If you do a Google search for “the true story of Thanksgiving” these days, the first 25 or so examples are all about white supremacy. Whitey came along, killed all the Indians and took their stuff, so now everyone who is not white deserves reparations. The end. Fortunately, Rush Limbaugh’s explanation is still floating around out there and easy to find, even though it’s been nearly three years since we lost him.
Rush was one of the most accurate historical researchers when it came to Thanksgiving, and he understood and interpreted the “first Thanksgiving” meals—the one between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags—correctly. Thanksgiving is actually about how socialism always fails as a political system.
When the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock in New England in 1620, it was November. Winter was setting in. There was no shelter and half of them died that first winter.
The next spring, they made contact with the Indians and the Indians taught them how to plant corn, where to fish for cod, and where to find beavers to make coats and blankets out of. The Pilgrims were under contract with merchants back in England who initially established a common storehouse. Everyone who would grow food would put it all in the common storehouse, and each individual Pilgrim got one share.
It was a complete failure. It was a disaster. It was socialism in a nutshell.
A young, single man who wasn’t doing much work at all would get the same share from the communal store as a married father trying to feed his three kids. Socialism always disincentivizes hard work, because everyone gets the same pay at the end of the day. Under the original Mayflower Compact, no one could prosper. If you worked hard, all the fruits of your labor went into the communal store and were divvied up to people who didn’t work as hard.
As soon as John Bradford and the Pilgrim leadership realized that this compact—one of the earliest examples of a community attempting socialism—incentivized laziness, they scrapped it. Instead, every Pilgrim family was given their own plot of land. They could do anything they wanted with the land—build a cabin, start a business, grow crops, or whatever—and there was no more communal store. Everyone could keep the fruits of their own labor.
The end of harvest season in 1621, the result of this free-market capitalism was that the Pilgrims were able to throw a huge feast and invite the Indians who had helped them. They knew that this experiment was now going to work. They would prosper and thrive in this new land, once they jettisoned the socialism.
This is just a brief recap of the first Thanksgiving. It’s worth listening to Rush Limbaugh recount it during this last year on earth. Here’s the full version about the real meaning of Thanksgiving, delivered three months before he passed away in 2021.