It’s one of the ironies of American history that when

It’s one of the ironies of American history that when the Pilgrims first arrived at Plymouth Rock, they promptly set about creating a communal society in which all shared equally in the produce of their land. As a result, the Pilgrims were soon starving to death.
Fortunately, “after much debate of things,” Governor William Bradford ended the corn commons, decreeing that each family should keep the corn that it produced. In one of the most insightful statements of political economy ever written, Bradford described the results of the new and old systems.
[Ending the corn commons] had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.
The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s and other ancients applauded by some of later times; that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young men, that were most able and fit for labour and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labours and victuals, clothes, etc., with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them. And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it. Upon the point all being to have alike, and all to do alike, they thought themselves in the like condition, and one as good as another; and so, if it did not cut off those relations that God hath set amongst men, yet it did at least much diminish and take off the mutual respects that should be preserved amongst them. And would have been worse if they had been men of another condition. Let none object this is men’s corruption, and nothing to the course itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in His wisdom saw another course fitter for them.
a. Imagine yourself a pilgrim, under the communal (commons) system. If you worked hard all day in the fields, would that increase your share of the food by a lot or a little? Describe the incentive to work under the communal system.
b. Under this system, what type of good was the pilgrims’ harvest?
c. According to Bradford, the communal system “retarded much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.” Why would the communal system reduce something that would have been to the pilgrims’ benefit? How would you describe this using the tools of economics?
d. According to Bradford what happened to the amount of food produced and the amount of labor after the communal system was abolished and workers got to keep a larger share of what they produced?
e. Read Bradford’s statement carefully. What other effects did the communal system create?

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