An Intellectual Leftover From the Holiday: Why Collectivists Are Hypocrites If They Celebrated American Thanksgiving

P. Gardner Goldsmith | November 28, 2019
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We’ve heard the expected:

Don’t eat turkey on Thanksgiving, because one more turkey will require so much carbon-based energy Earth will tilt into the Climate Change Event Horizon.

Eat bugs instead. After all, it’s what all the cool social justice warriors are doing.

Don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, because it’s a vestige of Western-White-Christian-Male-Patriarchal-Culture and does honor to the genocide of indigenous people.

Celebrate Thanksgiving, but do it in a collectivist-approved way – by laying the body of a productive neighbor on the table and carving up him or his earnings to be redistributed to all the others, based on how well they’re liked by the pop media and Congress.

So much fun.

But, now that Thanksgiving is over, perhaps we can carry a message with us, keep it close to our hearts, and understand why it’s hypocritical of collectivists to sit down to any kind of feast the tradition of which was started by the Pilgrims of 17th Century Plymouth Plantation, in Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The reason is because Thanksgiving literally was a feast to thank God for giving the Pilgrims the wisdom to turn away from collectivism and embrace private property and free trade, and it is a lesson in how economics and individualist ethics walk hand-in-hand.

In order to understand how important free markets are to the Thanksgiving story, we get to travel back to 17th Century Holland, where the Calvinist Pilgrims moved to escape religious differences with both Catholics and other Protestants in England. Despite that period’s dominance by the Anglican Church, which reassured many Brits that their nation would not be influenced by the Catholic hegemony in Rome, the Calvinists not only did not believe the Anglican Church was “pure” enough, the British government had, since the 1500s, established numerous laws that persecuted non-Anglicans.

And Holland had gained its independence from Spain in the first decade of the 1600s, which led cities like Amsterdam and Leiden to become meccas of free trade and freedom of religious practice. As a result, in 1608, a group of approximately 100 Puritans called Pilgrims left England to resettle in the promising land of Holland.

Why is this important? For two reasons.

First, although the Pilgrims prospered in Holland, many of the adults began to feel unsettled about their children becoming too “Dutch”, and this led them to search for another home.

They chose the “New World” – America.

But often overlooked in the history of Thanksgiving is the importance of economic freedom to allow the Pilgrims to get to America in the first place.

This is because a trip to America was expensive, and even though the Pilgrims had done financially well for a few years, they still needed additional leveraged capital to pay for a ship and provisions. Hence, they turned to those evil “capitalists” that collectivist demonize today. And only through the "rich" who had built up capital did they acquire investors.

So the first lesson about Thanksgiving is that the Pilgrims could not have traveled to America if it weren’t for free market capitalism and if it weren’t for the so-called “wealthy” who had enough extra capital to invest. If the “rich” had been taxed at higher rates, the leverageable capital the Pilgrims needed would not have been available.

Bye-bye, Thanksgiving.

The next lesson about freedom and Thanksgiving is derived from the mistake the Pilgrims made when they set-up Plimouth (original spelling) Plantation in November of 1620, and the manner in which they corrected their error.

Arriving at Massachusetts Bay in November of that year, the Pilgrims initial living and work arrangements were based on what Governor William Bradford wrote in his notes as the “Platonic Ideal” of communal property.

As Bradford recorded in his notes:

The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato's and other ancients applauded by some of later times; that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God.

Which turned out to be an utter disaster.

For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young men, that were most able and fit for labour and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labours and victuals, clothes, etc., with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them. And for men's wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it.

Indeed, the idea of “equality of outcome” was tried in 1620, and led to deprivation and mass starvation.

Upon the point all being to have alike, and all to do alike, they thought themselves in the like condition, and one as good as another; and so, if it did not cut off those relations that God hath set amongst men, yet it did at least much diminish and take off the mutual respects that should be preserved amongst them. And would have been worse if they had been men of another condition. Let none object this is men's corruption, and nothing to the course itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in His wisdom saw another course fitter for them.

And that course, was, of course, private property. Bradford wrote in 1623:

At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to go on in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number, for that end, only for present use (but made no division for inheritance) and ranged all boys and youth under some family. This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.

The Pilgrims’ turn to private property ownership and to keeping the fruits of one’s labor was so successful and led to such bounty, they held a feast and were capable of inviting neighboring Native Americans to join them.

And they called it Thanksgiving.

So if you talk to a collectivist about what they did over Thanksgiving, ask that person if he or she celebrated individualist ethics and free market capitalism.

And if they didn’t, if they give you some half-baked answer about “getting together with family and giving thanks for all the blessings in their lives”, ask them why the Pilgrims celebrated in the first place, and tell them about the important lesson those Puritans learned.

It’s true. It’s history. And it’s more important than ever in contemporary America that we keep it as an intellectual “leftover” to share with as many people as possible.