John Stossel, the Fox Business News commentator, devoted his Creators Syndicate column the day before Thanksgiving to a little known story about how the Pilgrims tried socialism and learned a lesson still useful today:

Long before the failure of modern socialism, the earliest European settlers gave us a dramatic demonstration of the fatal flaws of collectivism. Unfortunately, few Americans today know it….

The Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony organized their farm economy along communal lines. The goal was to share the work and produce equally….

(But) total production was too meager to support the population, and famine resulted….(Then) the people of Plymouth moved from socialism to private farming. The results were dramatic….

What private property does–as the Pilgrims discovered–is connect effort to reward, creating an incentive for people to produce far more. Then, if there’s a free market, people will trade their surpluses to others for the things they lack. Mutual exchange for mutual benefit makes the community richer….When producers know their future products are safe from confiscation, they take risks and invest. But when they fear they will be deprived of the fruits of their labor, they will do as little as possible.