A Reminder That Socialism's 400-Year Experiment Keeps Failing

It was around 399 years ago that the first known experiment in socialism started at Plimouth, Massachusetts. (No, that is not a typo. That’s how they spelled it back in 1620.) This is something I’ve referenced more than once in numerous posts in the past. The linked post goes into more detail than I ever have, so it seemed appropriate create a separate post to cover the topic in more detail.

In the diary of the colony’s first governor, William Bradford, we can read about the settlers' initial arrangement: Land was held in common. Crops were brought to a common storehouse and distributed equally. For two years, every person had to work for everybody else (the community), not for themselves as individuals or families. Did they live happily ever after in this socialist utopia?

Hardly. The “common property” approach killed off about half the settlers. Governor Bradford recorded in his diary that everybody was happy to claim their equal share of production, but production only shrank. Slackers showed up late for work in the fields, and the hard workers resented it. It’s called “human nature.”

The disincentives of the socialist scheme bred impoverishment and conflict until, facing starvation and extinction, Bradford altered the system. He divided common property into private plots, and the new owners could produce what they wanted and then keep or trade it freely.

The first socialism experiment lasted only two years, brought death and poverty to the people of the colony, and proved during that first experiment that human nature was stronger than the ‘ideal’ the Pilgrims tried to live by. This was a small group, not a nation, brought together by common cause and persecution back in England. These were people of faith, isolated from the other colonies with no “outside interference” so often blamed by socialist nations that fail to achieve their “utopia”, and they couldn’t make it work.

Over the centuries, socialism has crash-landed into lamentable bits and pieces too many times to keep count – no matter what shade of it you pick: central planning, welfare statism, or government ownership of the means of production. Then some measure of free markets and private property turned the wreckage into progress. I know of no instance in history when the reverse was true – that is, when free markets and private property produced a disaster that was cured by socialism. None.

Why supposedly smart people think they can make it work when people even smarter and wiser than they are couldn’t baffles me. Whether it’s because they have never studied the history of socialism (most likely), were indoctrinated by ‘true believers’, or have chosen to ignore because the truth is inconvenient, arm-chair socialists push to do away with the capitalist system because they don’t like it, or just as likely, don’t understand it and don’t want to.

Almost 400 years of failure and yet some folks still think they can make it work. They fall under Einstein’s definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results this time.

Need I say more?