Monday, November 23, 2009

The True Meaning of Thanksgiving: The Birth of Private Enterprise in America by Richard M. Ebeling

This time of the year, whether in good economic times or bad, is when Americans gather with their families and friends and enjoy a Thanksgiving meal together. It marks a remembrance of those early Pilgrim Fathers who crossed the uncharted ocean from Europe to make a new start in Plymouth, Massachusetts. What is less appreciated is that Thanksgiving also is a celebration of the birth of free enterprise in America.

The English Puritans, who left Great Britain and sailed across the Atlantic on the Mayflower in 1620, were not only escaping from religious persecution in their homeland. They also wanted to turn their back on what they viewed as the materialistic and greedy corruption of the Old World.

In the New World, they wanted to erect a New Jerusalem that would not only be religiously devout, but be built on a new foundation of communal sharing and social altruism. Their goal was the communism of Plato’s Republic, in which all would work and share in common, knowing neither private property nor self-interested acquisitiveness.

What resulted is recorded in the diary of Governor William Bradford, the head of the colony. The colonists collectively cleared and worked land, but they brought forth neither the bountiful harvest they hoped for, nor did it create a spirit of shared and cheerful brotherhood.

The less industrious members of the colony came late to their work in the fields, and were slow and easy in their labors. Knowing that they and their families were to receive an equal share of whatever the group produced, they saw little reason to be more diligent in their efforts. The harder working among the colonists became resentful that their efforts would be redistributed to the more malingering members of the colony. Soon they, too, were coming late to work and were less energetic in the fields.

As Governor Bradford explained in his old English (though with the spelling modernized):

"For the young men that were 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 recompense. The strong, or men of parts, had no more division of food, clothes, etc. then he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labor, and food, clothes, etc. with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignant and disrespect unto them. And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc. they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could husbands brook it."

Because of the disincentives and resentments that spread among the population, crops were sparse and the rationed equal shares from the collective harvest were not enough to ward off starvation and death. Two years of communism in practice had left alive only a fraction of the original number of the Plymouth colonists.

Realizing that another season like those that had just passed would mean the extinction of the entire community, the elders of the colony decided to try something radically different: the introduction of private property rights and the right of the individual families to keep the fruits of their own labor.

As Governor Bradford put it:

"And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number for that end . . . This had a very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted then otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little-ones with them to set corn, which before would a ledge weakness, and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression."

The Plymouth Colony experienced a great bounty of food. Private ownership meant that there was now a close link between work and reward. Industry became the order of the day as the men and women in each family went to the fields on their separate private farms. When the harvest time came, not only did many families produce enough for their own needs, but they had surpluses that they could freely exchange with their neighbors for mutual benefit and improvement.

In Governor Bradford’s words:

"By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God. And the effect of their planting was well seen, for all had, one way or other, pretty well to bring the year about, and some of the abler sort and more industrious had to spare, and sell to others, so as any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day."

Hard experience had taught the Plymouth colonists the fallacy and error in the ideas that since the time of the ancient Greeks had promised paradise through collectivism rather than individualism. As Governor Bradford expressed it:

"The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years, and that amongst the Godly and sober men, may well convince of the vanity and conceit of Plato’s and other ancients; -- that the taking away of property, and bringing into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort."

Was this realization that communism was incompatible with human nature and the prosperity of humanity to be despaired or be a cause for guilt? Not in Governor Bradford’s eyes. It was simply a matter of accepting that altruism and collectivism were inconsistent with the nature of man, and that human institutions should reflect the reality of man’s nature if he is to prosper. Said Governor Bradford:

"Let none object this is man’s corruption, and nothing to the curse itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in his wisdom saw another course fitter for them."

The desire to “spread the wealth” and for government to plan and regulate people’s lives is as old as the utopian fantasy in Plato’s Republic. The Pilgrim Fathers tried and soon realized its bankruptcy and failure as a way for men to live together in society.

They, instead, accepted man as he is: hardworking, productive, and innovative when allowed the liberty to follow his own interests in improving his own circumstances and that of his family. And even more, out of his industry result the quantities of useful goods that enable men to trade to their mutual benefit.

In the wilderness of the New World, the Plymouth Pilgrims had progressed from the false dream of communism to the sound realism of capitalism. At a time of economic uncertainty, it is worthwhile recalling this beginning of the American experiment and experience with freedom.

This is the lesson of the First Thanksgiving. This year, when we, Americans sit around our dining table with family and friends, we should also remember that what we are really celebrating is the birth of free men and free enterprise in that New World of America.

