January 23, 2021

Gen Z Conservative

The thoughts of a young conservative on political issues relevant to all ages

the Pilgrims tried collectivism and failed

The Pilgrims Tried Collectivism and Failed


While Jamestown might have been the first English settlement in America, many Americans hold the Pilgrims that settled Plymouth Rock in special reverence as some of our nation’s first settlers. I know I do, my thirteen greats grandfather was William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth. But, one lost fact of history is that when they first arrived, the Pilgrims tried collectivism and failed. They’re yet another reminder that communist utopias can’t exist.

Like any socialist experiment, socialism in Plymouth failed. It created a town of moochers that would rather eat than work, so half the colony died of starvation (which is historically one of the main ways that socialism kills).

Unfortunately, that historical detail has been mostly forgotten. We remember the Pilgrims suffered and starved, but are generally told that that was just because of the cold and that they were “rescued” by the Indians. That isn’t really true.

Luckily, Lawrence Reed of the Foundation for Economic Education wrote an article to set the record about how the Pilgrims tried collectivism and failed straight. His article, titled “Why the Pilgrims Abandoned Common Ownership for Private Property” is certainly worth reading, and will be instrumental in showing how socialism always fails, even in America.

How the Pilgrims Tried Collectivism and Failed

First, Reed discusses the initial arrangement at Plymouth:

In the diary of the colony’s first governor, William Bradford, we can read about the settlers’ initial arrangement: Land was held in common. Crops were brought to a common storehouse and distributed equally. For two years, every person had to work for everybody else (the community), not for themselves as individuals or families. Did they live happily ever after in this socialist utopia?… Hardly. The “common property” approach killed off about half the settlers.

From: https://fee.org/articles/why-the-pilgrims-abandoned-common-ownership-for-private-property

Next, Reed describes the system Bradford created to fix the problems created by collectivism:

The disincentives of the socialist scheme bred impoverishment and conflict until, facing starvation and extinction, Bradford altered the system. He divided common property into private plots, and the new owners could produce what they wanted and then keep or trade it freely.

From: https://fee.org/articles/why-the-pilgrims-abandoned-common-ownership-for-private-property/

Then, the results of Bradford’s “he who does not work, neither shall he eat” edict:

Communal socialist failure was transformed into private property/capitalist success, something that’s happened so often historically it’s almost monotonous. The “people over profits” mentality produced fewer people until profit—earned as a result of one’s care for his own property and his desire for improvement—saved the people.

From: https://fee.org/articles/why-the-pilgrims-abandoned-common-ownership-for-private-property/

Finally, on why we should remember the profit motive over Thanksgiving and give thanks that Bradford brought it to Plymouth:

In North Korea and Venezuela, socialist regimes work to see that almost nobody makes a profit or owns a private business. There won’t be anything like widespread Thanksgiving dinners in either country this week, and that’s no coincidence. I wonder if that lesson is still taught in schools these days; polls that suggest young people are attracted to socialism suggest maybe it isn’t.

I’ll be offering gratitude for more than just good food on Thanksgiving Day. I’m going to give a prayerful thanks for private property and the profit motive that has made abundance possible.

From: https://fee.org/articles/why-the-pilgrims-abandoned-common-ownership-for-private-property/


As Reed notes, it’s almost monotonous to point out how socialism fails and capitalism succeeds in making our lives better. But, I believe doing so is incredibly important.

Sadly, far too many young Americans, especially Millenials and college students, are drifting towards socialism. They don’t understand that there’s nothing good about collectivism and collectivist plans such as Medicare for All won’t work. But, perhaps we can convince them of the benefits of capitalism and the downsides of socialism.

Finally, I think we should use this example of how the Pilgrims tried collectivism and failed to demand that the government enact no new entitlements. As the Pilgrims showed, entitlements and welfare only create a lazy and starving population. It’s time to rid ourselves of those expensive and evil programs, just as William Bradford made the pilgrims do.

By: Gen Z Conservative

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