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Socialists Could Learn Self-Sufficiency From the Pilgrims

Socialists Could Learn Self-Sufficiency From the Pilgrims

Plymouth Rock is purportedly where the Pilgrims of the Mayflower first made landfall in the New World in 1620. (Barnickelstudios/Dreamstime)

Monday, 05 November 2018 11:32 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Pilgrims began in England as Puritan Separatists, Christians so dissatisfied with the Church of England that they decided to separate from it. A group of about 100 fled to Holland, but finding that homeland less ideal than they had wished, plus fearing that a European war was on the horizon, many voted to go to America.

On Sept. 6, 1620, the Mayflower set sail for what is now Massachusetts carrying a total of 102 passengers, including forty Pilgrims led by William Bradford.

Lacking sufficient funds to outfit the journey and establish a colony, they sought help from the Virginia Company of London and the Virginia Company of Plymouth, companies known as "Adventurers" which were organized to equip colonial enterprises.

One of the key points of the contract with the Adventurers was that during the first seven years, all colonists were to get their food, clothing, drink and provisions from the colony’s "common stock and goods," with each member of the community entitled to one common share.

All the land they cleared and the houses they built belonged to the community as well, not to the individuals. The surplus after seven years was to be divided equally along with the houses, lands, and chattels, "betwixt the Adventurers and Planters."

During the first winter, half of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony died of starvation, sickness or cold exposure.

When spring came, Indians, including now-famous native Squanto, taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish for cod, and skin beavers for coats.

Bradford wrote in his report titled "Of Plymouth Plantation": "The experience that we had in common course and condition tried sundry years . . . that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing . . . as if they were wiser than God."

The governor continued, "For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and 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."

After two and one-half years, Bradford, the colony’s first governor, decided to take bold action to stave off deepening famine. Each family was assigned a plot of land to work and manage in any way they wished, essentially liberating a free market.

And the result?

Bradford reported, "This had very good success, for it made all hands industrious, so much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been."

That abundance has come to be celebrated as an iconic Thanksgiving feast.

By the fall of 1624, the colonists had all the food they needed, exported a boatload of corn, set up trading posts, exchanged goods with the Indians, repaid their sponsors, and bought back all of the Adventurers’ stock. The successful Plymouth settlement attracted more Europeans, prompting what became known as the great Puritan migration.

Many in America are hazardously forgetting that timeless lesson. Socialism has actively re-entered the public discourse over the past several years, most particularly due to the high-profile candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s recent primary win in New York's 14th congressional district.

Some very misguided people are inclined to assume that there are two sorts of socialism: a good kind referred to as democratic socialism, and the bad Marxist-Leninist variety.

Both, however, have been historically associated with the concept of public or collective ownership of property and natural resources.

In 1949, with the Chinese Communists just having taken control of China, combined with aggressive efforts by the Soviet Union to spread communism ideology around the globe raised concern about Marxist-socialist military and economic threats to American society.

Now, nearly 70 years later, the democratic socialist brand continues to embrace the same disproven model of purporting to achieve social and income equality through assignment and distribution of fabled common entitlement shares. Four hundred years of history in America alone has taught them nothing.

The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) lament on their website, "In the short term we can’t eliminate private corporations, but we can bring them under greater democratic control." And as Meagan Day wrote in Vox, "I’m a staff writer at the socialist magazine Jacobin and a member of [the Democratic Socialists of America], and here’s the truth: In the long run, democratic socialists want to end capitalism."

Adam Smith, certainly no socialist, recognized that while competitive free markets need to be regulated, the more government interferes in a market, the less competitive an economy and less prosperous all citizens will be.

As America’s early settlers discovered, the problem with free lunches is that the food supply all-to-rapidly runs out for everyone.

Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of several books, including "Thinking Whole: Rejecting Half-Witted Left & Right Brain Limitations" (2018), "Reflections on Oceans and Puddles: One Hundred Reasons to be Enthusiastic, Grateful and Hopeful” (2017), "Cosmic Musings: Contemplating Life Beyond Self" (2016), and "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015). He is currently working on a new book with Buzz Aldrin, "Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles."Click Here Now.

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Adam Smith, certainly no socialist, recognized that while competitive free markets need to be regulated, the more government interferes in a market, the less competitive an economy and less prosperous all citizens will be.
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Monday, 05 November 2018 11:32 AM
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