Sunday, November 05, 2006

Those communist Christians

I came across an interesting passage in Edmund Janes Carpenter's "The Mayflower Pilgrims" tonight:
In the spring of 1763, so great had become the discontent over the strict communistic system, after much debate "the governor gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular and in that regard trust to themselves."

Each family was assigned a parcel of land for planting, and all went to work with renewed interest and diligence. This plan met with great success, so that even the women of the families went into the cornfields to help with the planting and hoeing, taking their little children along with them, that they might care for them while they themselves worked. All this was done eagerly and willingly, although before this to have compelled these women to perform such tasks would have been regarded as tyranny and oppression.
Perhaps rather than "communistic," the original economic organization of the Plymoth Colony should properly be called "communitarian." But the effects were the same. Each family worked and put their food into a common pot, and each family drew from that common pot what was needed to sustain them all equally. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." Result: equality of starvation as the food supplies ran out each year.

The author, who is writing a history rather than an economic treatise, does not comment particularly on the change from communitarianism to what we might call private enterprise, but the results speak for themselves. Once the change was made (it actually took 3 years to complete) lack was never again seen in the colony and it immediately began to grow, breaking within 7 years into a number of prosperous little cities with the ability to feed not only themselves but such immigrants as joined them until the newcomers could get on their feet.

These Christians, being members of the very same church, having gone through years of persecution together, and having given up every earthly treasure they owned for freedom, had as much desire to share with the group and care for one another as anyone ever did. Outlaws from their native land, if they failed they died, because there was no going back. If their numbers fell below a certain threshhold they died, because they were surrounded by stronger groups, some hostile. They truly loved and needed one another, and if there was ever a group who could make the brief biblical period in which all believers "held everything in common" live again it was they. They lived the epitome of sharing. And yet they nearly starved doing so.

This provides a wonderful object lesson to explain why communitarian socialism always results in poverty. Human nature is virtually immutable, and human nature shows that incentives work. Increase the personal incentive to produce and people produce more. What had been considered tyranny was gladly and voluntarily shouldered when the individual's family directly benefitted from the work. When production was directly rewarded, production grew, so much so that there was for the first time not only enough for all, but enough to pay off their group debt to the mercants who originally financed the Mayflower voyage.

The communist complains constantly that the desire to accumulate for one's own account is simple greed (Christian leftists are in this regard no different) often opining that greed is caused by an environment of private property ownership. Such is a strange faith, flying as it does in the face of history. In the real world, where people must work to eat, the ability to keep what one produces not only multiplies individual wealth (through the volitional assumption of more individual work) but is the only way to produce enough to feed those who can't work on their own.

The desire to give away, to share with those less fortunate, can only be brought about in a transformed heart when two things are present: enough to share and those in need. Private enterprise creates both and allows for a voluntary, "Christian" distribution from rich to poor. Socialism, when given no nearby wealth to cannibalize, eliminates the former while putting everyone equally in the camp of the latter.