Did you know that the Pilgrims were among the first Americans to demonstrate the value of property (one’s labor, skills, possessions, etc.)? In Plymouth Colony, food and supplies were initially shared and allocated among colonists in a communal system of farming and food distribution, which resulted in a lack of incentive to work and less overall productivity. With the colony on the verge of starvation, Governor William Bradford let the Pilgrims farm their own land, for their own families. This system led to increased farming. (A similar system had been applied successfully in Jamestown, Virginia.) This shift to an individualized, family-focused economic system increased productivity and benefited the colony. Bradford describes this early economic shift in Plymouth in his Journal, History of Plymouth Settlement. He writes:
“The failure of this experiment in communal service, which was tried for several years, and by good and honest men, proves the emptiness of the theory of Plato and other ancients, applauded by some of later times, –that the taking away of private property, and the possession of it in community, by a commonwealth, would make a state happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For in this instance, community of property (so far as it went) was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment which would have been to the general benefit and comfort. … Let none argue that this is due to human failing, rather than to this communistic plan of life in itself. I answer, seeing that all men have this failing in them, that God in His wisdom saw another plan of life was fitter for them.”
Source: Kamrath, Angela E. The Miracle of America: The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United Sates of America for a People of Every Belief, Second Edition. Houston, TX: American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.