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Quotation of the Day…

… is from John Stossel’s November 25, 2014, column, “This Thanksgiving, Be Grateful for Property Rights. The Pilgrims Nearly Starved Without Them“:

People associate property rights with greed and selfishness, but they are keys to our prosperity.  Things go wrong when resources are held in common.

Before the Pilgrims were able to hold the first Thanksgiving, they nearly starved.  Although they had inherited ideas about individualism and property from the English and Dutch trading empires, they tried communism when they arrived in the New World.  They decreed that each family would get an equal share of food, no matter how much work they did.

The results were disastrous.  Gov. William Bradford wrote, “Much was stolen both by night and day.”  The same plan in Jamestown contributed to starvation, cannibalism, and death of half the population.

So Bradford decreed that families should instead farm private plots. That quickly ended the suffering. Bradford wrote that people now “went willingly into the field.”  Soon, there was so much food that the Pilgrims and Indians could celebrate Thanksgiving.

A longer treatment of this historical episode is in Yale law professor Robert Ellickson’s now-classic 1993 Yale Law Journal article “Property in Land.