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William Bradford "Of Plymouth Plantation" (November 20th, 2023)

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Tomorrow, we celebrate Thanksgiving, a uniquely American holiday, where we gather with family and friends, enjoy their company, eat a massive feast together, watch some football, and as the name of the day implies, give thanks for God's fruitful bounty that He has blessed us with.

For me, thanksgiving is a time of reflection. I reflect on my life and remember lost family members and friends, where I came from, and remember fun times and great fellowship. It is also a great time for all of us to take stock, of who we are, where we are in life, what our goals and dreams are, and ask God for strength and wisdom.  

Another guy who took stock of his situation was William Bradford, who was the governor of the colony of pilgrims that formed around Plymouth Rock starting in 1620.

Survival and food production was the first goal of the pilgrims in that colony, and the pilgrims adopted a policy that they called "farming in common," which means that they farmed the land together and shared the food equally.  The idea sounded good at the time but was a massive failure. Those pilgrims who were more determined and worked harder became angry at those who didn't, and quickly the seeds of resentment and dissention were sowed.

After three years of dysfunction, bickering, near starvation, and the loss of nearly half the colony, William Bradford took stock.

Bradford came to the conclusion that the problem was the absence of private property. Bradford wrote in his journal that later became the book titled "Of Plymouth Plantation," that he "Assigned to every family a parcel of land, for their present use. This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, and much more corn was planted than otherwise would have by any means."  

Bradford wrote that those who favored the communal property approach lied to themselves into thinking that they were "Wiser than God." He drew up a map and gave each family a plot of land to call its own. Food production increased by a factor of five in the first year. Bradford summed it up by writing "Each family, attempting to better its standing in the community, increased the hours worked on each plot."


And thus, 150 years before Adam Smith wrote "The Wealth of Nations," William Bradford demonstrated that the foundation of America, would be, and will always be, individual incentive, hard work, and the value of private property.

So when Hillary Clinton says "It takes a village," when Barak Obama says "We can shape for the better through collective effort," when Joe Biden says, "we must advance economic equity," and when Klaus Schwab says, "you will own nothing and be happy," think back to William Bradford's leadership and vision in the 1620's, because the entrepreneurial spirit is God given, and it lives in the heart of all men yearning to be free. And just like the pilgrims, our survival as a nation depends on it.

Free market capitalism has lifted up and freed more men than any other economic system in human history, and because of William Bradford's leadership, our framers' vision and wisdom, and the belief and diligence of generations of patriots, that gift is ours to keep, nurture, and bequeath- and that's something to really be thankful for. 

Happy Thanksgiving!  

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