History lesson: Socialism almost killed the Pilgrims

Victor Joecks

Burt Folsom explains this early failure of socialism:

After arriving on the Mayflower, the Pilgrims (sometimes called separatists) decided to practice socialized agriculture. They took the available cleared land and had the whole community (of about 100 settlers) work the land and divide the profits as each family (or individual) had a need.

The result was disaster-widespread starvation occurred and only help from some nearby Indians kept the community going. As Governor William Bradford reported, without private property, the Pilgrims became lazy and selfish. Young men complained “that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak. . . .”

Next year Governor Bradford, after seeking advice from leading Pilgrims, “assigned to every family a parcel of land.” Now America had a system of private property. What happened? According to Bradford, “This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious.” The result was “much more corn was planted” and “some of the abler sort and more industrious had to spare, and sell to others; so as any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day.”

As America debates the merits of Obamacare and socialized medicine, we should remember the lesson of the pilgrims. When you take away the incentive for people to work hard and achieve, everyone is worse off.

And just because government policies (I’m looking at you, mandates and tax code) have mostly created our current health care problems, doesn’t mean the government is the solution to those problems – other than correcting its previous mistakes and getting out of the way.