Get PJ Media on your Apple

PJM Lifestyle

How Did Capitalism Create Colonies That Could Survive in the American Wilderness?

This excerpt from page 24 of Paul Johnson's A History of the American People on how to use self-interest to grow freedom.

by
PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

Bio

May 12, 2013 - 9:00 am

Glenn Reynolds’ column last week, emphasis added:

According to Virginia historian Matthew Page Andrews, “As soon as the settlers were thrown upon their own resources, and each freeman had acquired the right of owning property, the colonists quickly developed what became the distinguishing characteristic of Americans — an aptitude for all kinds of craftsmanship coupled with an innate genius for experimentation and invention.”

American exceptionalism — to the extent it remains — is not the product of some sort of genetic superiority. The settlers who made something of Jamestown after Dale’s reforms were the same ones who were bowling in the streets instead of working when he arrived.

What is exceptional about America — at least, what’s been exceptional up to now — is the extent to which individuals were allowed to keep the fruits of their own labor instead of having them seized by people in power for their own purposes. The insight behind American exceptionalism is that people work harder and better for themselves, as free people, than they do as servants for some alleged communal good.

Every week day a book excerpt, video, news story or some combination thereof to provoke spirited debate on controversial subjects. Have an idea you'd like to offer up for discussion? Email PJ Lifestyle's editor Dave Swindle: DaveSwindlePJM [@] Gmail.com

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (6)
All Comments   (6)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
The anti-capitalist stupidity and ignorance on display in these comments is shocking.

The land was just as free when they got there to start with, why didn't they prosper from the start? There was no slavery for a generation after the decade of the example, why did they prosper so long before slavery?

Why is the demarcation of failure to the point of starvation and cannibalism, and wealth and success so sharply seen turning around a "mere" change in economic policy?

"the "success" of capitalism is a chimera. "

The concentration of dumbth in this quoted comment should burn.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
There were people already living here and what might have happened to them? Mostly killed off by disease and warfare. Free land will almost always bring prosperity.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
There might've been a little slavery in there folks.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
It was often indentured servitude. If you did not have the money to invest, you indentured yourself for seven years, to pay for your passage to America. After seven years, you were paid up and could go carve out your own bit of land. It was rough, but well worth it, if you came from some place where you had no opportunity for land, land being the foundation of wealth.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
And it was often simple slavery. Since the future went that way and not the way you portray, the "success" of capitalism is a chimera.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
There's no such thing as "simple slavery." You mean "chattel slavery"?
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
View All