How Socialism Almost Killed the Pilgrims

Thursday, if you eat well, thank the pilgrims. They made Thanksgiving possible.

They left the Old World to escape religious persecution. They envisioned a new society where everyone works together and shares everything.

In other words, they dreamed of socialism. Socialism then almost killed them.

Pilgrims tried to start collective farming. The whole community decided when and how much to plant, when to harvest and who would do the work.

Governor William Bradford wrote in his diary that he believed that taking away property and bringing it into a community would make the Pilgrims “happy and prosperous.”

Did not happen. Soon there was not enough food. “No supply was heard,” wrote Bradford, “nor did they know when they might expect one.”

The problem, Bradford realized, was that no one wanted to work. Everyone relied on others to get the job done. Some people pretended to be injured. Others stole food.

The communal system, Bradford wrote, “was found to give rise to much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment.”

Young men complained that they had to “spend their time and energy working for other men’s wives and children without any reward.” Strong men felt it was an “injustice” that they had to do more than weaker men, without more compensation.

Older men thought it was “humiliation and disrespect” to work as hard as young men. Women who cook and clean “consider it a form of slavery.”

The pilgrims had stumbled upon the “tragedy of the commons.” No individual pilgrim owned the crops they grew, so no one had much incentive to work.

Bradford’s solution: private property. He assigned each family a plot of land so they could grow their own corn. “This made all hands very industrious, so that much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been,” he wrote.

People who claimed that “weakness and incapacity” made them unable to work were now eager to work. “Women now volunteered to go into the fields and take their young with them to plant corn,” Bradford wrote.

The Pilgrims learned an important lesson about private property. Unfortunately, people keep repeating the mistakes of pilgrims.

President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program would punish people who defaulted on loans or defaulted on them.
REUTERS/Leah Millis/File photo

Socialism is more popular than capitalism among students. Many want everything shared, including their student loan debt.

President Joe Biden wants to give them that by forgiving some of their student debt. Of course, then the debt will become common, which will be paid by all taxpayers.

This will punish people who have long since paid off their debt. People who studied, worked hard, got a job, and worked to pay off college loans would be penalized, as well as people who went to trade school or no school at all. This will penalize poor people because student loans are mostly held by the relatively wealthy.

Student loans granted by the government already create bad incentives:

  • People who don’t like or benefit from college are encouraged to take out loans they can’t afford and go to expensive colleges anyway.
  • Colleges raise tuition knowing the government will pay what students don’t pay.

Student debt forgiveness would make all of this worse. Fortunately, Biden’s student loan forgiveness program has run into legal challenges. I hope it’s dead.

Students should learn from the pilgrims: Take responsibility for your own debt, work hard to pay it off, and don’t expect the public to fund your bad decisions.

The bottom line: In general, everyone takes as much as they can. This creates a shortage.

Private property creates prosperity. Every Thanksgiving I am thankful for that.

John Stossel is the author of Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Fraudsters, Fraudsters, and Fraudsters and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media.

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