We all know the picturesque Plimoth Plantation tale of celebration, thanksgiving and feasting after struggle, hard work and survival. While true in one sense, an often ignored and sinister angle emerges from history’s pages: a problem and a failed solution. A problem similar throughout the ages, a failed solution we are attempting to emulate today. Right before our eyes, the successful solution is being replaced with the failed solution!
Truly, those who forget history’s past failures are doomed to repeat them.
The problem was a struggle for survival, safety and success. The failed solution was a communal social structure. All farmed on communal lands, all gathered to communal storehouses, and all practiced communal distribution of food and clothing. All would be able to acquire what they required, and all were expected to be happy, hearty and healthy.
This was a prime example of pre-Marxian “socialism” at work, and a prime example of its miserable failure.
We know that Karl Marx was not the first “socialist.” Marx was not only influenced by many in his day, but also those of the past. Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher is said to have birthed the idea. The backers of the new colony were influenced by Plato and others of this utopia. Thus, the Plimoth Plantation people of the early 1600s were graced with this “utopic” system.
But alas, rebellion. The fledgling colony upended the system. Without change they would have died out and the traditional US Thanksgiving would never have been…at least not how we know it.
Without Governor William Bradford journaling his tantalizing tale, we would also have never known the outcome of this pre-Marx socialism. The following account is based upon the good governor’s own account.
However, in the attempt to contemporize the story for your reading enjoyment, I rewrote it. While I took literary liberties, I tried to stay true to the story content. It is written as if Bradford is speaking. If you would love to read the original account, a link will be provided at the end.
Sorry Marx, But Plymouth Tried It First
We badly needed food, but none would be coming from the old country anytime soon. We began to discuss how to raise more corn to decrease our misery. After much discussion, we decided that everyone needs to be responsible for themselves. Each family received enough land to live on. Single guys were put under the responsibility of various families.
The outcome pleased us and worked out quite well. Everyone worked hard and did their part. All helped, even the weaker went to the fields to plant corn.
Our experience of having land in common was not good, as some would say, such as the vain conceit of Plato. A community without private property did not help us grow nor did it make us happy, even though we had a godly and sober community! Those who think this is a good way must think they are wiser than God. It slowed us down and decreased our productivity that would have been for our ultimate benefit and comfort. It caused so much discontentment, discouragement and confusion.
Hard working people received the same amount of food and clothing as those who didn’t work. The younger men had to work harder than the older men, but received the same amount of food and clothing, thus they did not respect the older men. The young men didn’t think it was their duty to work for another guy’s family without pay. The wives in the community didn’t think it was their job to make meals, sew clothes and wash for single guys. The women thought it was a type of slavery. Thus, everyone thought everything was unjust and wrong.
You see, even though we all knew our serious situation and none of us thought we were better then others, it still eroded the mutual respect that should have been. If this was bad, it would have been much worse if we were people of other beliefs! One shouldn’t think we were just some sort of bad people. Rather, it comes down to the corrupt human nature. Because of this, God in his wisdom sees a much better system than the shared community that failed us.
Thank God For The Free Market
Here are some of my thoughts of this whole account.
- They tried a pre-socialist system, and it failed (much like we still see today). The first two years (1621 and 1622) were years of starvation, famine and death.
- Private property and a free market system made the colony flourish. After a couple years, they not only succeeded, but started exporting extra corn (by 1624)!
- A system of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” intrinsically fails because of our human nature.
- Even in a community with a Christian worldview made up of godly people, it still fails!
- Bradford seems to say that the welfare system is not God’s design for community!
- The reason why is that the biblical worldview assumes private property, freedom and freewill giving, not communal property, compulsion and forced redistribution.
- Even on the utilitarian view, this account powerfully shows that the socialistic model doesn’t work.
The Original Account
As noted prior, this is my rewrite of Bradford’s original journal entry.
Feel free to share this account with all! Here’s an idea, make this story a Thanksgiving tradition!
Here is a past post I wrote on this topic. Also, here were some other interesting thoughts on this story.
I have a passion to have answers for Christianity as Peter taught us to do. I would love for you to come along with me and not miss a post! In the future, I plan on giving more resources and answers you can share with both believers and unbelievers. Plus, I want to send you a Free Quick Guide why I think science points to God. I would love for you to have this Free Quick Guide and the latest posts straight to your inbox.
So, what did you think? Feel free to share your thoughts below!