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America’s Failed Experiment with Socialism

Even though American History is largely sanitized or ignored in today’s government schools, most children know that the Pilgrims sailed from England to America on the Mayflower in 1620 and landed at Plymouth Rock in what is now Massachusetts.  The Puritans were a small sect of devout Christians who were extremely dissatisfied and oppressed by the Church of England.  About 100 members, searching for religious freedom, fled to Holland.  Feeling insecure there as well, however, they voted to emigrate to America. 

Groups who needed money for colonialization initiatives were financed by private companies who had equity, rules, and requirements.  The Puritans received financial support from the Virginia Company of London and the Virginia Company of Plymouth.  In return for funding the journey, the financiers required a seven year contract during which the survival goods of the new colony (food, clothing, shelter, equipment, etc.) would be considered “common goods” belonging to all members.  In addition, all profits and surplus commodities became part of the “common goods” and were to be distributed equally to all colonists and used to pay back the financiers.   

Two hundred years before Karl Marx wrote “The Communist Manifesto”, therefore, Plymouth Colony actually became the first socialist commune in America.  Private property rights simply did not exist, and the common good took precedence over the contributions and needs of the individual.          

The Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts in December, the beginning of winter, which proved to be so harsh that only half of the colonists survived.  The new “survivalists” did not have the skills or knowledge to grow crops in a new environment.  Even though the Pilgrims were assisted by the local native tribes, the harvests in 1621 and 1622 were not sufficient to avoid serious shortages of food and other necessities. 

Faced with dwindling supplies and insufficient food, the social problems usually associated with collectivist societies soon developed.  Healthy young men were forced to share the fruits of their labor with the old and infirm without compensation.  They considered that an injustice.  The women had to perform household chores for everyone not just their own husbands and children which they considered a form of slavery.

After two years of starvation, injustice, discontent, and grumbling, William Bradford, the Governor of Plymouth Colony, decided to abandon socialism to avoid another year of famine.  He assigned each family a parcel of land to grow their own food and to keep the profits from the harvest.  Amazingly, colonists who were previously sickly and disabled became productive members of their family enterprise.  The corn crop tripled in size.  As a result, there was sufficient surplus to export a full boat load of corn and buy out the ownership interest of their colonial financiers.  The transition from socialist commune to free market economy with private property rights was thereby complete.

That is the true story of the first permanent European settlement in the New World.  It should serve as a lesson for those who have forgotten that there has never been a successful socialist society in human history.  It is a well-proven fact that removal of the profit motive for the individual reduces productivity and leads to dependency. 

Would this not be a timely and stimulating topic of conversation this year as you join with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving?    

Resist Tyranny and Trust in Freedom

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