The Obligatory Thanksgiving Post

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  Tomorrow is also Thursday, and I don’t post on Thursdays, so I’ll be posting about Thanksgiving today.

Embarkation of the Pilgrims by Robert Weir a c...

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Thanksgiving is a day to be thankful for–first and foremost–capitalism.

When the Pilgrims first landed, they set up a communal farming arrangement, figuring that a good Christian community could take care of its own.   From each according to his ability, to each according to his need, and all that.  Everyone worked for the good of everyone else, so everyone benefited, right?

The Pilgrims, like every other group that has ever advocated communism, neglected to consider human nature.  If you have no incentive to work, you don’t.   If sleeping in and making babies still gets you fed and clothed, why work?

On the other side, if you work hard, only to see your hard work go to benefit your lazy neighbor, sleeping in and rattling the headboard, but never doing anything productive, why bother?

It didn’t take long for the Pilgrims to notice this tragedy of government wasn’t working.

 The strong, or man of parts, had no more in devission of victails and cloaths, then he that was weake and not able to doe a quarter the other could; this was thought injuestice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalised in labours, and victails, cloaths, etc., with the meaner and yonger sorte, thought it some indignite and disrespect unto them. And for mens wives to be commanded to doe servise for other men, as dresing their meate, washing their cloaths, etc., they deemd it a kind of slaverie, neither could many husbands well brooke it. Upon the poynte all being to have alike, and all to doe alike, they thought them selves in the like condition, and ove as good as another; and so, if it did not cut of those relations that God hath set amongest men, yet it did at least much diminish and take of the mutuall respects that should be preserved amongst them.

It didn’t take long before nobody was working.   Neighbors resented each other, because everyone had a right to the work of the other, with no need to compensate each other.   That’s a case of “I’m starving because you aren’t working hard enough, but it’s not my fault you’re starving.”

At one point, the production of the colony was down so much that the colonists’ ration of corn was just 4 kernels per day.  That’s how you kill a colony.

But they learned from their mistakes before they all died.

 Yet notwithstanding all those reasons, which were not mine, but other mens wiser then my selfe, without answer to any one of them, here cometh over many quirimonies, and complaints against me, of lording it over my brethern, and making conditions fitter for theeves and bondslaves then honest men, and that of my owne head I did what I list. And at last a paper of reasons, framed against that clause in the conditions, which as they were delivered me open, so my answer is open to you all. And first, as they are no other but inconvenientes, such as a man might frame 20. as great on the other side, and yet prove nor disprove nothing by them, so they misse and mistake both the very ground of the article and nature of the project. For, first, it is said, that if ther had been no divission of houses and Lands, it had been better for the poore. True, and that showeth the inequalitie of the condition; we should more respecte him that ventureth both his money and his person, then him that ventureth but his person only.

The slavery of working for the benefit of others didn’t work, unless you were “theeves and bondslaves”.  Then, it was great, living off of the sweat of others.

To make a long story short, the starvation ended when the Pilgrims were given parcels of land and told they could keep what they built from it.   They went from the edge of extinction to being prosperous in a short time.   The old and weak were cared for, not by the governor’s decree, but by the generosity of their neighbors.

Everybody in the colony won.

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    1. I chuckled when I saw the word obligatory.

      I like the last point you made though about how the weak and poor were cared for by their neighbours. That is such a good reminder for us about what we can be doing for those around us.

    2. Have a great thanksgiving Jason. As a relatively new American I appreciate its history any way I can get it. I’m happy to report that I learned soothing new by reading your blog today. Thank you!

    3. Happy Thanksgiving! Great post – “The old and weak were cared for, not by the governor’s decree, but by the generosity of their neighbors.” I do wish we were more community oriented still.

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