The true meaning of Thanksgiving, in other words, is the triumph of Capitalism over the failure of Collectivism in all its forms.

19 comments:

  1. This is a really great piece!! More people in America need to be reminded that we have already tried collectivism, and it failed.

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  2. This should be read at every Thanksgiving table, and more important, taught at every school until the lesson learned at Plymouth are never forgotten.

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  3. Good piece. Your blog is really starting to blossom Richard.

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  4. Taking the bait! And The LIES are swallowed, hook, line and sinker ;-(

    Someone had written: "When I talk about people buying or being sold 'absolute junk' I'm not only talking about the material but also about the ideological. We are 'sold' on consumerism, the wars (Iraq), elections (the presidency), all manner of things. Unfortunately, so few people see that just because these ideas are on sale, that they don't actually have to buy them!"

    Sadly, the multitudes have bought The LIES ;-(

    The multitudes have taken the bait which is "ease of life", so-called, and The LIES were swallowed(believed),

    hook(money),
    line(education/religion),
    and sinker(technology/"progress") ;-(

    This place they call the u.s. of a. is the "bait"master and they catch their "fish" in every nation of this world ;-( Yet in england, france, germany, japan, etc, in all nations of this wicked world there are those who have become disciples of the "bait"master and they also have found other "waters" in which to catch their "fish" ;-(

    And so it is that today there are multitudes in every nation under the sun that have taken the bait(ease of life), and swallowed(believed) the hook(money), the line(education/religion) and the sinker(technology/"progress") ;-(

    Tempted, hooked, reeled in, and held captive as they but serve "time" in the prison that is this wicked world ;-(

    Simply, they could not withstand the media blitz(krieg), or their own desires, and their "imag"ination got the best of them ;-(

    Some two thousand years past The Truth bore witness to the fact that, "the WHOLE(not just a portion) world is under the control of the evil one"! (1John5:19) Yet, the "fish" continue to seek out that "good" place in the world, when in Truth the world today is but the product of mankind's "imag"ination, a dry and thirsty land of mirages, nothing but shadows, vapors and smoke ;-(

    And in this wicked world, "image"s abound and are worshipped ;-(

    So why receive that which is of mankind's "imag"ination?

    Even when such is supposedly "free" there will always be a price to pay, for mankind's "imag"ination is destroying the earth(land, air, water, vegetation, creatures) and perverting that which is Spirit(Light, Life, Truth, Love, Peace, Hope, Grace, Faith, etc.);-(

    Consider the time when there were no radio's, no tv's, no movies, no newspapers, a time when there was no way yet "imag"ined and then manufactured, that would allow someone to publish or display the vain "imag"inations of mankind to the "masses". Sadly those who rule in this wicked world, and who control the "media", consider the "masses" to be but the M in E=MC(squared);-(

    And yet today, here i am publishing(sharing) that which i believe to be from the heart, The Spirit within, not the vain "imag"inations of my fleshly mind, for i believe that which i share is of The ONE whose Voice i have heard and whose Power i have experienced in The Miracle that is receiving "the love of The Truth", and The Miracle that is New Life, Real Life, and The Miracle of healing more than once, and The Miracle of deliverance that sets me free, free from the "I" in me!

    (continued)

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  5. i believe that which i share is of The ONE who revealed the lies that are of this world, it's 'god', and it's systems of religion, as i received evermore "a love of The Truth". HE is The ONE WHOM i know and believe is the Giver of Life, The ONE and Only True Living G-D and Father(Creator) of ALL!

    Father Help! and HE does.......

    In times past, when i would wonder why things were as they were, i questioned?

    Do you feel as i feel?
    Do you wonder just what's real?

    D you see the little child?
    Do you see them running wild?

    i see their doubts and i see their fears,
    i see their hurts and i see their tears.

    Now could be that's what i look to see,
    Yet what i see is real to me.

    Now am i alone to care and cry?
    Or must i close these eyes and surely die?

    Sadly, the children, or those who once were called children, today are referred to as "kids" ;-(

    Sadder yet, the reference is true ;-(

    Baby goats abound because their 'parents' feed them all sorts of "trash", and so it is that as they grow, they "eat" any and all things, no matter the dis-eases(no-peace) that causes them to be pill pushers, peer pleasers, or worse yet enslaved by the media ;-(

    "Where have all the children gone? long time pa-as-sing" ;-(

    Progress? As promised things are getting progressively worse and worse!

    For "evil men and seducers are waxing worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived".......

    Yet Hope IS Alive!

