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This time of the year, whether in good economic times or bad, is when we all gather with our family and friends and enjoy a Thanksgiving meal together. It marks a remembrance of those Pilgrim Fathers who in the old days crossed the uncharted ocean from Europe to make a new start in Plymouth, Massachusetts. What is less appreciated is that Thanksgiving also is a celebration of the birth of free enterprise in America. The English Puritans, who left Great Britain and sailed across the Atlantic on the Mayflower in 1620, were not only escaping from religious persecution in their homeland. They also wanted to turn their back on what they viewed as the materialistic and greedy corruption of the Old World. In the New World, they wanted to erect a New Jerusalem that would not only be religiously devout, but be built on a new foundation of communal sharing and social altruism. Their goal was the communism of Plato’s Republic, in which all would work and share in common, knowing neither private property nor self-interested acquisitiveness.

What resulted is recorded in the diary of Governor William Bradford, the head of the colony. The colonists collectively cleared and worked land, but they brought forth neither the bountiful harvest they hoped for, nor did it create a spirit of shared and cheerful brotherhood. The less industrious members of the colony came late to their work in the fields, and were slow and easy in their labors. Knowing that they and their families were to receive an equal share of whatever the group produced, they saw little reason to be more diligent their efforts. The harder working among the colonists became resentful that their efforts were redistributed to the more malingering colonists. Soon they, too, were coming late to work and were less energetic in the fields.

As Governor Bradford explained in his old English, though with the spelling modernized: “For the young men that were able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children, without recompense. The strong, or men of parts, had no more division of food, clothes, etc. then he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labor, and food, clothes, etc. with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignant and disrespect unto them. And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc. they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could man husbands brook it."

Because of the disincentives and resentments that spread among the population, crops were sparse and the rationed equal shares from the collective harvest were not enough to ward off starvation and death. Two years of communism in practice had left alive only a fraction of the original number of the Plymouth colonists. Realizing that another season like those that had just passed would mean the extinction of the entire community, the elders of the colony decided to try something radically different: the introduction of private property rights and the right of the individual families to keep the fruits of their own labor. Or as Governor Bradford put it: “And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number for that end. This had a very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted then otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little-ones with them to set corn, which before would a ledge weakness, and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.”

The Plymouth Colony experienced a great bounty of food. Private ownership meant that there was now a close link between work and reward. Industry became the order of the day as the men and women in each family went to the fields on their separate private farms. When the harvest time came, not only did many families produce enough for their own needs, but they had surpluses that they could freely exchange with their neighbors for mutual benefit and improvement. In Governor Bradford’s words: “By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God. And the effect of their planting was well seen, for all had, one way or other, pretty well to bring the year about, and some of the abler sort and more industrious had to spare, and sell to others, so as any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since.”

Hard experience had taught the Plymouth colonists the fallacy and error in the ideas of that since the time of the ancient Greeks had promised paradise through collectivism rather than individualism. As Governor Bradford expressed it: “The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years, and that amongst the Godly and sober men, may well convince of the vanity and conceit of Plato’s and other ancients; -- that the taking away of property, and bringing into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.”

Was this realization that communism was incompatible with human nature and the prosperity of humanity to be despaired or be a cause for guilt? Not in Governor Bradford’s eyes. It was simply a matter of accepting that altruism and collectivism were inconsistent with the nature of man, and that human institutions should reflect the reality of man’s nature if he is to prosper. Said Governor Bradford: “Let none object this is man’s corruption, and nothing to the curse itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in his wisdom saw another course fitter for them.” The desire to “spreading the wealth” and for government to plan and regulate people’s lives is as old as the utopian fantasy in Plato’s Republic. The Pilgrim Fathers tried and soon realized its bankruptcy and failure as a way for men to live together. They, instead, accepted man as he is: hardworking, productive, and innovative when allowed the liberty to follow his own interests in improving his own circumstances and that of his family.

