A while back, I had a facebook friend and he posted a note about the true story of the first Thanksgiving (at Jamestown, Virginia, a place where my ancestors actually were, incidentally). He’s since passed, but the telling of the story was great, so I thought I’d pass it on here.
Friends and Family,
In May of 1606, the first American settlers arrived in Jamestown.
104 set up their colony, was a breathtakingly fertile chunk of land. So it was that these first American settlers found more resources than they could at first believe: oceans teeming with seafood, woodlands alive with birds, inexhaustible game, and soil that grew everything.
Yet within half a year only 38 of the original 104 settlers were still alive, the rest having succumbed to famine.
Not two years later, 500 more people were sent to refresh the devastated settlers. Within half a year, the majority of these new arrivals — 440, to be precise — had died of starvation or disease. Cannibalism was not uncommon.
The resources were still as plentiful and rich as ever before — hardly tapped, in fact — and so what went wrong?
This is an extraordinary period in America’s history; for as it happens, it provides us with a real-life illustration of collectivism-versus-private property in action.
The original American settlers had intentionally adopted a socialist policy: specifically, communal ownership of property. As a direct result, most of these people starved to death, or were killed off by disease — the very same problem, it turns out, that has been occurring steadily three centuries later in every communist country that’s collectivized its economy, particularly its agriculture.
As one early Jamestown eyewitness, a man by the name of George Percy, described it (in his antiquated English):
“[The cause of] famine was want of providence, industrie … and not the barennesse and defect of the Countri, as is generally supposed” (George Percy’s Account of the Voyage to Virginia and the Colony’s First Days).
But how could this possibly have been? How could people such as this have “lacked industrie” when many of these people were specifically chosen for having the exact opposite character?
The answer to this question is not esoteric, nor is it particularly difficulty to fathom. On the contrary, the answer is deceptively simple: the people of Jamestown had no financial stake in their endeavors. Indeed, they were little more than indentured servants. Thus everything they produced went into a public pool. Working harder and longer, therefore, did not benefit any one person any more than another. And so these people responded exactly as humans always will in such a situation: they simply didn’t work harder — any of them.
In his book, Mr. Bethel notes what some few insightful economists have been saying for a long time: lack of work and “industrie” goes hand-in-hand with lack of property rights. “[They] did not have even a modified interest in the soil … Everything produced by them went into the [public] store, in which they had no ownership.” Thus, all grew idle and most, in the end, refused to work at all.
Frustrated, flummoxed, flailing, the British government, which had financed the colonization, sent in 1611 a man named Sir Thomas Dale to serve as “High Marshal of the Virginian Colony.”
Listen closely to what Mr. Dale observed; it is astounding and yet perfectly predictable:
“Dale noted that although most of the settlers had starved to death, the remaining ones were spending much of their time playing games in the streets, and he immediately identified the problem: the system of communal ownership” (Ibid).
It was then that the High Marshal Sir Thomas Dale gave every man three acres of land for each to own unto himself. He simultaneously did away with pooling into a communal treasury. Private property, in other words, was officially enacted and public ownership abolished.
Immediately the colony began to prosper.
The notorious “free-rider problem,” endemic to socialism of every strain, vanished as each person became his own master – as each person bore the full brunt of inaction and non-productivity. At the same time, every person had incentive to work harder since harder work meant greater prosperity and a direct benefit to each from that labor.
One of the fundamental flaws of socialism of every stripe is that it assumes that people will work just as hard or harder for others as they will work for themselves. This is untrue. It’s untrue because it is contrary not only to human nature but also to the nature of life. Jamestown shows us a historical illustration of this writ large.
“As soon as the settlers were thrown upon their own resources,” says historian Mathew Anderson, “and each freeman had acquired the right of owning property, the colonists quickly developed what became the distinguishing characteristic of Americans — and aptitude for all kinds of craftsmanship coupled with an innate genius for experimentation and invention” (The Old Dominion, Vol. 1, University of Virginia).
Next time you hear Barack Obama, or Nancy Pelosi, or Noam Chomsky, or Howard Zinn, or any of the other Neo-Marxists propounding that “some” property should be “collectivized,” remember America’s real history. Remember also how collectivization obliterates the work incentive, the survival instinct, and human industry. Remember the real-life history of early America and the total failure of collectivization.
Remember that not once in the history of the world has a communistic system ever flourished.
Remember that our lives, each and every one of us, are absolutely and inalienably our own, and by direct extension that means our property is absolutely and inalienably our own. Nobody may rightfully take any of that property from you without your permission, not for any reason, not in any amount, not even for the so-called “common good.”
Remember also that being compelled to serve the collective is a slow painful death to each member of that “collective.”
Finally, remember this:
“The Pilgrims had encountered what is called the free-rider problem, which is difficult to solve without dividing property into individual or family-sized units. And this is the course of action that William Bradford wisely took” (Tom Bethell, The Noblest Triumph).
Wisely because it set the trend for all that would make America what she would eventually become: a land of independence, industriousness, ingenuity, experimentation, invention, genius, and greatness.
Freedom and its economic corollary, free market capitalism, saved us in the beginning.
It will save us again now – with God’s help!!! Happy Thanksgiving.
From Website: http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo86.html