John Stossel is out there (I heard him on Fox yesterday) with a story about the experiences of the Puritan colonists who established the basis for our Thanksgiving Holiday here in the US. I think I've heard Rush Limbaugh provide a similar account some years ago on his radio show. This is an excerpt from a recent column Stossel wrote at the link above that parrots the Limbaugh thing.
"So as it well appeared that famine must still ensue the next year also, if not some way prevented," wrote Gov. William Bradford in his diary. The colonists, he said, "began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length after much debate of things, (I) (with the advice of the chiefest among them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land."
Then Stossel jumps to the conclusion:
In other words, the people of Plymouth moved from socialism to private farming. The results were dramatic.
I do not agree with his characterization of the apparent re-organization of the small agricultural micro-economy of that time, and certainly not for the reasons he cites. If you read the words of Bradford, he said:
1. "it well appeared that famine must still ensue the next year",
2. (they) "began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could"
This could otherwise be interpreted that something happened to cause a tremendous collapse in agricultural output, and then the colonists wisely came together as a community to put together a game plan to get through this potentially lethal environment.
Systems of integrated agriculture normally involve the growing of feedstocks and husbandry of livestocks and perhaps this system had failed. This could have easily been due to non-organizational or non-distributional reasons such as disease or drought or both. It would be at that point that a rational community would come together and quickly change over to a subsistence type of agriculture when faced with the real possibility of death by starvation. That is, the normal more complicated approach would have to quickly be abandoned in favor of everybody growing a simple crop that would ensure subsistence for the community, here they apparently chose corn as the crop that could provide that sustenance with the highest probability.
Bradford continues: "they should set corn every man for his own particular", "And so assigned to every family a parcel of land". Read these words; this is a very directive course of action, the fathers of the community organized and directed a course of action to ensure survival (oh no! big government!). Additional seed corn was distributed ("they set corn for every man") and tracts of land were assigned for the families to work. There is no disclosure of any assignment of rights to private property, or any distributional issues or the political things that Stossel forces into this.
It seems to me that they were faced with the real prospect of death by famine in some months, and knew that they had to go back to a subsistence type of farming that would lead to the most amount of food in the shortest amount of time with the least risk, and the 'government' of the time directed this. End of story.
Let's continue with the historic account: "This had very good success," Bradford wrote, "for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. 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."
Think about it, to believe the Stossel and Limbaugh account, you have to believe that the Puritans only wanted to eat 'corn on the cob', this is absurd and non-insightful, and their political observations are deceptive.
Again, Happy Thanksgiving to all and let's all be thankful for the daily gifts He truly provides!