If you ever get the chance, do read the History Of Plymouth Plantation, the memoirs of Plymouth governor William Bradford.
The members of the Plymouth colony had arrived in the New World with a plan for collective property ownership. Reflecting the current opinion of the aristocratic class in the 1620s, their charter called for farmland to be worked communally and for the harvests to be shared.
The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice.So what happened on this Pilgrim Commie Commune? The colonists starved. Men were unwilling to work to feed someone else’s children. Women were unwilling to cook for other women’s husbands. Fields lay largely untilled and unplanted.
And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it.Famine came as soon as they ate through their provisions. After famine came plague. Half the colony died. Unlike most socialists, they learned from their mistakes, giving each person a parcel of land to tend to for themselves.
At length, after much debate of things, 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; in all other thing to go on in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number, for that endThe results were overwhelmingly beneficial. Men worked hard, even though before they had constantly pleaded illness. Fields were not only tilled and planted but also diligently harvested. Newly enterprising colonists traded thier surplus with the surrounding Indian nation and in so doing learned to plant maize, squash and pumpkin and to rotate these crops from year to year. The harvest was bountiful, and new colonists immigrated to the thriving settlement.
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 women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.The colonists threw off the statist intellectual fashions of their day. They concluded that the ancient principles of private property as recorded in the Ten Commandments were superior to the utopian speculations of Plato and his 17th-century imitators. Human nature was a fact of life, self-centered, fallen. No cadre of elite philosopher kings could change the cold facts of reality.
The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato's and other ancients applauded by some of later times; and that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young men, that were most able and fit for labor and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense.