The term “socialism” is being thrown around quite a bit these days, as those who love America’s great capitalist economy and republican form of government warn of an imminent demise. One wonders whether the term “socialism” has any meaning for those who never experienced the fear of communist or fascist global dominance—which probably represents most of the young Obama voters.
George Santayana’s aphorism, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” should serve as a sober reminder that every generation is responsible for handing down the knowledge and wisdom attained by previous generations. Those who studied the revisionist-plundered history lessons in government schools may be surprised to learn America already experimented with socialism. Out of that failed experiment emerged our free-market, capitalist economic system.
America’s first experiment with socialism wasn’t Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, nor was it Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal—although both made sweeping changes to the nation’s underlying government structure and entrapped America in the bureaucratic quagmire of collectivism. No, America’s very first experiment with redistribution of wealth occurred before America was officially a nation.
In 1620, the Puritan Pilgrims arrived in the “desolate wilderness” of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Seeking escape from religious persecution in Europe, the Puritans risked their lives crossing the Atlantic to establish a new colony in the wilds of America. The Pilgrims decided that their new community would practice collectivism (socialism). All labor was communal, with men raising crops for all families, not just their own, and women engaged in domestic chores for their neighbors.
The Pilgrims’ Governor, William Bradford, described the folly of embracing the theory of collectivism:
“The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s and other ancients applauded by some 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.
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