    For Miracles do happen!

    Hope is there would be those who would take heed unto The Call of Our Father(Creator) to "Come Out of her, MY people" for they will "Come Out" of this wicked world(babylon) and it's systems of religion, and they will no longer have their portion with those who are destroying the earth(land, air, water, vegetation, creatures) and perverting that which is Spirit(Light,Truth, Life, Love, Peace, Hope, Grace, Faith, Mercy, etc.) ;-(

    And for those who have embraced "mother earth" and the oneness that is the natural Creation?

    Hope is they would also experience and embrace that Spiritual ONEness that is a common union with their Brother, The Messiah, and Their Father, The ONE and Only True Living G-D(Great Spirit), HE WHO is Creator(Father) of ALL!

    Family! indeed and Truth.......

    A Simple and Spiritual Life.......

    Forever.......

    Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this wicked world and it's systems of religion, for "the WHOLE world(not just a portion) is under the control of the evil one"(1John5:19) indeed and Truth.......

    Truth is never ending.......

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  6. Hey Elder Child,

    You need to get out more. You have to be one of the most unhappy people in the world. And if you think that the US of A is so corrupt, how come you don't find a place in this world that is more to your liking. I hear North Korea is lovely this time of year. It's cold, dreary and lifeless just like your mood.

    But Happy Thanksgiving anyway.

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  7. Truth testified almost 2000 years ago, "the WHOLE is under the control of the evil one", that's the WHOLE world not just a portion.......period.......

    Sadly, because of the whorish pagan catholic and christian systems of theo'ry'logical religion, "The Way of Truth is evil spoken of" ;-(

    So it is that i am sad for such as the likes of you and will thankfully suffer for "the love of The Truth" that i have received!

    For soon and very soon, Home, Home at last!

    Till then it remains Father Help! and HE does.......

    There is Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this wicked world....... francis

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  8. Hmmm....why do I have this sinking feeling that our looming, new 'universal healthcare' experiment is setting itself up to produce the exact same results as experienced by the Pilgrims during those first three years....?

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  9. Your article is wonderful!!! I've linked to it and your mises.org blog mention today of it on my FB account.

    But in my search for an article that I originally read from the Freeman of 30-40 years ago on this subject, I also came across the Article by Gary Galles http://mises.org/story/1678
    In his article, he says that common property was "not adopted, as often asserted, from their religious convictions, but required agains their will by the colony's sponsors."

    How do you respond to that?

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  10. interesting piece, but it fails to mention the taking of the land by force (greed)by the more powerful members from others (perhaps because of the ill health, death of the man etc)forcing the unfortunate/weaker ones into working on that land for the 'benefit' of the powerful, or as happend in Ireland, forcing them to move on. Surely not! in the land of the brave and free?

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  11. Friends, wherever you use the word CAPITALISM, might I recommend you use FREE ENTERPRISE? Capitalism, as the Oxford English Dictionary relates, was a rare term, meaning someone without property or industry who invested funds, or capital. Given its 18th century roots, one might even imagine its context was antisemitic -- almost like a "moneychanger," or a "Shylock." It was Marx who popularized the term in his Das Kapital. FREE ENTERPRISE on the other hand, is behaviorally specific and without the baggage described above. Case-in-point. It was only when the majority party in pre-revolutionary Russia accepted the moniker thrust on them by the minority party, did that label stick (Bolshe = bigger, Menshe = smaller). Please don't call yourself a CAPITALIST (the left's term) if you are an advocate of FREE ENTERPRISE.

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  12. hello, i would like to read more information about this topic because i think that is really interesting, besides, the post has very good informaton.

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  13. Progress? -OR- Progressive Destruction?

    Why is it that what was once called covetousness was then called greed, then materialism, and today covetousness is called good management?

    Why is that one hundred years ago most had 7 "needs" and 70 wants and today they have 70 "needs" and 700 wants?

    Those declared to be "middle class" in this day and age would have been declared "rich" in times past!

    And the rich are never satisfied!

    For those who seek profit care for naught but gain, no matter the consequences!

    Is such progressive or destructive?

    Those with "eyes to see", see the progressive destruction of Creation(air, water, land, vegetation, creatures) and perversion of that which is Spirit(Truth, Light, Life, Love, Peace, Faith, Grace, Mercy,,,,All that is Truly Good) ;-(

    "Behold! these are the wicked, they prosper in the world, they increase in riches!" (Ps73:12)

    And "The wicked walk on every side when the vilest of men are exhalted!" (Ps 12:8)

    "Woe unto you that are rich! for you have received your consolation." (Luke 6:24)

    "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into The Kingdom of GOD!" (Mat 19:24)

    "Do not rich men oppress you"? (James2:6)

    And it remains as promised, for in the past 2000 years "evil men and seducers have been waxing worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived!" (2Tim3:13)

    And Truth IS "the WHOLE(not just a portion) world is under the control of the evil one" indeed and Truth.......(1John5:19)

    "Come Out of her, MY people"!

