Thankful for the Liberty of Property

To all who value the blessings of private property and property rights: Happy Thanksgiving!

At this time of year, I, like you, turn my attention to those things for which I am thankful: family and friends, a nation that is free, secure and prospering, and especially this year, the final, final completion of yet another election cycle. I send a special “thank you” to all who worked campaigns and the polling places.

I also turn my attention to those first “Thanksgivings” in the “new world” as our ancestors developed the first settlements in America. One settlement especially comes to mind: Jamestown.

It was May 1607 when the first 104 settlers arrived from Europe and discovered a land of fertile soil and an abundance of fruits, wild game, fish, etc. Yet, within six months 66 had died.

In 1609, another 500 settlers arrived and within six months 440 of these died from disease and starvation. So bad was this period, it became known as the “starving time.”

The obvious question is: “In the midst of such abundance, how could so many die?” One witness wrote that the fault was not the “barrenness and defect of the Countrie” but in the “want of providence, industry, and government.” In other words, spiritual commitment was lacking, settlers refused hard work, and the governing authority was weak.

The main problem was that those sent – good men who had been chosen – were sent as “bonded labourers” who had no stake in what they produced. Their contract demanded that everything they produced be put into a common pool to support the colony as a collective. In other words, they founded their colony on socialism. The philosophy that everyone work according to their ability and take according to their need failed miserably because hard work held no benefit for the worker and, thus, the settlers stopped working.

Within the next two years, the Jamestown philosophy was changed. New colony leadership allocated three acres of land to each man to work. And, except for a minor “tax” of 2 ½ barrels of corn, each man was allowed to keep the produce of his labor. Of note, he also had to bear the consequences of his failure.

This lesson from history teaches us that private property ownership and capitalism worked.

Socialism failed. In fact, since Jamestown, socialism has failed everywhere it has been tried.

I personally observed socialism’s failure during my 14 years of living in Moscow, Russia. I saw how socialist communes struggled to produce food so the nation could feed itself. I saw how “the State” lost much of its produce because it could not transfer produce from the field to the market. I saw how the socialist state failed to produce anything of quality in industries such as manufacturing or housing. There was no private ownership – period. The only “bright spot” spot was when government allowed citizens to use small plots of land and keep what they produced. Those small plots produced more than the large communal farms.

A principle is to be learned here. When work unites with reward, quality, quantity, innovation, and prosperity blossom. This is the pattern for success wherever people have been given such freedom and liberty.

The antidote to socialism is private property and the right to use it.

How strange it has been for me to see so many candidates during this last election cycle openly run as socialists and, in some elections, win. The promise of benefits without work or payment is, not only short-lived, but blatantly false. A quick visit back to 1607 Jamestown might help open eyes to the lies of socialism. Better yet, a visit to one of the countries recovering from socialist, communist dictatorships would really bring home this point.
The felt desires of socialists may sound enticing and attract a following but, they are not supported by our Constitutional nor do they fulfill the intent of our Founding Fathers. On the contrary, one of them, Arthur Lee said, “The right of property is the guardian of every other right; and to deprive a people of this, is to deprive them of their liberty.”

We should all be thankful to be citizens of a free, exceptional nation where property can be owned and used to build security and prosperity. Despite its occasional flaws and the over-regulation that so weighs it down, the United States of America is the best place to live and work and enjoy Thanksgiving. The masses on our southern border seeking to come here bear witness to that.

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Dan Peterson

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