Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Spreading the wealth

I love contrasting the Jamestown and Plymouth Plantation settlements while teaching. There were important differences. The Heritage Foundation's Insider reminds us during this season of remembering the first Thanksgiving that spreading the wealth didn't work then and won't work now:

William Bradford, governor of Plymouth, wrote in his journal that the experience taught him: “the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s and other ancients applauded by men 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.”
Further the authors at the Insider write:
But after a three-year experiment, it was clear the system was failing miserably. Everyone was equal, but the Pilgrims took little comfort in the fact they were starving to death equally.
In this season of bailing out businesess that ought to be allowed to sink or swim on their own we have a congress that is hell bent on ensuring that we all 'starve to death equally' during the time set aside for feasting. Enjoy that turkey and trimmings. It might be much harder to come by next year.


Unknown said...

Kay, forgive me for not following, but what are you saying here? Is it your view that a policy of spreading the wealth around caused either Plymouth of Jamestown (or both) to collapse? If so, can you say which one and what makes you feel that way?

Kay Brooks said...

Are you familiar with the history of both settlements? Did you follow the links?

N.S. Allen said...

This is just silly. There's little to no connection between a colonial program in which all property was held in common and divided equally as part of a poorly developed, often struggling, and primarily agricultural settlement and government bailouts for huge corporations on which our modern, national, industrial and post-industrial economy depends.

Truth be told, even attempts to compare the Plymouth program to actual socialism would be a stretch. The historical conditions are too dramatically different for meaningful comparison, and it's just silly to pretend that we could set the two beside each other without intricate explanation of the origins, details, and circumstances of each, noting both their (vast) differences and their (relatively scant) similarities.

One ought to remember that the origins of "socialism" are strongly connected to the French Revolution - which took place years after the close of the American Revolution. In Plymouth's days, Adam Smith hadn't even been born, let alone any of the earliest socialist thinkers, the most significant of which were born around the publication of Smith's Wealth of Nations. (Smith was in his fifties when the work was first published.)

So, pretending that we can make comparisons directly between Plymouth's program and today's bailouts is certainly even more ridiculous. It's taking two drastically different programs, from two drastically different times, in two drastically different economies, applied by two drastically different governments and saying, hey, we should apply the lessons of the one to the other!

Frankly, it's a gross abuse of history, a result either of intellectual dishonesty or of an incredibly blinkered view of world events.

Unknown said...

Kay, sorry for the delayed response. Yes, I'm familiar with the history of the settlements and have ancestors who were a part of it. I have studied the history, read charters of the patent companies who used the wealth of England to grant free passage, land and recurring shipments of food. So I'm very curious how you concluded the colonies died because of a policy of "spreading the wealth around." I have not read N.S. Allen's comment above. I do see in the first paragraph them challenge your assertion as well. I'll take a read, but I can't wait to read your take.

What I find equally troubling is you taking a history lesson from the press release of a right wing organization in Washignton, D.C. Do you honestly share that kind of stuff with your students, or do you stick with the lesson plans approved by parents?

Kay Brooks said...

A press release from a left wing organization would be acceptable?

I've learned the history from other sources. The Heritage Foundation press release was just the impetus for this blog post and contained some good quotes.

My point being that when men work for themselves and their families they are much more inclined to work hard and succeed. When they work for only works when they're willing partners in the effort (kibbutzim and Act 2 come to mind).

The government taxing people to bailout any industry does not make taxpayers willing partners. This plan will fail. Taxpayers will resent having to work for someone the government decides is more worthy of the money. They will lose heart. Production will fall. Our general welfare will also suffer.

Historical conditions may be different but the human spirit remains the same.