By Liberty Institute
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we should examine the little known fact that the Pilgrims established a short-lived form of agricultural communism.
The land was owned in common; everyone worked for each other and each received an equal allotment of food no matter how hard they worked. This system quickly failed. The women described the communal chores as a form of slavery, men rapidly lost motivation, and the able-bodied feigned illness to avoid work.
As Governor William Bradford described in Of Plymouth Plantation, “[The] taking away of property, and bringing in community into a common wealth…was found to breed much confusion & discontent, and retard much employment…” The crops dwindled to only providing several kernels of corn per meal. It was so bleak that some Pilgrims sold themselves as workers to the Indians for a few cups of food. Others tried to forage for food, but many died of starvation.
After much debate and prayer, Bradford established a free market system by assigning each family a portion of land and giving them rights to what it produced. He was amazed at the results and credited it with creating the bountiful harvest and the reason the Pilgrims were able to celebrate what we think of as the “First Thanksgiving.”
Think of how happy the Pilgrims were to know that they would not face starvation that winter. This is a poignant lesson as some Americans again look at rewarding laziness with welfare and taking from those who work hard and providing it to those who have worked less, or not at all. Let’s be grateful and learn from the Pilgrims, and not repeat their mistake.