How Capitalism Made Thanksgiving Possible

There are many things for which to be thankful this Thanksgiving, not the least of which is free-market capitalism in America. Many folks don’t realize it, but the English Puritans who settled Plymouth, Massachusetts initially adopted a socialist system of profit sharing to provide for their material needs. Under this proposed system each man in the colony would work the farms and fields, and each would receive an equal portion of the harvest. It did not take long for Colonial Governor William Bradford to learn that this was a recipe for economic and cultural disaster.


The unintended, although predictable, consequence of such collectivism in early colonial America was starvation and economic stagnation. Since socialism gives to each man the same fruit, regardless of the level of his labor, he will invariably seek to work less. There is no incentive for him to work harder, for he knows that he will get an equal share of the harvest, regardless if another man works harder. Unfortunately for the people in Plymouth Colony, too many men did little to nothing to provide for their families and the community, and everyone suffered as a result. The first two years of de facto communism in the colony left only a fraction of the colonists alive. Realizing that the Colony would, ultimately, fail under such a system Governor Bradford decided to try economic freedom instead. The Governor instituted private property rights and free market capitalism to try and reverse the starvation that socialism had brought to his people.

Once Governor Bradford provided each family with a private portion of land, and allowed each family to keep the vast majority of the fruits of its own labor, prosperity came to the Colony. The starvation and stagnation of the first two years in the new world were reversed when freedom came flooding in. Gone were the days of the sluggards, who sought to survive off the sweat of their neighbors. In were the days of industrious self-reliance, which brought a rising tide to lift all boats. The real meaning of Thanksgiving is that the LORD of Providence provides for His people. The sub-theme, however, is that He used freedom to provide for those in need. The Apostle Paul had it right when he told the early church: “if a man will not work, he shall not eat” I, for one, believe that these words of Paul are just as inspired as the others that he preached.


May God Bless America this Thanksgiving, and may He continue to inspire us to industriousness, greatness, and goodness.


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