It’s reasonable to assume that tea partiers, Fox News hosts and conservative bloggers look forward to today for the same reason most Americans do: the turkey (or tofurkey, depending on your preference) and the football (or cable TV marathons, depending on your preference.)
But those folks also look forward to Thanksgiving for another reason that it’s equally reasonable to imagine most Americans don’t: the celebration of capitalism’s final victory over communist-leaning Pilgrims.
“Sadly, few Americans know the real story of the early colonists,” FreedomWorks’ Julie Borowski wrote yesterday. “For evidence of the failures of communism, we do not need to look to disastrous experiments in foreign lands. In fact, the Plymouth Plantation is one of the most apparent examples of the failures of collectivism.”
FreedomWorks is, of course, a leading tea party organization headed by Dick Armey. But tea partiers aren’t the only ones saying that by breaking bread together on that first Thanksgiving, the early American colonists were really breaking the back of socialism.John Stossel, noted sayer of “give me a break” and Fox News host, went on the air Wednesday afternoon to lay out the conservative story of the first Thanksgiving.
In an accompanying post on the Fox News website, Stossel explains that “had today’s political class been in power” on that first Thanksgiving Day, today would be “called ‘Starvation Day’ instead of Thanksgiving.”
Here’s how Stossel and the tea partiers break it down:
The Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony organized their farm economy along communal lines. The goal was to share the work and produce equally.
That’s why they nearly all starved.
According to the narrative, it wasn’t until a more capitalist structure was imposed that things really started to work. From Borowski’s FreedomWorks post:
In 1661 and 1662, the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians did share two meals together. But it wasn’t until the “miracle of 1663” that they celebrated a bountiful feast like we do today. As Governor William Bradford wrote that year, “instead of famine now God gave them plenty.” This was the year that Bradford switched to a more capitalist system.
In short, Borowski writes, “private property saved the Pilgrims.”
Sounds great. Pass the cranberry sauce and the supply-and-demand dogma and let’s do this thing.
Trouble is, the Times reports, the conservative Thanksgiving tale is not exactly true. At all. From the paper:
Historians say that the settlers in Plymouth, and their supporters in England, did indeed agree to hold their property in common — William Bradford, the governor, referred to it in his writings as the “common course.” But the plan was in the interest of realizing a profit sooner, and was only intended for the short term; historians say the Pilgrims were more like shareholders in an early corporation than subjects of socialism.
Whatever the political leanings of the Pilgrims in that system, a historian tells the Times, “the arrangement did not produce famine.”
Oh and one more thing: “Bradford did get rid of the common course — but it was in 1623, after the first Thanksgiving, and not because the system wasn’t working,” the paper reports. “The Pilgrims just didn’t like it.”
Watch Stossel tell the conservative story of the first Thanksgiving below: