On Tuesday’s episode of “The Michael Knowles Show,” the host shares insights from the United States’ own history to show how communism and socialism do not work.
You have people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders and now the entire Democrat field, telling us that private property is bad, it’s wrong, we need to take away private property. In the extreme case, we need socialism and we need socialist programs. That is the line and so people feel shame for owning private property. Why do you have the right to own something if that guy on the street doesn’t have the right to own it? Why do I have the right to own my car when the bum drinking booze out of a plastic bottle on the street doesn’t own a car?
According to the radical egalitarians, there is something unfair about that. That’s an example of social injustice. Actually, though, private property is great. Private property is one of the best things ever. And shared property is not that great. We are told in this culture that private property is bad and primitive — that in an advanced society, we will give up some of our private ownership of property and then we’ll all just hold things in common, like the mythical people in the beautiful paradise that we envision before the social contract. That’s what we are being told.
Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, gave a speech at Tulane University where he said that in the beginning, we all just kept our property to ourselves and we all just did things for our self. But then when we became civilized, we realized we needed to do everything together, and we needed to surrender our ownership and we needed to just kumbayah altogether. The actual history of civilization is exactly the opposite.
Primitive tribes are not the most selfish, they don’t have the most private ownership, and they’re not the most capitalistic. Primitive tribes are the most socialistic. They don’t really have concepts of private property. When you look at primitive tribes in Papua New Guinea or in the Amazon jungle or in historical examples, they don’t really hold private property. They hold all the goods in common and their economies don’t really take off. They don’t really produce very much, and they don’t enter into a state of advanced civilization. It doesn’t grow society.
Societies only begin to advance when they develop concepts of private property and when they develop concepts of government and law to protect that private property. The reason for that is, only when you have private property, do you have any incentive to work, to produce, to till the land. This is true not just in the ancient civilizations or in the remote tribes in Papua New Guinea — this is true in American history.
When the Mayflower sailed to American in 1620, and those early Pilgrims got off the ship, they held their property in common. You know what happened? They starved. They had a very terrible first winter, they had a very terrible second winter. It was only after they started to institute capitalist reforms that they had abundance. This is well-attested to in the diaries of the governor of Plymouth, Governor Bradford. They decided instead of holding everything in common and trying to get everyone else to work for everyone else they would divvy up the property. Governor Bradford wrote that at that time when they were sharing all of the property, the young men felt that they had no reason to go out there and work for some other man’s wife to be able to eat. They would just sit at home and everyone else would do the work and then they would hopefully enjoy some of the fruits of the other person’s labor.
This is what happens in communist governments. Perhaps it starts out with good intentions — usually, it doesn’t, but let’s say that it did start out with good intentions. The trouble is in the system itself. In the system itself, if I’m just going to get the fruits of someone’s labor if we’re all going get the average, why would I ever work above the average? In fact, why would I ever work at the average amount of productivity? I’m going to try to work below the average amount of productivity so that I’m really profiting from somebody else’s labor. Because that’s much easier and there’s no difference in what I get to eat or the goods that I get to enjoy. So, Governor Bradford then divided up all the property and guess what happened? Plymouth plantation flourished and New England flourished, and America learned a very important lesson in those early years. The other side of private property is that is it is implied by natural rights and natural law.
Socialism is literally when the government takes control of the means of production and distribution in an economy. It’s when they take away private property and private ownership. What we are told is that really, it’s a higher justice. It’s human rights; they call for us to take other people’s property for ourselves. Actually, the opposite is true. Private property is a concept of the natural law and of natural rights. Our country is grounded in the idea of natural rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — which John Locke described as the pursuit of property. Why is private property implied by natural rights and natural law? It’s because it is a consequence of my liberty. I have this life that I was given, and I can act freely in it. I act freely and I work, and I occupy certain places. As a result of this, I have to be entitled to some profit for my work, my liberty. I have to be entitled to some of the fruits of my liberty and this implies private property.