Grateful for a Capitalist Thanksgiving

The United States is the greatest economic engine in the history of humanity. But it didn’t start like that. The early settlers tried socialism and socialism failed. If you have enough to eat this Thanksgiving, you should be grateful for the capitalist economic system that produced it. Whole Foods founder John Mackey has called capitalism “the greatest thing humanity has ever done.” He produced the first Thanksgiving.

This is how Jerry Bowyer explained it in Forbes, back in 2008, in an article titled “Lessons from a Capitalist Thanksgiving”:

The members of the Plymouth Colony had arrived in the New World with a plan of collective property. Reflecting the current opinion of the aristocratic class in the 1620s, its statutes required that farmland be worked communally and that crops be shared.

It didn’t work. It has never worked. There wasn’t enough to eat. The famine was followed by the plague. Half of the colony died. However, unlike today’s socialists, the settlers learned from their mistakes and changed from a socialist economy to a capitalist one, where land was private property.

The results were abundant! A century and a half before Adam Smith, colonists adopted the simple advice of the author of “The Wealth of Nations”: specialize to increase production and then exchange your surplus. Their food production skyrocketed. The settlers traded with the surrounding Indians, who also taught them how to plant other crops. The newcomers saw the production capacity of the capitalist model and wanted to participate, so they moved. They wanted to live in a capitalist country.

But before that, where did the colonists get their erroneous socialist ideas? Well, just like today, aristocratic intellectuals told them that socialism was the best system. It wasn’t then, it isn’t now and it never will be. After their primitive socialism failed, the colonists told their “better” to “fill in” – to use a Turkish term – and granted private property to each person.

Squanto is an extraordinary Thanksgiving story. He was kidnapped as a slave in the New World, but was miraculously bought at auction by Spanish priests and sent to England. He bought his way back to the New World and discovered that his village had been devastated by a plague. Legend has it that he walked into Plymouth Colony and asked in perfect English, “Hello English people, do you have any beer?”

William Bradford was the governor of Plymouth Colony. This is what he said about the socialism of the early Pilgrims: “In adopting the communal system we thought we were wiser than God.” That’s true for socialists today. They think they are so smart that they can plan an economic system. Nobody is as smart as all of us. But the socialists keep trying, with disastrous results.

From the kings of the Old Testament to the Romans in the New Testament; from William Bradford in Plymouth to Robert Owen in Indiana in 1824; from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels to Vladimir Lenin; from Fidel Castro to Hugo Chávez; from Jeremy Corbyn in Britain to Bernie Sanders in the US Senate… they are all trying be godjust like Adam and Eve tried.

What everyone discovers, sadly, is that if you eat the apple, you get more poor. If you consider it private property in a capitalist system, your fellow humans will find creative ways to increase their production and be hardworking and fruitful. The economy is multiplying and everyone has more to be grateful for.

To celebrate all this capitalist success, in October 1621, Governor Bradford called a three-day festival, inviting 90 Indians to join the 50 pilgrims. This holiday, which included moments of thanksgiving to God, as well as sporting competitions, food, and fellowship, is commonly celebrated as the first Thanksgiving in the United States. So if you celebrate with a prayer of thanksgiving, followed by soccer games and eating with your neighbors, you are recreating this beloved capitalist tradition.

And Squanto would appreciate it if you had a beer in his honor.

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