Tuesday, October 23, 2012

America's first experiment into progressivism was a failure

In "The History of Plimoth Plantation", William Bradford writes the following: (Pages 135-136) [I have chosen to stick with Bradford's actual writing. If you find the following excerpt painful, there is a translated version on the University of Chicago's website that you'll probably prefer to read]
The experience that was had in this comone course and condition, tried sundrie years, and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanitie of that conceite of Platos & other ancients, applauded by some of later times; - that ye taking away of propertie, and bringing in comunitie into a comone wealth, would make them happy and florishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this comunitie (so farr as it was) was found to breed much confusion & discontent, and retard much imploymet that would have been to their benefite and comforte. For ye yong-men that were most able and fitte for labour & service did repine that they should spend their time & streingth to worke for other mens wives and children, without any recompence. The string, or man of parts, had no more in devission of victails & cloaths, then he that was weake and not able to doe a quarter ye other could; this was thought injuestice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and [97] equalised in labours, and victails, cloaths, &c., with ye meaner & yonger sorte, thought it some indignite & disrespect unto them. And for mens wives to be commanded to doe servise for other men, as dresing their meate, washing their cloaths, &c., they deemd it a kind of slaverie, neither could many husbands well brooke it.

This is pretty clear, even though it's written in a "foreign" form of English. Redistribution was considered to be slavery and an injustice by early "Americans". (They would've been British subjects at this time) On the prior page, Bradford gives details about the result of a freer society in which individuals pursued their individual best interest:

So they begane to thinke how they might raise as much corne as they could, and obtaine a beter crope then they had done, that they might not still thus languish in miserie. At length, after much debate of things, the Gov (with ye advise of ye cheefest amongest them) gave way that they should set corne every man for this owne perticuler, and in that regard trust to them selves; in all other things to goe on in ye generall way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcell of land, according to the proportion of their number for that end, only for present use (but made no devission for inheritance), and ranged all boys and youth under some familie. This had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corne was planted then other waise would have bene by any means ye Gov or any other could use, and saved him a great deall of trouble, and gave farr better contente. The women now wente willingly into ye feild, and tooke their litle-ons with them to set corne, which before would aledg weaknes, and inabilitie; who to have compelled would have been thought great tiranie and oppression.

I bolded two things: progressivism and wealth redistribution sow discontent, while individual pursuits don't sow discontent.(at least, one is greater and one is lesser)

Even in the early 1600's, progressivism just didn't work. Unsurprisingly, progressivism doesn't work today either. The last quoted line is the pièce de résistance, in that once the people were afforded the contrast and choice between the two different models, they looked at compulsion back into collectivism as tyranny and oppression.

It is my hope to share this story for Thanksgiving this year, and I hope others will share this with their families as well. Be thankful for plenty, and be thankful you know how to get it.(and also how to squander it)

No comments:

Post a Comment