Pilgrims, Socialism and Thanksgiving
The Pilgrim trip was funded by a group of investors who were hoping to get a return on their money. The Pilgrims were therefore contractually bound to the investor’s plan. That plan stated that the Pilgrims were to hold all things in common and equally share from the proceeds of their labor (socialism).
The early settlers of Jamestown were under the same kind of contract. I heard a great lecture from John Rolfe (okay, it was actually someone dressed up as John Rolfe) who explained it this way:
Basically, when one works hard all day and another simply strolls the grounds and puffs on his pipe, and yet they both get the same amount of food for dinner, eventually the one who works hard decides that tomorrow he will do his own strolling and puffing.
Because of this, the Jamestown settlers were starving. It was only when they apportioned private property and ate the fruit of their own labor that the colony began to thrive.
This was the same story in Plymouth not too many years later. Their leader, William Bradford, wrote of how they had to abandon the investor’s plan in order to survive, for when work and non-work both get the same reward, eventually no one will work.
Isn’t it interesting how we often times fail to learn the lessons from the past.
Socialism experiments continue today, with the same kind of results. They never really succeed.
Why do we continue to try them? For several reasons.
One, the state has a vested interest in this happening. It is the big winner in socialism. It garners great power. So, when the state grows to the point that it can force the people to increasingly give up their rights to private property and fool the others to think that they will be better off sharing equally from the corn crib, guess where the power shifts…to the officials of the state.
Two, we misunderstand the nature of man. We have bought the Maslow lie that man is basically good. If he is good, then he will obviously love to work hard and go to years and years of medical school and specialized training so that he can work 14 hour days and get one ear of corn out of the crib while his friend follows his heart to stroll and puff. And because we are all such inherently good people, after dinner we will sit around the campfire and sing kum bay ya.
Third, we misunderstand the nature of work. We believe there is something cruel and oppressive about work and so we want someone (the state) to come up with a way to allow us not to work, yet circumvent the consequences of non-work. Or, we believe that the solution to someone not working is to give them another ear of corn.
However, the reality is this:
–The state may think that socialism will satisfy its lust for power, but, in the end, it will eventually collapse under a mountain of debt or a corn crib filled with IOUs. As Margaret Thatcher once said, “socialism works until you run out of other people’s money.” Eventually, the colony begins to starve.
–Man will not enjoy working his tail off so that someone else who is not working can reap the fruit of his labor. James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers that they were establishing a government that had balances of powers because men were NOT angels.
–Work is not oppressive and cruel, but it is exactly what the poor need…not only to be able to produce their own corn, but because we were made by the Original Worker to work. We are happier and healthier when we do.
The Scriptures connect the dots for us regarding work and laziness. Here are a few: Proverbs 10:4, “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.” Proverbs 14:23, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”
In other words, we reap what we sow.
In socialism, we try to reverse those consequences. Reward the lazy, punish the diligent.
You sow, I reap.
That eventually fails.
One solution is found in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat”. This is a statement that many would view as cruel, but it is actually compassionate…for both the man himself and for the colony as a whole. Hunger is a great motivator to work and therefore produce.
When the Pilgrims returned to a biblical view and threw off the yoke of socialistic bindings, they began to prosper. And when they prospered, they held a day of Thanksgiving.
It saddens me that our nation is slipping so quickly back into this yoke. Though we have the lessons from our past and the lessons from failed experiments all around us, we seem to be asleep or in a fog.
Maybe around your Thanksgiving table this year, you can recount the lessons learned to your children so that they will not be doomed to repeat the failures of the past. Put on a Pilgrim hat or your John Rolfe outfit and tell them the story with great gusto as I heard it in Jamestown.