Paul Solman: It being Thanksgiving, we give today's post to Governor William Bradford of the Plymouth Colony, built by pious Protestant purists backed by profit-seeking investors.
Bradford tells the story of the tough Massachusetts winter of 1623 and how the colony barely survived, unable to raise enough food to sustain themselves. One reason he gave: the rules of the colony, as laid down by the investors, specified that the colonists should till their land in common, as was the case in the England from which they migrated.
But the colony, perhaps desperate, seems to have changed the rules in order to jack up productivity, allowing individual families to tend plots on their own, an early instance of the benefits of pursuing self-interest as opposed to communalism.
I am on record: successful economic grand strategy entails a balance between cooperation and self-interest. Extremes in one direction or the other are unsustainable. According to Governor Bradford, extreme communalism wasn't doing the job in Plymouth, Massachusetts ca. 1623. ...