And even more, out of his industry result the quantities of useful goods that enable men to trade to their mutual benefit. In the wilderness of the New World, the Plymouth Pilgrims had progressed from the false dream of communism to the sound realism of capitalism. At a time of economic uncertainty, it is worthwhile recalling this beginning of the American experiment and experience with freedom. This is the lesson of the First Thanksgiving. This year, when we sit around our dining table with our family and friends, let us also remember that what we are really celebrating is the birth of free men and free enterprise in that New World of America. The real meaning of Thanksgiving, in other words, is the ultimate triumph of Capitalism over the inherent failure of Collectivism in all its forms. In the early days as well as today.

Dit artikel van Richard Ebeling verscheen oorspronkelijk bij het "American Institute for Economic Research" en werd ook elders overgenomen. De auteur doceert economie aan Trinity College en was voorzitter van de "Foundation for Economic Education".

Meer teksten van deze liberale econoom op www.aier.org.


Het spreekt dan ook voor zich dat ondergetekende op Thanksgiving met vrienden een gevulde kalkoen met gravy, relish, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes en - natuurlijk - apple pie verorberd heeft, overgoten met rode wijn uit Virginia. Een heildronk op de vrijheid.

Meer foto's van dit Thanksgiving-evenement op www.facebook.com.

29 Reacties:

At 10:43 Vincent De Roeck said...

Vandaag, op de laatste donderdag van november, vieren de Amerikanen het feest van Thanksgiving waarbij ze de aankomst van de Pelgrimvaders en de eerste kolonisten in de Nieuwe Wereld herdenken en vieren. Ook in België wordt dit feest gevierd, maar dan wel uitsluitend in de Brusselse expatgemeenschap en onder pro-Amerikanen natuurlijk. De meeste gewone Belgen laat dit feest koud, als ze het al kennen. Maar zij hebben in deze echter ongelijk.

 
At 10:43 Vincent De Roeck said...
Deze reactie is verwijderd door de auteur.  
At 11:26 Anoniem said...

Een goede ondertitel zou zijn: "Hoe rechts beleid het linkse inferno van de Plymouth Colony oploste en Amerika op het goede pad zette."

 
At 11:27 Anoniem said...

Richard Ebeling stelt dat niet zozeer Gods interventie de oogst na jaren van misoogsten heeft doen lukken, maar wel dat het ersatz-communisme binnen de kolonie tot economische rampspoed leidde en dat die pas begon te floreren toen ze het kapitalisme omarmden.

 
At 11:28 Anoniem said...

Eigenlijk zouden alle liberalen, libertariërs, kapitalisten en conservatieven dit feest inderdaad moeten vieren!

 
At 11:28 Vincent De Roeck said...

Volgens hem symboliseert Thanksgiving immers veel meer dan het overleven van de Plymouth Colony door de deals met de Indianen en de interventie van de Almachtige. Ebeling stelt dat Thanksgiving de ultieme triomf van het kapitalisme op het collectivisme incarneert.

 
At 11:37 David said...

Wijn uit Virginia? Die is echt niet te drinken. Vincent, als ik jou was zou ik voor een degelijke Napa Valley ofzo uit Californië gaan.

 
At 14:44 Mark James said...

Well said my friend.

 
At 14:53 Michel said...

Ik wist dit niet. Bedankt Vince, zéér interessant artikel van die Ebeling.

 
At 14:53 Anoniem said...

Go Ron Paul!

 
At 14:55 Caroline Jackson said...

Well said indeed, James!

 
At 14:56 Anoniem said...

Go Ron Paul!

 
At 15:21 Geert Van Nauwelaerts said...

@ David

Je praat hier gewoon de cliché's na. Virginia is meer en meer als wijnregio aan het opkomen en in vele vakbladen (o.a. het Britse '''Decanter''' in augustus 2009) voor wijnliefhebbers scoren de wijnen van Virginia beter dan die van Californië.

http://www.richardleahy.com/blog/2009/07/16/states-evidence-virginia-1-california-0-says-decanters-broadbent/

 
At 16:39 Hugo said...

