John Stossel Says We Should Be Thankful for Private Property

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The Embarkation of the Pilgrims
Robert Walter Weir

The Pilgrims started out with communal property rules. When they first settled at Plymouth, they were told: "Share everything, share the work, and we'll share the harvest." The colony's contract said their new settlement was to be a "common." Everyone was to receive necessities out of the common stock. There was to be little individual property. They nearly starved and created what economists call the "tragedy of the commons." But then, after the colony's governor, William Bradford, wrote that they should "set corn every man for his own particular," they dropped the commons idea. He assigned to every family a parcel of land to treat as its own. The results were dramatic, writes John Stossel. Much more corn was planted. Instead of famine, there was plenty. Thanks to private property, they got food—and thanks to it, we have food today.

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