enough to remember the demise of the Soviet Union, all of this should sound familiar. Starvation was an ever present possibility in the Soviet Union for the same reasons it became a threat to the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony: socialism rewards inactivity, sloth, and poor productivity. There were years when the Soviet Union staved off major epidemics of starvation only because of the generosity of America and other countries that sent wheat and other agricultural commodities. What Governor Bradford soon learned in the early 1620s and Barack Obama needs to learn now, is that when dealing with people you get more of what you reward. Reward sloth and you will get more sloth.
Governor Bradford and the leaders of Plymouth Colony responded to their meager and insufficient harvest by transforming communal farmland into private property and assigning each Pilgrim responsibility for growing his own crops and taking care of his own family. John Stossel quotes what Governor Bradford had to say about the results of switching from socialism to the free market: “This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted as otherwise would have been. 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.”
Public school textbooks like to claim that the first Thanksgiving in America occurred only through the charity of Indians who helped the colonists at Plymouth pull through. What is not recorded in the textbooks is that only by transforming their colony from communal socialism to a free-market economy could the Pilgrims take advantage of the help their Indian neighbors provided. Not only did a free-market economy save the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony, it might have saved America because if the Pilgrims had perished from starvation, North America might have seemed a much less inviting destination for those hoping to escape the oppression of Europe’s royal families.