Much comment on the news that the first colonial settlers in North America, at Jamestown, Virginia, resorted to cannibalism in 1609-10. The BBC piece misses the point, citing attacks by the “indigenous Indian population”. The problem was an economic one in the catastrophic decision by the settlers to hold everything “in common”.
Less than half of them survived that first winter and more perished in the following year. Following this, “The Starving Time”, communism was abandoned and the survivors began to flourish.
Not for the first time, the communist error was repeated, this time at Plymouth during the winter of 1620-21. Again, the winter is hard and a half of the settlers die. Many of them were parasites, relying on others to do the hard work while knowing they would be fed. Remind you of anything?
The communist system was such a failure that William Bradford, the colony’s governor, wrote that they “began to think again”. The result was that: “The Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves”.
The outcome was magnificent: “This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content.”
The settlers started with a contrived system designed to give the fruits of someone’s labour to someone else. Disaster is therefore unavoidable. It was only when property rights and free markets were adopted instead that recovery began. At least they did think again. The incredible thing is that humanity keeps on returning to the putrid philosophy that almost killed them all.