Ik dacht altijd dat Thanksgiving de herdenking was van de moord op de Indianen. Of toch het begin daarvan. Eerst hielpen de Indianen de kolonisten uit de brand met voedseldonaties om dan nadien door dezelfde kolonisten verdreven en uitgemoord te worden. Knap volkje, die 'christelijke' Amerikanen.

 
At 17:21 Anoniem said...

wat een pseudo intelligente professorale onzin en koude oorlog flauwekul, in NY is het gewoon een familiefeest!

 
At 17:25 Danish Dynamite said...

Die stelling van Dick Ebeling maakt sense. Hetzelfde lot is ongeveer de kibboetzim in Israel vergaan. Die konden ook alsmaar moeilijker de touwtjes aan mekaar knopen tot ze uiteindelijk het kapitalisme omarmden. Vandaag heb je in Israel tal van super-florerende kibboetzim die de deugden van de vrije markt aan die van een strak gemeenschapsgevoel hebben weten koppelen. De meer collectivistische kibboetzim vechten vandaag nog steeds voor hun voortbestaan.

 
At 18:23 Anoniem said...

"De meer collectivistische kibboetzim vechten vandaag nog steeds voor hun voortbestaan."

ALLE kibboetsen vechten voor hun overleven omdat de MOSLIMS ze overal willen leegroven, uitmoorden en afbreken. Met de steun van de VN en schurkenstaten als de EU dan nog!!

 
At 18:47 Anoniem said...

Bedoel je soms dit, Guillaume?

http://aliandshannonbelgiumlife.blogspot.com/2008/12/thanksgiving-dinner-organized-by.html

Ik was er vorig jaar met enkele Amerikaanse vrienden, maar het viel tegen. Het kostte 80 EUR per persoon en het was eigenlijk niét echt iets speciaal. Ambassade of niet, de ambassadeur of andere prominenten hebben we er niet eens gezien. Die zullen wel hun eigen feestje elders hebben.

 
At 18:51 friedrich said...

https://mises.org/story/1678
Ook het Ludwig von Mises postte vandaag het libertarische verhaal van Thanksgiving BTW.

 
At 10:32 Pip T. said...

ahahahha, triumph. Right. Thanksgiving involved the murders of hundreds (if not thousands) of natives. That's a pretty disturbing comment to make.

 
At 10:33 Nicolas Raemdonck said...

Hugo is toch weer dat typische (klein)linkse stemmetje. Bravo!

 
At 10:36 Anoniem said...

http://www.americanclubbrussels.org/Content/Documents/Document.ashx?DocId=86975

Dit is de officiële uitnodiging voor dat Thanksgiving-evenement. Het gaat uit van de American Club of Brussels, en niet van de ambassade, en vond plaats in het Sheraton op de Place Rogier te Brussel. Kostprijs was 67 EUR voor leden en 77 EUR voor de anderen.

 
At 12:25 Citizen McCain said...

Vreemd dat ik dit niet wist over Thanksgiving. Zelfs de grote Murray Rothbard heeft nochtans die situatie van de Plymouthkolonie beschreven.

http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard130.html

Bedankt, Vincent, voor het hier aandacht aan besteden.

 
At 12:26 Vincent De Roeck said...

@ Guillaume en de twee anoniemen

Ik had weet van dat diner in het Brussels Sheraton. Ik graviteer al enige tijd rond die club. Toen ik mij plots realiseerde dat we de week van Thanksgiving waren, heb ik hen gecontacteerd maar toen zat het diner al vol en konden er geen extra gasten meer intekenen. Volgend jaar op tijd aan denken, is dus de boodschap.

 
At 12:26 peter said...
Deze reactie is verwijderd door een blogbeheerder.  
At 12:28 peter said...

Ziet er wel nogal een studentikoze setting uit voor je thanksgiving-gedoe. Ben je niet een beetje te oud om nog in zulke koterijen rond te hangen eigenlijk?

