We are amidst the Thanksgiving holidays once again, and time for our annual object lesson in how the concept of private property rights, the linchpin of capitalism, acts to ensure the greatest degree of prosperity for all. Tom Bethell explained it very well in his essay from early 1999 entitled “How Private Property Saved the Pilgrims”, an essay adapted from his book The Noblest Triumph. To set the stage, here are a few paragraphs from his essay:
The Pilgrims knew about the early disasters at Jamestown, but the more adventurous among them were willing to hazard the Atlantic anyway. First, however, they sent two emissaries, John Carver and Robert Cushman, from Leyden to London to seek permission to found a plantation. This was granted, but finding investors was a problem. Eventually Carver and Cushman found an investment syndicate headed by a London ironmonger named Thomas Weston. Weston and his fifty-odd investors were taking a big risk in putting up the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars in today’s money. The big losses in Jamestown had scared off most “venture capital” in London.
Eventually, however, Carver and Cushman did accept terms stipulating that at the end of seven years everything would be divided equally between investors and colonists …
The colonists hoped that the houses they built would be exempt from the division of wealth at the end of seven years; in addition, they sought two days a week in which to work on their own “particular” plots (much as collective farmers later had their own private plots in the Soviet Union). The Pilgrims would thereby avoid servitude. But the investors refused to allow these loopholes, undoubtedly worried that if the Pilgrims—three thousand miles away and beyond the reach of supervision—owned their own houses and plots, the investors would find it difficult to collect their due. How could they be sure that the faraway colonists would spend their days working for the company if they were allowed to become private owners? With such an arrangement, rational colonists would work little on “company time,” reserving their best efforts for their own gardens and houses. Such private wealth would be exempt when the shareholders were paid off. Only by insisting that all accumulated wealth was to be “common wealth,” or placed in a common pool, could the investors feel reassured that the colonists would be working to benefit everyone, including themselves.
Read the whole thing, HERE, and withhold the pumpkin pie from the kids until they read it as well.