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Sure, that sounds pedantic and dull – who needs a lesson in the value of property rights to a free and prosperous society, especially on a day when we celebrate turkey and football… oh, yeah, and family, too?
In an era when government feels more and more able to take your property and do with it whatever it wants, and when one of our two major parties is dominated progressive leftists and the president himself is a socialist, when all the currents of our society seem to be pushing us against our will toward collectivism (and collective penury), we need to be reminded of the lessons our ancestors learned about the value of private property and free markets. And yes, there’s a direct connection to Thanksgiving. First, a video from Reason.TV, via Big Government:
Reporter John Stossel takes the story of the near-tragedy and eventual salvation of the Plymouth Colony further, explaining for us the lost lesson of Thanksgiving:
What Plymouth suffered under communalism was what economists today call the tragedy of the commons. The problem has been known since ancient Greece. As Aristotle noted, “That which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it.”
If individuals can take from a common pot regardless of how much they put in it, each person has an incentive to be a free-rider, to do as little as possible and take as much as possible because what one fails to take will be taken by someone else. Soon, the pot is empty.
What private property does — as the Pilgrims discovered — is connect effort to reward, creating an incentive for people to produce far more. Then, if there’s a free market, people will trade their surpluses to others for the things they lack. Mutual exchange for mutual benefit makes the community richer.
Secure property rights are the key. When producers know their future products are safe from confiscation, they take risks and invest. But when they fear they will be deprived of the fruits of their labor, they will do as little as possible.
So there you have it, folks. When you sit down to that big turkey dinner and pass the potatoes, think back to the real lesson of Thanksgiving and give thanks for what made it possible: private property and free markets.
LINKS: Power Line quotes extensively from Professor Paul Rahe on Plymouth: America’s First Socialist Republic.
(Crossposted at Public Secrets)