Give thanks for capitalism

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In 1620, the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. We are told they worked hard but had a rough winter. Half of them perished. However, Native Americans appeared that fall with food, and there was a great feast. The Indians taught the Pilgrims how to grow maize, and, after that, all was fine.

What you have been told is not exactly true. You see, the Pilgrims did not really work hard that winter at all.

In his History of Plymouth Plantation, the governor of the colony, William Bradford, reported that the colonists went hungry for years because they refused to work in the field. They preferred instead to steal food. He says the colony was riddled with “corruption,” and with “confusion and discontent.” The crops were small because “much was stolen both by night and day, before it became scarce eatable.”

So, the pilgrims were a bunch of lazy thieves! But, eventually, things got better. They didn’t get better because the natives helpfully taught them to grow American crops. They got better because the Pilgrims abandoned socialism, in the form of communal property, and embraced private property capitalism.

The Plymouth Colony was organized with communal property ownership. Everything was to be produced on communal land, and all production turned over to common ownership. It was an early utopian experiment in “from each according to his ability to each according to his needs.” Those who were more productive began to resent how the less productive had access to the same amount of food and goods. They began to slack off. The less productive Pilgrims were already more than willing to let the stronger work hard and expropriate what they produced. Soon, production ground to a halt, and famine resulted.

Then, Gov. Bradford changed the economic system by establishing property rights. The Pilgrims were given their own plots of land and could keep what they produced, or trade it at will. By 1623, they were ready for a real Thanksgiving.

The Pilgrims in Massachusetts were not alone in starting as a socialist community. The Jamestown Colony in what is now Virginia also started off communally. They called 1610-11 “The Starving Time,” as famine reduced them from 500 colonists down to 60.

Then, Jamestown also introduced private property and free markets, and things got better.

The problem of incentives is one major reason why socialism has failed to produce what it promises—everyone has enough, while no one has too much. Instead, it produces famine and shortages for most, with an extremely well-off political management class.

The industrial revolution and relatively free markets have produced an unprecedented rise in the standard of living of the masses, not socialism. The standard of living grows exponentially under capitalism, but, whenever socialism is tried, human rights suffer after property rights are destroyed. The destruction of incentives under socialism results in stagnating and declining standards of living. Only free-market reforms, such as those introduced in Russia and China, bring improvement.

For the first time in history, a majority of humans live a middle-class existence, whereby they are not struggling for necessities and can even save for the future. South America, Africa and India have the most problems, but they are improving quickly.

The percentage of truly poor people on the planet has declined dramatically, from 43 percent in the 1980s to less than 10 percent today. Being poor is not a life sentence. The poor can truly be thought of as getting rich, only more slowly.

This Thanksgiving, please take a few seconds to thank God for the blessings of liberty.