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What Jamestown gave us


Yesterday, in the Wall Street Journal, Mark Yost wrote that the British settlement of Jamestown "gave us three of our most important founding principles: private-property rights, representative government, and civilian control of the military."

These are wonderful gifts, but it might be more a little more accurate to say that the British people gave them to us.

Yost observes that "Jamestown also was a strictly for-profit venture. Its eventual success laid the foundation for our capitalist, entrepreneurial culture, a development that cannot be understated." This all sounds sublime, and it's a bit of a knockdown to realize that Jamestown's entrepreneurial culture was built on smoke, tobacco smoke, that is.

But seriously, it was the British people and Adam Smith who gave us this entrepreneurial gift.

What is curious is that the argument about capitalism (or against it) goes on today, after all the command economies and "workers paradises" have been shown to be hell on earth and the socialist economies see their young people unemployed and their cradle-to-grave welfare promises bankrupting them.

Some of us are slow learners. It took me years to understand the sanity and practicality of freedom and capitalism. One thing I like about Adam Smith is that he believed in an economy in which people worked freely together while treating each other with honesty and charity and good will. That was the way Adam Smith lived. No one knew about all the money he gave away until after his death.

You can read more about him in the 1776 Liberty Timeline. We got a little carried away and talked about Africa there, too.