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Thankful for a capitalist Thanksgiving
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Thankful for a capitalist Thanksgiving

If you celebrate the holiday with a prayer of gratitude followed by football games and food with your neighbors, you are re-enacting a cherished capitalist tradition.

America is the greatest economic engine in the history of mankind. But it didn’t start that way. The earliest colonists tried socialism, and socialism failed. If you have enough to eat this Thanksgiving, you should be thankful for the capitalist economic system that produced it. Whole Foods founder John Mackey has called capitalism “the greatest thing humanity’s ever done.” It produced the first Thanksgiving.

Here’s how Jerry Bowyer explained it in Forbes, way 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 for collective property ownership. Reflecting the current opinion of the aristocratic class in the 1620s, their charter called for farmland to be worked communally and for the harvests to be shared.

It didn’t work. It never has worked. There was not enough to eat. Famine was followed by plague. Half the colony died. Unlike socialists today, however, the colonists learned from their mistakes and changed from a socialist to a capitalist economy, where land was owned as private property.

The results were bountiful! A century and a half before Adam Smith, the colonists adopted the “Wealth of Nations” author’s simple advice: Specialize to increase production, then trade your surplus. Their food production soared. Colonists traded with the surrounding Indians, who also taught them how to plant other crops. New arrivals saw the production capacity of the capitalist model and wanted to take part, so they moved in. They wanted to live in a capitalist country.

But before that, where did the settlers 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 “betters” to “stuff it” — to use a turkey term — and they awarded private property to each person.

Squanto is a remarkable story for Thanksgiving. He was kidnapped as a slave in the New World but was miraculously purchased from the auction block by Spanish priests and sent to England. He bought his way back to the New World to find his village had been wiped out by a plague. Legend says that he walked into Plymouth colony and asked in perfect English, “Hello, Englishmen, do you have any beer?”

William Bradford was the governor of the Plymouth colony. Here’s what he had to say about the socialism of the early Pilgrims: “By adopting the communal system we thought we were wiser than God.” That’s true of socialists today. They think they are so smart that they can plan an economic system. No one is as smart as all of us. But socialists keep trying, with disastrous results.

From the kings of the Old Testament to the Romans in the New Testament; from William Bradford at Plymouth to Robert Owen in Indiana in 1824; from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels to Vladimir Lenin; from Fidel Castro to Hugo Chavez; from Jeremy Corbyn in Great Britain to Bernie Sanders in the U.S. Senate ... all of them are trying to be God, just as Adam and Eve tried.

What they all discover, sadly, is that if you eat the apple, you get poorer. If you award it as private property in a capitalist system, your fellow humans find creative ways to increase their production and be industrious and fruitful. The economy multiplies, and everyone has more for which to be thankful.

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 feast, which included times of thanks to God as well as athletic competitions and food and fellowship, is commonly celebrated as the first Thanksgiving in America. So if you celebrate it with a prayer of thanksgiving, followed by football games and food with your neighbors, you are re-enacting this cherished capitalist tradition.

And Squanto would appreciate you having a beer in his honor.

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