It’s Thanksgiving in the USA today. Or maybe tomorrow. Or maybe Sunday. I don’t know. We don’t have Thanksgiving in the UK. Perhaps we should. I was reading in ZeroHedge last night about the first Thanksgiving in 1621. After the colonists arrived in America, half of them died of starvation. And it was only after they’d begun (with help from the local Indians) to get their act together and grow enough food that they were able to survive and prosper – and give thanks. How did they manage to do that?
They began to question their form of economic organization.
This had required that “all profits & benefits that are got by trade, traffic, trucking, working, fishing, or any other means” were to be placed in the common stock of the colony, and that, “all such persons as are of this colony, are to have their meat, drink, apparel, and all provisions out of the common stock.” A person was to put into the common stock all he could, and take only what he needed.
This “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” was an early form of socialism, and it is why the Pilgrims were starving. Bradford writes that “young men that were most able and fit for labor and service” complained about being forced to “spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children.” Also, “the strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes, than he that was weak.” So the young and strong refused to work and the total amount of food produced was never adequate.
To rectify this situation, in 1623 Bradford abolished socialism. He gave each household a parcel of land and told them they could keep what they produced, or trade it away as they saw fit. In other words, he replaced socialism with a market, and that was the end of the famines.
Many early groups of colonists set up socialist states, all with the same terrible results.
The young men didn’t want to work. And the early socialist society that the colonists set up was plagued by theft. Food was stolen from the fields before it was ripe.
Why was it that these socialist societies didn’t work? Why is it that they never work? And why do people nevertheless keep on trying to make them work?
The answer might come from thinking about what a single individual – a Robinson Crusoe – would have done, if he had arrived in that place, instead of the entire community that arrived aboard the Mayflower.
And the answer would have been that he would have gone looking for food, perhaps along the sea shore, and eating it as he found it. And he would have built himself a hut, with branches and leaves (as I did many times in my childhood). And perhaps in time he would have made a clearing where he could grow food. If he survived, he might even have prospered.
So why didn’t the little society do exactly the same as the single individual? The answer is quite simple: society is not an individual person. Societies are composed of many individuals, like walls are composed of many bricks or stones. But a brick is not a wall. Bricks and walls are quite different things, and they behave in very different ways.
The lone Crusoe would have made the effort to find food, and he would have reaped the reward for that effort. The society would have only been able to do the same thing if it had been organised as an obedient army, with a single general issuing commands. And the society that arrived aboard the Mayflower was no such obedient army. It was instead a loose association of individuals. And it promptly fell apart. The strong young men were unwilling to work on behalf of the entire community, and not reap the reward for their efforts. And when as a result food became scarce, it began to be stolen from the fields by people who were more concerned with their own personal survival than the survival of society. It became everybody for themselves, sauve qui peut. When Bradford re-organised society into individual households, he was probably acknowledging something that had already happened.
There’s another observation which ought to be made, and that is that where all things – food, drink, etc. – are held in common, there can be no such thing as theft. How can there be theft when everyone owns everything? It was not theft for people to go early to the fields and dig up root vegetables before anyone else did, because the vegetables were as much their property as anyone else’s. It only became theft when Bradford gave the land to individual families for them to keep the produce themselves. Only then did it become theft to steal the crops growing in someone else’s field. And with the re-introduction of private property, and the crime of theft, there almost certainly came punishment, courts, judges, and juries, and all the other trappings of civil society.
As an individual person, I cannot steal from myself. It is not theft for my right hand to take food from my left hand. But it is theft for one individual to take from another without permission, even if that society is organised as an army.
In America a week or two ago, the descendants of those earliest colonists elected as their new president a man who very clearly believes in private property ownership. He owns a great deal of it, after all. The descendants of the earliest socialists among them now seem to have migrated to California, where – in accordance with their belief in the common ownership of all property – they have begun to practise large scale theft. For on the very same day that the new president was elected, the state of California passed Proposition 56, which steals $2 off every smoker in the state for every pack of cigarettes they buy.
Of course the Nancy Pelosis of California never see such taxation as theft. They regard it as already their own rightful property, just like the thieves in the early colony. In fact, they see it as their moral duty to steal from smokers, because it helps the poor subhuman wretches to quit smoking. These people are not just thieves: they are proud and boastful thieves.
I have no idea whether America will prosper under their new president. But I’m quite sure that California will not prosper under thieves like Nancy Pelosi. I expect to see starvation and death in California. It will become everyone for themselves, sauve qui peut, déjà vu all over again. But the rich Nancy Pelosis will not die. They’ll just migrate to another state, and start thieving there instead, still convinced in the common ownership of everything.