Thursday, November 27, 2008

The True Story of Thanksgiving

This story seems much more appropriate than normal some how (adapted from Rush Limbaugh's account in his book See, I Told You So!)

The Mayflower set sail with it's 102 passengers on August 1, 1620. 40 of those passengers were Pilgrims led by William Bradford. During the trip, Bradford established an agreement that required all members follow just and equal laws regardless of their religious beliefs, called the Mayflower Compact.

The Mayflower Compact was based on teachings in the Bible - both Old and New Testaments. The also looked at the Israelites for example - sure that because their contract was based on biblical teachings it would work splendidly.

Upon arrival to the New World after what was undoubtedly a rough voyage, the Pilgrims found desolate land. Bradford detailed in his diary that no friends were there to greet them, no houses to provide warmth and shelter, no Inns existed. In fact, half of the Pilgrims did not make it through that winter dying of cold, starvation and sickness.

In the spring, the Natives taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish and skin beavers for coats. Life improved greatly for the Pilgrims when this happened - and more often than not, you were taught that the first Thanksgiving was a feast giving thanks to the Indians for their help. There is, as Paul Harvey would say, a rest of the story.

The Mayflower Compact also included a section in which the Pilgrims agreed with their merchant sponsors in London to have everything they produce go to a common store, and each member of the community was entitled to a common share.

The land, the houses, all of it belonged to the community, not individuals. Everything was distributed equally - just like a commune. Low and behold, this "collectivism" or, socialism really, didn't work. Why? Bradford chronicled that the most creative and industrious in the community had no incentive to work harder than average - or even lazy - schmoes. There wasn't any personal motivation.

From Bradford's diary on the experiment:

"The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years...that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God,' Bradford wrote. 'For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most 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 any recompense...that was thought injustice."
What was the solution? Capitalism. Each family was given its own plot of land to work and allowed to keep or market their crops as they saw fit.

'This had very good success,' wrote Bradford, 'for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.'

Before long, the Pilgrims had more than they needed, so trading posts were set up and goods were exchanged with the Indians. The profits were used to pay off debts to the merchants in London. This success made news back home and sparked European migration, known as the "Great Puritan Migration".

So what was the feast? It was the Pilgrims giving thanks to the Lord for guidance and plenty. Because their capitalism worked so well, and because they had more than they could eat, they invited the Indians to dinner giving thanks to them for their role in the prosperity of this community.

The moral of this story is simple, and one that should be taught repeatedly in schools across our nation - socialism is an experiment tried over and over with very poor success. There must be incentive for people to be prosperous - capitalism wins every time. Just think how much pain could be avoided if THIS story was the one stressed rather than "we gave thanks to the Indians for saving us".

Happy Thanksgiving!