If anyone ever had a shot at establishing some kind of socialist utopia, it was the Pilgrims. There were only a little over a hundred that landed, and by the end of the first winter half of them had died, so this was not a group unmanageable by sheer number. Most were of one mind in their Separatist faith, and even the "Strangers" among them knew well the religious notions of those with whom they had shipped and cast their lot. Furthermore, their contract with the "Adventurers" (i.e. investors) provided that for seven years "…all such persons as are of this colony are to have their meat, drink, apparel, and all provisions out of the common stock and goods of said colony." And they had only to open their well-thumbed King James Bible to see the example set by the first Christian "get together" in Jerusalem after the Pentecost: "All that believed were together and had all things in common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need." Acts 2:44-45. So how did it work out? We will let Gov. Bradford tell us all about it:

The experience that we 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 time; 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… Let none object this is men’s corruption, and nothing to the course itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in His wisdom saw another course fitter for them."

After the first year or so of barely avoiding starvation, they said to hell with the "Adventurer" scheme of things (well, given who they were and why they were there they probably didn’t say it quite THAT way) and they "…gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves… and so assigned to every family a parcel of land." The result? From 1621 to 1623 they went from 26 acres of crops to 184 acres, and the crisis times were over.

Gov. Bradford, a 150 years before Adam Smith would write An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, realized through bitter experience that any economic and governmental system must eventually account for man’s fallen nature, and guide his self-interest towards the common good, just as the early Christian community did as it expanded. To Bradford, the "invisible hand" Smith discoursed upon was not so invisible, and he knew quite well to whom it belonged.

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