Friday, November 28, 2008

William Bradford

A quick Thanksgiving related post on this holiday week.

Like so many of history's tales, the story of Thanksgiving may have an economic explanation that differs from the story told by the history books. The history books tell us that the Pilgrims were saved from starvation after the local indians taught them how to plant corn.

But around that same time, the Governor of the Plymouth Colony, William Bradford, identified the problem as one of property rights. Initially, the colony had been formed using a system of comunal property rights. Everyone would work the fields and the harvest would be distributed according to need. Not surprisingly, this system led to several lean years.

Bradford advocated switching to a system of private property rights, where everyone would be able to keep all that they were able to grow, but were also now responsible for feeding themselves. Each family was given a parcel of land, and under the new system, the starvation problems of the previous years were gone. It was at this point that the settlers were able to feast without fear of famine hanging over their heads.

The legacy of lessons learned during the early years in the "New World" are what I'm thankful for during this holiday season.

Thanks to Benjamin Powell of the Independent Institute for the inspriation for this entry.

1 comment:

neal said...

William Bradford, the second governor of Plymouth colony elected to fill the place of the deceased John Carver, was responsible for the infant colony’s. The William Bradford was chosen Governor in his stead, and being not recovered of his illness, in which he had been near the point of death.



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