Communal Property and Private Property of Piligrims

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 ​Once upon a time, while negotiating with English businessmen and investors, the pilgrims initially wanted private ownership of the wealth that they would produce. More specifically, after the seven-year agreement period between the colonists and the investors, the houses and land or plots that would be built and tilled by the colonists would be exempt from the division of wealth. However, the investors drove a hard bargain and insisted on making the wealth a common wealth, for fear of being unable to collect their dues if they allowed the pilgrims to privately own wealth. This is because the pilgrims would be more than 3,000 miles away on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Thus, the pilgrims’ emissaries, John Carver and Robert Cushman, had no choice but to accept the investors’ terms of common wealth. The pilgrims felt exploited, but they had little choice and little say in the matter.

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​Tom Bethell uses the words “communal property” and “private property”. From the word itself, a private property means a property is owned by an individual, or privately owned. Examples of these would be the houses each citizen owns, things that belong to us individually, and basically spaces wherein the authority lies within a single person or group. A communal property is similar to shared property, wherein ownership is divided amongst individuals or groups. An example would be a house that’s split into different roommates or housemates. Another example would be the communal restroom that is used in dormitories and is shared by dormers from different rooms. Another example would be a company that has different shareholders and stakeholders.

​As mentioned earlier, the Englishmen feared that if they agreed to the pilgrims’ terms of private ownership, they would be unable to collect their dues from the pilgrims. This is because if the wealth is privatized, there’s fear that they won’t be able to collect what they need to collect. This is reinforced by the fact that the pilgrims are thousands of miles away on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, so it’s very easy to not put in the work to pay off the debts.

​Henceforth, in 1623 with the agreed structure in place, the state of Plymouth was dire. The colonizers numbered at around 150, and they were barely able to feed themselves, as what little they managed to produced was shipped off in cargos towards their investors in England. There was dissatisfaction amongst the pilgrims and there was danger of the experiment failing just like how Jamestown failed many years earlier. Historians suggested that there was conflict between the pilgrims and the investors because of how exploitative the agreements were. However, it is revealed by the colony’s governor William Bradford that the conflicts were actually amongst the pilgrims themselves.

​This is where the free-rider problem comes into play. Because of the communal ownership made as the setup and system in Plymouth, not everyone was putting in the fair share of work because the wealth was divided equally. Some slacked off and were content with still being able to acquire their fair share of wealth while putting in minimal work and effort. Eventually, the colony decided to put up a family system, putting colonizers into family units, such that each individual would be incentivized to put in more work, as the wealth would go into them and their immediate family unit members. From there, they would eventually prosper.

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