Thanksgiving: An Economics Lesson

Thanksgiving: An Economics Lesson

November 24th, 2010

Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson, FloydReports.com

Every   fall in my Econ 101 course, during the last class period  before we  part  for Thanksgiving, I share a lesson from early American  history.  It is  particularly timely, because it deals with those we  credit with  the  first American Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims of Plymouth  Colony.

Upon   arriving in New England, the Pilgrims shared “their meat,  drink,   apparel and all provisions” in common. As inevitably happens  under   collective ownership, the incentive to work disappeared. The grim   result  was food shortages, hunger, starvation; indeed, half of those   who  sailed on the Mayflower perished.

With  the colony’s  survival in question, the survivors reintroduced  the  principle of  private property. Each family was assigned a plot of  land.  They  adopted the apostle Paul’s dictum, “if any would not work,  neither   should he eat” (II Thessalonians 3:10). Thereafter, food  production   soared and the Pilgrims prospered.

The  political-economic lesson  here is obvious, and I won’t belabor  it.  Instead, let’s consider  another important lesson imparted by this   historical episode: We  humans need to be challenged.

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