If you are interested in advocating for free market capitalism, it is important to know history. In this recent appearance on PJTV’s Front Page with Allen Barton, I discuss what I consider to be an interesting and illustrative episode in U.S. history: the Plymouth Colony commune. You can watch the video here.
In 1620, Pilgrims settled in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts and lived in an arrangement where all property was commonly owned. Key architects of this arrangement thought that this would “foster communion” amongst the colonists. But the opposite happened. What actually resulted was a colony where inhabitants felt resentment and envy towards one another, and were still barely able to feed themselves over a year after they arrived. You can read more about this episode, along with a similar episode regarding the settlers of Jamestown in 1607, in Tom Bethell’s The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity Through the Ages.
When thinking about why communism breeds poverty, misery, and resentment, it is worth reading (or re-reading) Ayn Rand’s “From Each According to His Ability, to Each According to His Need.” This is an excerpt from Atlas Shrugged in which a survivor describes what happened when his former employer—a once thriving automotive company—attempted to run its business according to this principle. This excerpt can also be found in Ayn Rand’s book For the New Intellectual.
Here is a passage:
Love of our brothers? That’s when we learned to hate our brothers for the first time in our lives. We began to hate them for every meal they swallowed, for every small pleasure they enjoyed, for one man’s new shirt, for another’s wife’s hat, for an outing with their family, for a paint job on their house—it was taken from us, it was paid for by our privations, our denials, our hunger. We began to spy on one another, each hoping to catch the others lying about their needs, so as to cut their ‘allowance’ at the next meeting. We began to have stool pigeons who informed on people, who reported that somebody had bootlegged a turkey to his family on some Sunday—which he’d paid for by gambling, most likely. We began to meddle into one another’s lives. We provoked family quarrels, to get somebody’s relatives thrown out. Any time we saw a man starting to go steady with a girl, we made life miserable for him. We broke-up many engagements. We didn’t want anyone to marry, we didn’t want any more dependents to feed.
The whole tale is worth re-reading.