    "Come Out" of the systems that are of this wicked world and especially it's systems of religion!

    Let the suffering begin, for "Love suffers long".......(1Cor 13:4)

    Father Help! and HE does.......

    Peace, in spite of the dis-eases(lies) that are of this wicked world, for "the WHOLE(not just a portion) world is under the control of the evil one" indeed and Truth.......(1John5:19)

    Thankfully Truth IS, a lie never was and is not.......

    Father Help! and HE does.......

    asimpleandspirituallife.org

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  14. Thanks for the suggestion above about using the term 'free enterprise'. I completely agree. The term 'capitalism' means so many things to so many people that, ironically, for purposes of clear communication, it means very little. A similar situation exists for the word 'anarchy', which I prefer to replace with 'voluntaryism'.

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  15. "Come Out" of the systems that are of this wicked, evil world(babylon)!

    Why have your portion in the braindirtying processes(educational, judicial, media, political, social, religious,,,) that are of this wicked world(babylon)? And especially it’s systems of religion, all of which but carry on the legacy of the pharisee's.

    Why have your portion in the pagan catholic, christian, muslim, judaic, and other religious systems which have killed, murdered and enslaved multiplied millions in the name of their god(s)?

    Because of them "The Way of Truth is evil spoken of"!

    "Come Out of her, MY people!"

    Because Faith will not create a system of religion.

    "Religion" was for a "disobedient and gainsaying(greedy) people"!

    A people who "desired that a man rule over them rather than GOD"!

    Religion? What are brothers and sisters of “Our Father” if not Family?

    Simply, Faith IS Family, The Family of GOD,
    “of WHOM the whole Family in Heaven and ON EARTH is named".

    So it is that the brethren of The Messiah choose to remain but "aliens and pilgrims while on the earth" because they realize that their "citizenship(Life) is in Heaven".......

    Consider the children born into a family that is yet of this wicked, evil world.

    Do you see the little child?
    Do you see them running wild?

    i see their hurts and i see their tears.
    i see their doubts and i see their fears.

    Why sacrifice your children unto the gods of education?

    "Come Out of her, MY people!"

    And no longer have your portion with those who are destroying Creation(air, water, land, vegetation, creatures) and perverting that which is Spirit(Truth, Light, Life, Love, Peace, Grace, Faith, Mercy,,,,,,,, All that is Truly GOOD).......

    Global warming, polluted air, land and waters; toxic wastes, sexual perversion, evil inventions of destruction, religion, lies, deception, delusion, greed, hate, carnal warfare, dis-ease(no-peace),,etc,, are all destructive processes that have their root in “the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life”, and all of which caused Eve to fall victim to 'd'evil spirit("the father of lies", "the god of this world") that rules over this wicked, evil world(babylon).

    And "lust and pride" continue to fuel the fires of mankind’s “imag”ination!

    Sadly, mankind's "imag"ination is "progress"ively destroying Creation,
    and perverting that which is Spirit ;-(

    "Come out from among them and be separate"!

    Father Help! and HE does.......

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Simple-and-Spiritual-Life/208339295850609

    Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this world, for "the WHOLE(not just a portion) world is under the control of the evil one" indeed and Truth......(1 John 5:19)

    Thankfully Truth IS, a lie never was and is not.......

    Abide in Truth....... francis

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  16. This voluntaryist/freemarketeer is bored to tears by the childish elder. I was a Sunday school reject at 8 and have not suffered fools since.

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  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  18. A "sunday school reject" would be a right fine title for one who had received the love of The Truth!

    Must be hard for you to live with yourself for you have chosen to have your portion with the fools now ;-(

    Apparently you are of the perverse who have their portion with those who are destroying Creation(air, water, land, vegetation, creatures) and perverting that which is Spirit(Truth, Light, Life, Love, Peace, Grace, Faith, Mercy,,,,,,,, All that is Truly GOOD).......

    Systems of religion, destruction, and perversion all have their portion in this wicked, evil world!

    "Come Out of her, MY people!"

    Simply sad for you ;-(

    Father Help! and HE does.......

    asimpleandspirituallife.org

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