Private Enterprise Regained


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NOTE: This is an article found in Essays On Liberty (Foundation for Economic Education) republished under permission printed in the front of the book.
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Private Enterprise Regained
By: Henry Hazlitt
HENRY HAZLITT is Associate Editor of Newsweek and Editor of the Freeman. Private Enterprise Regained first appeared as a column in Newsweek, June 27, 1949.

I AM indebted to Betty Knowles Hunt for sending me a column she contributed to the New Hampshire Morning Union quoting from Governor Bradford's own history of the Plymouth Bay Colony over which he presided. It is a story that deserves to be far better known, particularly in an age that has acquired a mania for socialism and communism, regards them as peculiarly "progressive" and entirely new, and is sure that they represent "the wave of the future." Most of us have forgotten that when the Pilgrim Fathers landed on the shores of Massachusetts they established a Communist system. Out of their common product and storehouse they set up a system of rationing, though it came to "but a quarter of a pound of bread a day to each person." Even when harvest came, "it arose to but a little." A vicious circle seemed to set in. The people complained that they were too weak from want of food to tend the crops as they should. Deeply religious though they were, they took to stealing from each other. "So as it well appeared," writes Governor Bradford, "that famine must still insue the next year allso, if not some way prevented." So the colonists, he continues, "begane to thinke how they might raise as much corne as they could, and obtaine a beter crope than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in miserie. At length [in 1623] after much debate of things, the Gov. (with the advise of the cheefest amongest them) gave way that they should set corne every man for his owne perticuler, and in that regard trust to them selves . . . . And so assigned to every family a parcell of land.

A Great Success

"This had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corne was planted than other waise would have bene by any means the G o v .or any other could use, and saved him a great deallof trouble, and gave farr better contente. "The women now wente willingly into the feild, and tooke their litle-ons with them to set corne, which before would aledg weakness, and inabilitie; whom to have compelled would have bene thought great tiranie and oppression. "The experience that was had in this commone course and condition, tried sundrie years, and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanitie of that conceite of Platos and other ancients, applauded by some of later times;-that the taking away of propertie, and bringing in communitie into a comone wealth, would make them happy and florishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this comunitie (so farr as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much imployment that would have been to their benefite and comforte. "For the yong-men that were most able and fitte for labour and service did repine that they should spend their time and streingth to worke for other mens wives and children, with out any recompense. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in devission of victails and cloaths, than he that was weake and not able to doe a quarter the other could; this was thought injuestice . . . . "And for men's wives to be commanded to doe servise for other men, as dressing their meate, washing their cloaths, etc., they deemd it a kind of slaverie, neither could many husbands well brooke it . . . . "By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plentie, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoysing of the harts of many, for which they blessed God. And the effect of their particuler [private] planting was well seene, for all had, one way and other, pretty well to bring the year aboute, and some of the abler sorte and more industrious had to spare, and sell to others, so as any generall wante or famine hath not been amongest them since to this day." The moral is too obvious to need elaboration.

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NOTE: This is an article found in Essays On Liberty (Foundation for Economic Education) republished under permission printed in the front of the book.

EDITORS NOTE (from front of book): These essays on liberty were originally published as separate releases by the Foundation for Economic Education. They are still available in pamphlet or single-sheet form. Samples and prices will be furnished on request.
A brief biography of each author may be found on pages 293 to 297. Permission is hereby granted to reprint these essays in whole or in part. Copyright 1952


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