This Thanksgiving, Are You Part of the One Percent?

CascadeNewLogoBy Steve Buckstein

You may not have learned this in school, but prior to the 1623 Thanksgiving celebration in the Plymouth colony it had the equivalent of a modern-day socialist economy. Land and crops were held in common; and food was distributed based on need, not on production. Able young men were often unwilling to work hard for the benefit of other men’s families.

After several disastrous harvests, each household was given its own plot of land. They could keep what they produced, or trade their crops for things they needed. Private property and a free market economy resulted in a truly bountiful harvest in 1623 and beyond.

Today, most Americans are actually rich, thanks in large part to retaining those private property and free market traditions. Perhaps not rich in relation to other Americans, but rich in relation to people around the world.

If your family earns more than $32,400 per year, you are in the top one percent of all income earners worldwide. Recently, half of all American families earned more than $51,939, and the average family earned $72,641. Even the lowest family income group by race, African Americans, had a median income over $33,000. Looked at this way, most Americans are part of the world’s one percent.

Things are far from perfect, but most of us have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Steve Buckstein is Founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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  • Nice00

    The Plymouth colony lost half of the colonists in their first winter. This was not a normal economy. It was a survival economy. To state young men were unwilling to work for the good of the colony is just a distortion of the facts.. As for stating the first harvest was disastrous is also a distortion of the facts.

    • Gardenhomeboy

      People respond to incentives. People in central China under Mao were living in a survival economy eating tree bark and shoe leather, due to and exacerbated by the economic incentives born out by Mao’s terrible policies.

  • DavidAppell

    “Our wages are too high.”

    — Donald Trump

    • Gardenhomeboy

      What a well-played non-sequitur, David.

      • DavidAppell

        Just pointing out what the neo-fascist who may be the Republican nominee has said. Seemed relevant in light of Buckman’s admission that “most Americans are actually rich…perhaps not rich in relation to other Americans,” because we all know how easy it is to skip over to Africa or India to buy groceries and clothing and a place to live, and Trump already thinks we have it too good.

        • Gardenhomeboy

          We sure do get a lot of wonderful, cheap goods and services from those nations that improve our quality of life and theirs. Sorry that cheap housing is now a pipe dream due to insanely heavy zoning and building regulations. Guess whose fault that is? Liberal and NIMBY politicians and their rich masters.

  • DavidAppell

    Steve Buckman wrote:
    “Private property and a free market economy resulted in a truly bountiful harvest in 1623 and beyond.”

    Except, of course, for all the genocide, perhaps the largest ever seen in human history.

    • MrBill

      Free markets cause genocide? I thought they caused cancer.

      • DavidAppell

        It took the genocide to get all the “private property.”

        • Gardenhomeboy

          Yep cuz every square meter of land was claimed by a native american. Lol

        • MrBill

          No one argues that the Indians were often treated badly by the Europeans, but they often treated each other badly as well (for that matter the Europeans often treated each other badly too). But the biggest killer of the Indians, by far, were the diseases the Europeans brought with them. No one at the time anticipated or intended that.

          Mass death? Yes. Genocide? No.

    • Gardenhomeboy

      Thats funny, David. Neil Degrasse Tyson points out to us that the exploration(and subsequent genocide, not his analysis but the obvious conclusion) of the New World was a government enterprise not a private one. No way could small militias with no formal military support from Britain, France, or Spain have committed such mass killing.

      “A government has a much longer horizon over which it can make investments. This is how it’s always been. And the best example, I think, is Christopher Columbus. That was not a private mission. There were some private monies in the public monies that were used, but basically the mission statement was established by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, and they said go plant the flag wherever you land. There’s hegemonistic motivation, and it wasn’t specifically military at the time, but Spain certainly had an armada to back up their land grabs. Only after that, only after Christopher Columbus comes back and says, “Here are the people that I found, here are the foods, and here are the trade winds,” only then does the Dutch East India Trading Company come in and make a buck off of it. They didn’t have to make that first investment. The risks were quantified, the cost was well understood, and the return on investment was calculable. That is a recurring model in the history of our civilization, and I don’t see any reason why that would be any different from advancing a frontier such as that in space.

      So what is SpaceX doing now? They’re bringing cargo back and forth to the space station, as should have been happening decades ago. You don’t need NASA to move cargo, you get NASA to do the things that have never been done before. And then when they do it enough and there’s a routine, then you farm it off to private enterprise, which can actually do it more efficiently than you can, and presumably make a buck for having done so.”

      • DavidAppell

        How is the government accomplishing the vast North American genocide any better?

        • Gardenhomeboy

          You make the link that private property and free markets caused the genocide or are somehow the cause. I am telling you that is a joke of the highest order.

      • DavidAppell

        Of course, SpaceX has built on decades of science and technology done by NASA, funded by the US government. Almost all this intellectual property has been made available to them for free.

      • thevillageidiot

        you started out well but the conclusion I draw from you is that like DA you strongly believe in theft by majority vote. You make an excellent case for more government. Too Bad DA dis not get that from your writing. Free markets work but we have not had that since 1913 with the creation of the Federal Reserve and the passage of the permanent income tax. All of us are walking though a fire and it is too late to turn back. Increasing police state and increasing welfare state already bankrupted the country. Elon Musk is very good at getting the taxpayers to fund his businesses from Tesla to Space X. Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origins are two privately funded “space” programs. Yes they have leveraged some technologies from the NASA program. they have also developed new ones. I suppose that TI and Intel etc were only able to invent and produce microcircuits because of government funding. and yes private property built this country. it wasn’t until the last century that the current mercantilism (crony capitalism) is the financial reality of today. It cannot exist without the use of force and special privilege granted by the government. for both you and DA the government you worship is the reason for the mal-investment and financial mess today.

        • Gardenhomeboy

          You presume a lot, Village, I am just trying to explain to David that his government fetishism is closer to the root cause of genocide and oppression than any private endeavor has been. Neil Degrasse Tyson is someone i think DA may respect. Village, do you think we should have any taxation to pay for any government service including defense or police or courts? I am a libertarian directionalist, it’s the only way to win in the current system.

    • David Clark

      Genocide in 1623!!!
      Give us a break-they were too busy trying to survive socialism.

    • myke

      Only you, David, could rain in light of all the sunshine. Happy Holiday, you beneficiary of the genocide.

    • thevillageidiot

      Sorry DA the greatest genocides are currently occurring around the world. and nobody cares. least of all those who survived the Holocaust. and they have their own agenda.

  • HBguy

    A fine repeating of the Tea Party/Libertarian Thanksgiving day story. And like the one we learned in grade school, some facts, some inferences, some twisting and told with a political purpose.

    Like the religious right who claims that because the pilgrims were a religious colony that America was founded as a Christian nation. Even though the Pilgrim settlement was not the first, or largest, or most important settlement in America.

    There is a new documentary on PBS about the pilgrim story. It’s well done and informative.

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