Who are you giving thanks to this Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving may look like like a holiday for consumption, but it’s really a holiday for producers. It’s true. As Americans sit down to enjoy their Thanksgiving they will, hopefully, be giving thanks to all those who made their consumption possible. Themselves.
And they might reflect that America might never have even got off the ground if those early pilgrims hadn’t thrown off the system of communal property that almost starved them out of the new colony. But three years after the Mayflower arrived and overcome by a colony in starvation, Governor William Bradford reversed course and privatised Plymouth’s property – and saved the lives and fortunes of the colonists.
He was inspired by a passage from
Jean Bodin’s Six Books of a Commonweale, a work that criticized the utopianism of Plato’s Republic. In Plato’s ideal realm, private property would be abolished or curtailed and most inhabitants reduced to slavery, supervised by high-minded, ascetic guardians. Bodin said that communal property was ‘the mother of contention and discord’ and that a commonwealth based on it would perish because ‘nothing can be public where nothing is private.’
“Bradford felt that, in retrospect, his real-life experience of building a new society at Plymouth had confirmed Bodin’s judgment.”
Read the almost unknown early history of those early Pilgrims -- of how private property saved their lives and their colony, so making today’s Thanksgiving celebrations possible:
How Private Property Saved the Pilgrims, by Tom Bethell.
As the joke goes, if the early Pilgrims had shot a donkey instead of a turkey everyone today would be served up a piece of ass . Which is about what Americans would have got today if they hadn’t first short down their early communism and rescued themselves by the introduction of private property.
Thank William Bradford and Jean Bodin for that.