John Stossel on the Economic Lesson That Nearly Killed the Pilgrims

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Before the Pilgrims were able to hold the first Thanksgiving, they nearly starved. Although they had inherited ideas about individualism and property from the English and Dutch trading empires, they tried communism when they arrived in the New World. They decreed that each family would get an equal share of food, no matter how much work they did.

The results were disastrous. Gov. William Bradford wrote, "Much was stolen both by night and day." The same plan in Jamestown contributed to starvation, cannibalism, and death of half the population. So Bradford decreed that families should instead farm private plots. That quickly ended the suffering. Bradford wrote that people now "went willingly into the field." Soon, there was so much food that the Pilgrims and Indians could celebrate Thanksgiving.

There's nothing like competition and self-interest to bring out the best in people, writes John Stossel. This holiday season, give thanks for property rights and hope that your family will never have to relearn the economic lesson that nearly killed the Pilgrims.

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