In October, conservative radio icon Rush Limbaugh — who announced his lung cancer diagnosis in February — told his audience that there was “some progression” of his cancer and that his diagnosis was terminal.
“It’s tough to realize that the days where I do not think I’m under a death sentence are over,” Limbaugh said, according to Fox News.
“We all know that we’re going to die at some point, but when you have a terminal disease diagnosis that has a time frame to it, then that puts a different psychological and even physical awareness to it.”
Thus, 2020 could be the final time he tells what’s best known among Limbaugh listeners as “the true story of Thanksgiving.”
Told every year by the radio host, it picks up after where the history books leave the traditional narrative.
In 1620, the Pilgrims arrived in what’s now Massachusetts from Holland, where they had been living after fleeing England due to religious persecution. They got here too late to grow crops and lived in incredible privation during the winter of 1620-21. They were approached by Native Americans, one of whom (Squanto) knew how to speak English. The Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to grow food, the Pilgrims had a big celebration, and everyone was happy until historical revisionism came along.
The assumption is that, corner turned, the Pilgrims were able to live happily ever after.
That’s not the case, Limbaugh noted. He spelled it out in his first book, “The Way Things Ought to Be,” from which he quoted liberally (pun unintended) as part of his yearly tradition.
“Now, here’s the part that has been omitted. The original contract the Pilgrims entered into in Holland — they had sponsors. They didn’t have the money to do this trip on their own. They had sponsors,” Limbaugh said on his show.
“There were merchant sponsors in London and in Holland. And these merchant sponsors demanded that everything that the Pilgrims produced in the New World would go into a common store, a single bank, if you will. And that each member of the Pilgrim community was entitled to one share.”
This may remind you of philosophies of governance in vogue at the moment.
As Limbaugh noted, “everybody had an equal share of whatever was in that bank. All of the land they cleared, all of the houses they built belonged to that bank, to the community as well. And they were going to distribute it equally, because they were gonna be fair.
“So all of the land that they cleared and all the houses they built belonged to everybody. Belonged to the community. Belonged to the bank, belonged to the common store. Nobody owned anything. They just had an equal share in it. It was a commune.
“The Pilgrims established a commune, essentially. Forerunner of the communes we saw in the ’60s and ’70s out in California. They even had their own organic vegetables, by the way. Yep. The Pilgrims, forerunners of organic vegetables. Of course, what else could there be? No such thing as processed anything back then.”
William Bradford, governor of the colony, realized the disadvantages of the system. He jettisoned the plan and replaced it with individual incentives.
“He assigned a plot of land to each family,” Limbaugh said. “Every family was given a plot of land. They could work it, manage it however they wanted to. If they just wanted to sit on it, get fat, dumb, happy and lazy, they could. If they wanted to develop it, if they wanted to grow corn, whatever on it, they could. If they wanted to build on it, they could do that. If they wanted to turn it into a quasi-business, they could do whatever they wanted to do with it.
“He turned loose the power of the capitalist marketplace. Long before Karl Marx was even born. Long before Karl Marx was a sperm cell in his father’s dreams, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism, and they found that it didn’t work. Now, it wasn’t called that then. But that’s exactly what it was.
“Everybody was given an equal share. You know what happened? Nobody did anything. There was no incentive. Nothing worked. Nothing happened.”
He quoted from his book (or, as Limbaugh might say, his tome): “What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else, unless they could utilize the power of personal motivation!
“But while most of the rest of the world has been experimenting with socialism for well over a hundred years — trying to refine it, perfect it and reinvent it — the Pilgrims decided early on to scrap it permanently. What Bradford wrote about this social experiment should be in every schoolchild’s history lesson. If it were, we might prevent much needless suffering.”
Limbaugh quoted the governor’s own assessment of personal incentives.
“This had very good success,” he wrote, “for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.”
And that’s the real story of Thanksgiving, since the Pilgrims only started setting up trading posts with the Native Americans and thriving after the socialist plan was jettisoned.
“It was not the Indians that brought them in prosperity,” Limbaugh said.
“It’s not said to insult anybody. The Indians assisted in their arrival undeniably. But what led to prosperity for these original settlers was the common store failed. Socialism didn’t work.”
Limbaugh has been sharing this story for decades now, but 2020’s edition is especially poignant to him for another reason besides the sudden encroachment of mortality for him.
“This is crucially important today, because we have just elected a Democrat Party that is going to implement socialism if they win these two seats in Georgia, and they’re gonna try regardless,” he said, pointing to that state’s Jan. 5 runoff election.
“But if they win those two seats in Georgia, you can say goodbye to the United States as you know it. It will become a socialist state.”
No matter what happens in Georgia or whether that ends up being a turning point in the encroachment of Democrat-enacted socialism, one hopes Limbaugh will be around to tell “the true story of Thanksgiving” for years to come.
With that unlikely to be the case, however, it’s a lesson worth remembering. It’s what Barack Obama might have called a “teachable moment.”
There’s no time like the holidays to remind your friends and family that incentive is the motive power that drives human innovation and prosperity.
Without it, all the agricultural assistance in the world couldn’t have saved the Pilgrims.