Our founding fathers recognized that life is not fair. Most people today do not realize that until the nineteenth century, the vast majority of Europeans lived in grinding poverty with the constant specter of starvation and disease always before them. This condition was largely due to the fact that almost all the land and resources were owned and controlled by the Crown (the government) and a relatively few wealthy aristocrats. The little property that commoners owned was heavily taxed and the resulting income redistributed in whatever way the government wished.
It is a little known fact that the first American colonies, Jamestown (1608) and Plymouth (1620) were founded on socialist principles of communal property and work. The initial Jamestown colony was a commercial enterprise financed by the Virginia Company, a subsidiary of the London Company, which had been granted ownership via a charter given by King James I. The settlers were considered to be employees who were expected to work for the common good in order to benefit the Company. As a result, the initial colony was communal with no private ownership of land. Within three years, it became painfully evident that individuals had no incentive to prosper when the fruit of their labors was redistributed to those who did not want to work. Faced with the imminent failure of the colony, Deputy-Governor Dale in 1611 gave each Jamestown colonist three acres and made them responsible for their own survival. Each future colonist was given one acre.
The Mayflower venture was financed by the Plymouth Company (a subsidiary of the London Company). As in Jamestown, the colonists were considered Company employees who labored upon land owned by the Company. Once more, the colony did not prosper. Then, in 1623, under the leadership of Governor Bradford the Plymouth community gave each colonist one acre and instituted a free enterprise system largely based upon corn exchange.
Although both colonies continued to suffer deaths from disease and at Jamestown from warfare with the Indians, once they owned the land and were able to enjoy the fruits of their labor, the colonies immediately began to flourish. America quickly became one of the few places in the world where hunger was not a constant threat. Over the next century and a half, free enterprise and individual responsibility for their own prosperity, allowed Americans to become the healthiest and wealthiest people on the earth. The European soldiers that ravaged American holdings during the Revolutionary War (1775 – 1783) were amazed at the general wealth, health and stature of the colonists and were amazed at the lack of beggars and what today we might consider the downtrodden or oppressed. They were stunned at the size of the average American house and property holdings. Many of them were so impressed that they elected to stay in America after the War was concluded.
Our founding fathers were just as concerned about the poor and the disadvantaged as are we. But, they observed that government programs that take from the more prosperous segment of the population in order to give to the poor did not lead to prosperity. Benjamin Franklin said, “I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion about the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor is not making it easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.” Thomas Jefferson maintained that, “To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare others who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, “the guarantee to everyone of a free exercise of his industry, and the fruits acquired by it.” Samuel Adams agreed and said, “The utopian schemes of leveling (re-distribution of wealth) and a community of goods (central ownership of the means of production and distribution) are as visionary and impractical as those which vest all property with the crown. (These ideas) are arbitrary, despotic and in our government unconstitutional.” All three of these great men knew that wealth redistribution through government welfare programs leads to a population that is indolent and dependent upon government to provide what many of them will not provide for themselves. It is a well known adage that idleness leads to mischief. Perhaps because when one is given things easily, it becomes more tempting to question why someone else has more, which leads to efforts to take what someone else may have earned. When government sanctions the efforts to attain un-worked for and undeserving rewards, it encourages its denizens to ignore the laws of ownership and leads to thievery and lawlessness, such as characterized the recent Wall-Street demonstrators.
Judging from the recent elections, it seems that in spite of these warnings, about half of Americans today support President Obama and his administration’s vision of our government as the great re=distributer and leveler of wealth. George Washington ominously commented that, “Unfortunately, the nature of man is such that the experience of others is not attended to as it ought to be; we must feel ourselves before we can think or perceive the danger which threatens.” Let us hope (and pray to our merciful God) that enough of us perceive the dangerous signs of approaching tyranny that are becoming increasingly evident with this administration before we lose the means to rectify them.
Please, make a resolution that this year you are not going to continue to sit, worry and watch, but rather resolve to stand up and do something to sustain the dreams and work of freedom to which our forefathers devoted their lives and fortunes. Call, write, email, twitter or use facebook to let your local, state and federal lawmakers know your concerns. Join an organization composed of people that share them. Honor those that have risked and are risking everything in the continual struggle to have a government and society that honors and defends our inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
May God bless you all.