17 3 mins 9 yrs

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.

More politically incorrect history can be found here and here.

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  1. Well observed Mr Moore.

    Having lived in a voluntary socialist community (albeit a Jewish or Khazarian one) it was still recognised that some people pulled more than their weight and a few, less.
    Which is why on one kibbutz they were keen for me to become a member. (Like Paul Mc Mahon I give 110%)

    But here you go back to the Biblical debate between socialism and capitalism. IMO the Old and New Testaments recognise free enterprise and doing/giving as you wish with what is yours.
    Just because a bunch of people escaped from Europe seeking freedom from religious persecution does not mean that

    a) they all had farming skills
    b) they were all hard workers
    c) they all had survival skills (apart from the very basic ones!)
    d) they had mobile phones to call home for advice.

    I seem to remember there were a number of colonies which failed for one reason or another.
    I’m sure Mahons will know. 🙂

  2. Hah!

    And if you had ANY integrity you would be fighting for the rights of the original inhabitants whose land you and your ilk stole through war and deceit.
    I would have thought your ancestors experience with the English “oppressor” in Ireland would have taught you that..

  3. Agreed Phantom,
    and I haven’t forgotten wnere your roots lie either!
    That was just a(nother) dig at Mahons. Yet the fact remains that the land was taken from the Red man, but it’s not half as well remembered as the evil and scurrilous behaviour of the English in Ireland.
    Why is that d’ye think?

  4. No bout a doubt it.

    This land – as was many lands – was stolen, by conquest.

  5. Exactly.
    And I don’t have a problem with that. It’s what men do. But that same understanding should apply to England too.

  6. I doubt very much if the problems were entirely or even in the main due to ‘socialism’ – it would have been the entire gamut of new experiences in a hostile and totally unforgiving and unfamiliar territory that was bound to cause some serious crises in the first few years and decades, regardless of which economic ideology they espoused.

  7. No no Colm. It is just a coincidence here that the truth chimes nicely with Pete’s own ideological prejudice. It’s a happy coincidence, nothing more.

  8. Petr Tarasov –

    There’s no coincidence about it, and Colm’s wacko theory about it being perfectly natural is redundant.

    In essence we have the opportunity to observe communism vs capitalism and markets in almost laboratory conditions, and the data is unequivocal: communism kills and liberty makes for abundance.

    To see this and argue otherwise is weird, conspiratorial behaviour.

  9. Correction mein herr

    Capitalism, as regulated with the lightest effective hand, makes for abundance. That’s what you meant to say.

    See: US, Canada, Europe, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Australia / NZ, every rich country that makes / invents things and which provides services to others.

  10. Pete

    My theory isn’t wacko. It is factual and common sense. It is the truth.

    PS – I agree with Phantom.

  11. Phantom –

    We’re talking Jamestown and Plymouth in the early 17th-Century, not the modern regulatory state.

    Colm –

    It’s your opinion, based only on your opinion. I’ll rest my argument primary sources.

  12. Of course it’s my opinion and based only on my opinion. That’s all that matters to me 😉

  13. Pete – You are using secondary sources selectively quoting from primary sources, not the same thing.

    By the way, Karl Marx had not yet been born in 1620.

  14. Mahons –

    What do you think I am, a lawyer? I have a copy of the primary source. People interested in real history like these things.

    And Marx was not the first Marxist.

  15. “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”.

    So they abandoned the idea of communal land and instead redistributed it to the individual in the first anarcho syndicalist experiment?

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