We have much for which to be thankful, not the least of which is living in what is arguably the greatest nation on earth. Our national greatness has risen in proportion to our commitment to individual liberty.
It wasn’t always so. When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock they didn’t come with visions of private property rights dancing in their heads. Everything — the land, the work, the crops, everything — was held communally. Everyone was expected to work hard and receive only what they truly needed
Not surprisingly, the Plymouth experiment was a disaster. The colony’s governor, William Bradford, noted that “Community of property was found to breed much confusion and discontent.” No one had an incentive to work, so no one produced, and everyone was miserable.
(Winston Churchill, more than two centuries later, would reach the same conclusion: “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy. Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”)
Remember: the pilgrims at Plymouth were a small group of people who shared common values, cared for each other, and had willingly joined philosophically to the colony’s arrangements. It’s just that socialism fails in practice whenever it is tried; sometimes it limps along, but ultimately the results are always the same.
The colony abandoned its “communal” life lest they die-off completely. Bradford wrote that colony leaders divided the land among the families and “allowed each man to plant corn for his own household, and to trust to themselves for that.”
As a result, “It made all hands very industrious, so that much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could devise, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better satisfaction.”
Private property rights and a free market did what socialism could not. Labor was naturally divided, not politically imposed, with everyone doing what they could do best to their own benefit – and thereby increasing the productivity and happiness of the colony as a whole.
The very first days of the American experience demonstrated what world history has shown repeatedly: socialism fails, and fails miserably. Responsibly exercising our God-given liberty, and not being shackled to government planners, is what has produced the bounty we enjoy.
Let us never forget that individual liberty is in the 21st Century, as it was in the 17th, a necessary and integral component for our general prosperity.