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Home | Blog | The First Thanksgiving and the Birth of Free Enterprise in America

The First Thanksgiving and the Birth of Free Enterprise in America


At a time when belief in collectivism and paternalistic government is threatening to diminish even more of our shrinking freedom, we need to recall that this has all been tried before. And how it is the free individual, secure in his right to life, liberty, and honestly acquired property that is the basis of any and all the prosperity that we have in America and around the world.

At good place to start is with our Thanksgiving holiday this year. In a piece that I’ve written on “The Real Meaning of Thanksgiving: The Birth of Private Enterprise in America,” I remind our fellow Americans about the origin of this event.

The Pilgrim Fathers came to colonial America to escape religious persecution in Great Britain, but also to establish a new type of society in the wilderness. They were determined to follow Plato’s model in “The Republic,” and create a communist utopia.

It lead to economic disaster, which was only overcome through the Plymouth Colony elders admitting their error, and instead “privatizing” the colony’s property. By doing so they set loose individual initiative and market-based incentives. The result: a bounty in the wilderness rather than starvation.

It was this bounty for which they gave thanks. It was the birth of private enterprise in the New World.

America seems to be going further and further backwards to the older system of governmnent control and planning, which so many came to America to escape from in the 18th and 19th centuries.

We should not forget America’s history and legacy of freedom and free enterprise — beginning with the Pilgrim’s experience — when we sit down to enjoy our turkey dinner this Thursday. Otherwise, we may soon having nothing left to be thankful for!!

Richard Ebeling

Richard M. Ebeling is the BB&T Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Free Enterprise Leadership at The Citadel.

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