"The daily news is like the wind-whipped whitecaps on the ocean, a lot of violent froth on the surface, dangerous to surfers and small craft, but having nothing to do with the larger movement of the sea," we quoted Baron Bodissey at Gates of Vienna in our post "A lot of violent froth on the surface" last year, where we used the above image of a reproduction of the Mayflower at sea from The History Channel's "Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower.
Editorial Note: This post — first published on August 15, 2007 — on the role of Adam Smith's "invisible hand" in shaping the American character — is timelier than ever today. Cross-posted at Annie Gottlieb's Cloven Not Crested.
"I thought that this passage reflected an early-American lesson that most people in the world did not learn until late in the 20th century," writes TigerHawk of the "tragedy of the commons" experience that taught the Pilgrims -- literally on the ground -- how Adam Smith's "invisible hand" works. We're not sure that "most people" -- yes you, Hillary -- have learned that lesson to this day, but before we get to that, here's the bottom line, from the book TH is currently reading, Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War:
The fall of 1623 marked the end of Plymouth's debilitating food shortages. For the last two planting seasons, the Pilgrims had grown crops communally -- the approach first used at Jamestown and other English settlements. But as the disastrous harvest of the previous fall had shown, something drastic needed to be done to increase the annual yield.
"In April, Bradford had decided that each household should be assigned its own plot to cultivate, with the understanding that each family kept whatever it grew. The change in attitude was stunning. Families were now willing to work much harder than they had ever worked before. In previous years, the men had tended the fields while the women tended the children at home. "The women now went willingly into the field," Bradford wrote, "and took their little ones with them to set corn." The Pilgrims had stumbled on the power of capitalism. Although the fortunes of the colony still teetered precariously in the years ahead, the inhabitants never again starved.
"Is it possible that collectivism never caught on here because early American utopians such as the Pilgrims tried it and learned that it did not work?" asks the Hawkman. One can only hope, but certain members of every generation seem immune to the Pilgrims' lesson. Besides, "there is something very American about the utopian movement," as Michael Kavanagh wrote re a Beinecke Library exhibition, "No Place on Earth," which "takes as its subject the American utopian dream, as expressed by the Shakers as well as some twenty other groups across four centuries:
The New World was the land of the frontier, that clean, clear space beyond which one could remake oneself into a better human being. America itself can be seen as the biggest utopian experiment of all -- embodied in the credo of the Land of Opportunity is the promise that it is always possible to reinvent one's relationship to society, work and nature.
Attempts to "reinvent one's relationship to society, work and nature" are fine as long as the reinventors don't deny the economic logic of nature and human nature and try to impose their "vision" of "the greater good" on the rest of us. That's why "progressive" governmental interventions — like the "'universal' health-care dreams in Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and other states [see 'Arnold's Health Flop' in today's WSJ] that were unveiled to hosannas but flopped once the fine print and costs were exposed" — are best left to the states, where well-meaning if clueless Utopianators can test their fantasies on a smaller scale. As for Hillary, the Mother of all Utopianators, The Barrister at Maggie's Farm explains:
Socialism advances via invented crises to alarm the people, or to seduce the people, into foregoing the markets for goods and services.
It is a deceptive strategy designed to prey on the worst, most infantile instincts of Americans . . . Hillary goes Shrillary over socialized medicine: Gateway [be sure to click over to watch and listen in horror as the junior Senator from New York doth protest too much that her plans for a national one-payer system have nothing to do with socialism].
I have no doubt that Hillary is a socialist, whether she admits it to herself or not. Anyone who wants the State to take over the medical businesses, which are 16% of our economy, and the oil industry, which is ? % of our economy, has a good start on taking over all of it.
As we said in TigerHawk's comments:
The lesson about human nature learned in the school of hard knocks by the Pilgrims -- "It takes incentives" -- has been lost on Hillary & Company, whose "It takes a village" collectivism would destroy this shining city upon a hill from within.
Is the electorate teachable? Get Prof. Thomas Sowell on the phone.
Update: "Women like to do for their families. So do men," comments Bird Dog at Maggie's in a Monday-morning linkathon.