 
At 13:01 Anoniem said...

The Thanksgiving Day that millions of Americans celebrate, with turkey and stuffing, is a myth.

The myth goes like this: The Pilgrims landed in 1620 and founded the Colony of New Plymouth. They had a difficult first winter, but survived with the help of the Indians. In the fall of 1621, the grateful Pilgrims held their first Thanksgiving Day and invited the Indians to a big Thanksgiving-Day feast with turkey and pumpkins. There was indeed a big feast in 1621, but it was not a Thanksgiving Day. This three-day feast was described in a letter by the colonist Edward Winslow. It was a shooting party with the Indians, but there was no Thanksgiving Day proclamation, nor any mention of a thanksgiving in 1621 in any historical record.

The history of the colony was chronicled by Governor William Bradford in his book, Of Plimouth Plantation, available at many libraries. Bradford relates how the Pilgrims set up a communist system in which they owned the land in common and would also share the harvests in common. By 1623, it became clear this system was not working out well. The colonists held a meeting to decide what to do.

As Governor Bradford describes it, "At last after much debate of things, the governor gave way that they should set corn everyman for his own particular... That had very good success for it made all hands very industrious, so much [more] corn was planted than otherwise would have been". The Pilgrims changed their economic system from communism to geoism; the land was still owned in common and could not be sold or inherited, but each family was allotted a portion, and they could keep whatever they grew. The governor "assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number for that end."

Bradford wrote that their experience taught them that communism, meaning sharing all the production, was vain and a failure:

"The experience that has had in this common course and condition, tried sundrie years, and that amongst Godly and sober men, may well evince the Vanities of the conceit of Plato's and other ancients, applauded by some of later times; that the taking away of propertie, and bringing into commone wealth, would make them happy and flourishing, as if they were wiser than God."

Their new geoist economic system was a great success. It looked like they would have an abundant harvest this time. But then, during the summer, the rains stopped, threatening the crops. The Pilgrims held a "Day of Humiliation" and prayer. The rains came and the harvest was saved. It is logical to surmise that the Pilgrims saw this as a was a sign that God blessed their new economic system, because Governor Bradford proclaimed November 29, 1623, as a Day of Thanksgiving.

This was the first proclamation of thanksgiving found in Bradford's chronicles or any other historical record. The first Thanksgiving Day was therefore in November 1623.

Much later, this first Thanksgiving Day became confused and mixed up with the shooting party with the Indians of 1621. And in the mixup, the great economics lesson was forgotten and then discarded by the time the Plymouth Colony merged with the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691.

The Pilgrims recognized that the land itself was and should be their common community property, but that it is proper for the fruits of the labor of each person and family to belong to those who produced them. This was the great economics lesson the Pilgrims learned, a lesson that so impressed them that they commemorated it every year thereafter. This should have been a day to remember their vital economics lesson, but this lesson was later forgotten in the mixup with the shooting party with the Indians!

In our Thanksgiving Day celebrations, let us therefore tell one another the true origins of the thanksgiving and the great economic lesson that it rightfully should remember. Fred Foldvary

http://www.progress.org/fold65.htm

 
At 13:05 Mike said...

Als we toch gewoon maar met links reageren, hier mijn John Stossel-bijdrage over Thanksgiving en socialisme:
http://www.theatlasphere.com/columns/071121-stossel-thanksgiving.php

 
At 13:46 Radikaal said...

@ Vincent De Roek

Gaan we deze ultra-kapitalistische propaganda elk jaar hier op ons bord krijgen? Je hebt vorig jaar al identiek hetzelfde gepost op In Flanders Fields. Een ander artikel en een andere auteur misschien, maar exact dezelfde inhoud. Dat begint hier de rechtse versie van Indymedia te worden, die verliezen zich ook in hun eigen grote gelijk en recycleren voortdurend dezelfde ideeën.

http://inflandersfields.eu/2008/11/real-thanksgiving-story-geoffrey-lea.html

 

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