Thursday, November 25, 2010

Being Thankful for the Blessings of Property

Happy Thanksgiving! During the day we pause to thank the Lord for the many blessings he has bestowed upon us, I recommend the following essays by Richard J. Maybury and Gary Galles.Both explain the economic lessons to glean from the experience of the Pilgrims and both note that the primary reason for God's blessing them with relative prosperity after years of famine and hunger was a shift away from socialism and toward private property. In their essays, both authors draw upon William Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation to get the straight scoop.

One misconception that is still with us is that the Pilgrims adopted socialism out of religious conviction. Galles notes that this is a misconception, but it is beyond the scope of his essay to provide the full historical back drop to that initial fateful economic design.

In fact, the Pilgrims did not desire to establish Christian communism. As I noted a couple of years ago in response to this essay, the Pilgrims original communal property arrangements were foisted upon them by their colonial sponsors. The sponsors did this after they learned that they would not be granted a monopoly of fishing rights in Cape Cod. The sponsors’ original agreement with the Pilgrims was such that the Pilgrims were to work for four days for the sponsoring company and then would have two days to work for themselves. The sponsors later changed their deal and told the Pilgrims that they would have to work all six days of the work week for the sponsors. At the end of seven years, the Pilgrims would be granted title to the property they worked. The Pilgrims were not happy with the change, several of them recognizing that the new arrangement would make them virtual slaves of the sponsors, but they went along with the deal because many had already made large investments toward the move and they were convinced that emigrating to the New World is what God wanted them to do.

Bradford’s establishing private property was not a repudiation of any belief they had that Christian charity requires communism. They had no intention of implementing such a system. The Pilgrims’ move to private property was, in fact, a move to a properly Christian ethic as it regards property. God blessed the Pilgrims with material plenty as they forsook their original socialist property arrangement and adopted one more in agreement with Christian ethics.

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