I have heard of this story for several years, and thought this would be an appropriate time to post about it. From the isi forum:
What modern history texts also omit is that the contract the Pilgrims brokered with their merchant-sponsors in London specified that everything they produce go into a common store, with each member entitled to one common share. In addition, all the land they cleared and the structures they built belonged to the community.
William Bradford, Governor of the new colony, realized the futility of collectivism and abandoned the practice. Instead, Bradford assigned a plot of land to each family and permitted them to market their own crops and other products, thereby unleashing the power of free enterprise. What Bradford had wisely realized was that these industrious people had no reason to work any harder than anyone else without the motivation of personal incentive.
Thus, what can only be called the Pilgrims’ attempt at socialism ended like all other attempts at socialism — in failure. What Bradford subsequently wrote about the experiment should be in every American history textbook. The lesson provided therein is invaluable.
"The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s and other ancients applauded by some of later times; that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. 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 the young men, that were most able and fit for labour and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense."
And what happened after collectivism was replaced by capitalism and the concept of private property?
"This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content."
The Pilgrims soon found they had more food than they could eat, so they set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians. The profits they realized allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants in London. The success and prosperity of the original Plymouth settlement attracted more European settlers, setting off what came to be known as the "Great Puritan Migration."
Considering that in this year our government is seeking to provide health care reform and to put all of us (the politicians, of course, will be excluded) in the same common pool, I thought that this story is worth telling. This is nothing but a man-made disaster waiting for us and our children. If not, then I will be extremely surprised since this would be the first government run social program that works without fail.
But everyone, really, have a Happy Thanksgiving!