America, a country that became the world's superpower through the engine of the free market, once dabbled with socialism. It turned out to be a failed experiment.
University of Dayton history professor Larry Schweikart relays the story in a new video by Prager University, explaining that the colonists in the 1600's established a system he describes as an "ideal socialist commune" in Jamestown and Plymouth. In Jamestown, the colonists established a storehouse where people only took the grain they needed and nobody held private property. Though they generally shared the same ideology and were a tight-knit commmunity — seemingly the ideal situation for socialism to work — the results were abysmal.
"As the colonists learned, when everyone is entitled to everything, no one is responsible for anything," Schweikart said. "The colonist who started his workday early or stayed late received the same provision of food as the colonist who showed up late, went home early or didn't work at all. After about two years, the settlement was reduced to eating shoelaces and rats. Half of them died of starvation."
Captain John Smith took matters into his hands and declared, "He who won't work, won't eat!" Colonists were also allowed to own private property, and with the socialist commune replaced with a free-market system, the colony was saved from the decaying rot of socialism.
It was the same story in the Plymouth colony–they started with a socialist commune that rather quickly had to be replaced with a capitalist system that produced a bountiful harvest. That's what resulted in the turkey-stuffed holiday known as Thanksgiving.
Since the failed socialist communes of the early colonies, the founders learned to adopt an economic system based on sound free-market principles and private property rights that led to the innovation and ingenuity that facilitated America's rise as a superpower.
"It was the wisdom of experience, not academic ideology, that created America's free market principles," Schweikart said.