The First Thanksgiving
400 years ago, the Pilgrims came to this country and established the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts with the grand idea of collectivism to promote unity within their society. There was to be no private ownership of land; everything was to be collectively owned. Everyone was to do their fair share of work, and the fruits of the labor were to be divided equally regardless of how hard you worked or how much you produced.
The early years in the colony were brutal with half the population dying of either starvation or disease. The collective division of labor and the fruits thereof failed to produce the basic sustenance to survive. This collectivist ideology provided no personal incentive to work hard, and no personal disincentive not to work hard. The positive and negative effects of an individual’s behavior was spread equally throughout the society, not felt personally.
With no personal consequence attached to work ethic, human nature kicked in, and people sunk to the lowest common denominator of laziness. Some people approached their work “not willingly, & others not honestly.” Production dropped off to near famine levels.
With the colony teetering on verge of starvation, Governor William Bradford “assigned to every family a parcel of land”, and that decision “made all hands very industrious.” The abundance produced was so plentiful that the people decided to have a huge feast of Thanksgiving, the first Thanksgiving.
This story is not meant solely to elucidate the dangers of socialism (which are real), but the dangers of exploitation. The lazy people in the socialist society of Plymouth exploited the diligent, getting them to do what they should have done for themselves. And when exploitation enters an economic system, it is destined to fail.
One can exploit from both positions of strength and weakness. In our incentive driven free-market capitalist system, there is a real danger that the majority of the capital will end up in the hands of a few, swinging the balance of power towards them. The tech giants who have their hands on more capital than anyone in history, are now using that power to exploit the people for their own enrichment. During the pandemic, while most of country was locked down, losing their livelihoods, struggling to make bill payments, Jeff Bezos added $70 billion to his net worth while cutting salaries and benefits of his employees who risked their health working during the pandemic.
I have often wondered how an economic system like Socialism which has the worst historical track record of devastation and death the world has ever seen, could be appealing to anyone with half a brain cell. The answer: Jeff Bezos and his ilk. The tech giants are exploiting our system and the people who have helped make them ungodly rich to become even richer.
Jeff Bezos will eventually throw $100 million at some trendy charity, and he will be praised effusively by the enlightened for his generosity of donating to charity one-tenth of one percent of the money he made off of our suffering.
I don’t begrudge billionaires for making their fortune. I believe in freedom, first and foremost. Freedom is what makes America great. Freedom created America’s unprecedented prosperity. Free markets must remain free, and free speech must remain free. Quashing freedom results in devastating poverty like we have seen in places such as Socialist-Plymouth, Venezuela and North Korea.
But I do question billionaires who take advantage of others and the system for their own interests. The tech giants just spent billions of dollars, and executed an elaborate censorship scheme with the express purpose of getting one candidate elected. Does anyone think these cutthroat businessmen who just benefitted off the suffering of others, did what they did in this election for the betterment of the average citizen or the country itself? Or did they do it expecting a substantial return on their investment? You can’t become billionaires off of free markets then use your wealth to restrict the free market place of ideas.
This brings me to Nash’s Equilibrium which essentially says, “the best results come from everyone doing what’s best for themselves and the group.” In other words, work in your own self-interests without exploiting others, or weakening the system itself. Exploitation is not in your best interest because your best interest is dependent on the other people and the system you are exploiting.
Rudyard Kipling put it this way, “the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.” The pack is strongest when the individual wolves are strong, and the individual wolves are strongest when the pack is strong. You cannot sacrifice the individual for the pack nor can you sacrifice the pack for the individual. It is truly a symbiotic relationship.
Anyone who has ever been part of a championship sports team understands this. Teams must have great individual players to win, but a group of individuals rarely win. A team needs great individual players making great individual plays within the context of the team and for the team’s success more than individual glory. Phil Jackson echoed Kipling when he wrote, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” He has eleven NBA Championship rings.
Plymouth suppressed the individual for the sake of the colony, and the tech giants are undercutting the country for the sake of their individual gains. But this is not a call for the government to confiscate the wealth of the tech giants, it’s a call to people like Jeff Bezos to understand where his wealth has been derived; from the strength of this country, the strength of its people, and the strength of the system. If you weaken the very things from which your strength and wealth is generated, you are only weakening yourself. You become a locust, leaving a barren wasteland in your path, searching for the next thing to exploit.
I wonder if these tech giants comprehend all this when they are mining and selling our personal information, censoring our political speech, or tilting the election? Do they fully understand how foundational principles such as free speech, privacy, and free and fair elections are to the very system that spawn their fortunes? If they did, they would not be undermining the system, the country and the people from which their hard work and ingenuity produced their unprecedented wealth.
So, this thanksgiving, I hope all people will truly be thankful for this country, our economic system, our government, and the people itself, so we will all act in our own and in everyone else’s best interests.
Judd Garrett is a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He is a frequent contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.