What is socialism?

Socialism is an economic system where private property is virtually non-existent, because everything is owned or subsidized by the community (or government), and theoretically everyone gets their “fair share” of everything produced. 

Sometimes the idea of socialism can sound tempting. After all, it’s so much fairer if everyone gets an equal portion of the wealth, right? But here’s the problem with socialism: it doesn’t work. 

I could give you a textbook example of how socialism has failed miserably, such as Marxism in the USSR, Nazism in Germany, or Maoism in China, but with Thanksgiving upon us, I thought I’d share something a little closer to home. Today I’m going to discuss the time socialism was tried right here in America by our very own Mayflower pilgrims.

Yep, that’s right. They tried it. And it came close to being their downfall… but let’s start at the beginning.

In 1620, the first batch of pilgrims landed in Plymouth. According to legend, they had a plentiful first harvest, made friends with the Indians, and had a big feast to celebrate and give thanks. The truth is, they did have a feast, but the harvest of 1621 was anything but plentiful. In fact, half of the colony died in the first year! The next year, it was the same story: poor harvest, lots of people dead. What was the problem? To find the answer, we’ll have to look through the writings of William Bradford, the first governor of Plymouth. 

In his diary, Bradford wrote about how the pilgrims shared everything in common. They planted and harvested crops together. Everyone would go to work in the communal fields, and after the harvest, everything went to the communal store. When people went to work, they worked for the community, and when they received their share, they received it from the community. The community owned everything.  

Theoretically, it sounded like a good plan. The pilgrims were just getting started in a new country. They needed to stick together and help each other out. They needed to make sure their resources were divided equally so that everyone would be able to survive, instead of some thriving while others perished with hunger.

The problem is, it didn’t really go as planned. See, everybody got their share of the harvest, regardless of how much they worked, so the people got lazy. They didn’t need to work to eat, so they didn’t. After all, somebody else would do it! Although some people did work hard, the majority took every opportunity to get out of their work. They didn’t contribute to the community, but you can bet they were on time for meals! Bradford recorded in his journal that “much was stolen [from the communal store] both by night and day.” 

We’ve all heard the maxim: “You reap what you sow.” It’s a law of nature that can’t be broken. Input determines output. Whatever we put into something determines what we get out of it. What happens when this law is broken? I can tell you: bad things. If we aren’t allowed to reap what we sow, or if we are allowed to reap without sowing, then why should we bother to sow at all? This is what happened with the pilgrims. The hard workers who were doing most of the “sowing” weren’t enjoying the full fruits of their labors, but the lazy ones were able to enjoy the fruits of the hard workers’ labors without doing any “sowing” themselves. Because of this, neither group had any incentive to work. And what happens when nobody works? Nobody eats, because there isn’t any food. Nobody reaps, because there’s nothing to reap. 

William Bradford wrote: “By the spring [of 1623], our food stores were used up and people grew weak and thin. Some swelled with hunger… So they began to think how … they might not still languish in misery.” The pilgrims came up with a new plan. 

Bradford divided the land into sections and gave each family a piece. The family would be in charge of that section, and whatever was produced would go to that family. In other words, the pilgrims rejected socialism, and turned to the concept of private property. What seemed like a small change had huge results. In the summer of 1623, more corn was planted than any year before. The harvest was plentiful! There was enough to eat. Nobody starved. Bradford wrote, “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… Any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day.”

Colony Secretary Ralph Hamor wrote, “When our people were fed out of the common store, and labored jointly together, glad was he [who] could slip from his labor, or slumber over his tasks he cared not how, nay, the most honest among them would hardly take so much true pains in a week, as now for themselves they will do in a day, neither cared they for the increase, presuming that however the harvest prospered, the general store must maintain them, so that we reaped not so much corn from the labors of thirty as now three or four do provide for themselves.”

You reap what you sow. The more you sow, the more you reap, so why not sow as much as possible? Once the pilgrims were working for themselves and their families, enjoying the fruit of their own labor, production skyrocketed! They knew they would reap what they sowed, and they knew that if they didn’t work, they’d starve. Socialism was gone, the incentive to work was back, and that made all the difference. 

The pilgrims learned the hard way that socialism doesn’t work. Lucky for us, we won’t repeat their mistakes. We’ll never even touch socialism again because we know what will happen if we do! Of course we would never do something like that!… right? 

Haha! You knew I was being sarcastic, didn’t you! The truth is, Americans have fallen victim to the utopian fantasies of socialism once again. Just take a look at the trillions of dollars that are being spent on welfare programs (kind of like a giant common store). Look at the billions of dollars the government spends in subsidies. Look at the politicians who promise us free healthcare, free college, free housing, … even free money! What happened to promises of freedom? When will we look back in history and see that socialism simply doesn’t work? 

This Thanksgiving, let’s all show a little gratitude for our freedoms that are being taken away day by day. Let’s all do our part to preserve our country from the ruin of socialism. When we all work together in defense of liberty, amazing things can happen! Use your vote to choose leaders that will reject socialism and uphold freedom. Share the message of liberty with everyone you know. It’s surprising, the difference one person can make. 

Only you can prevent socialism!