I really like Johan Norberg and what he writes. I’m such a huge fan that if I was a girl and 10 years younger a poster with his face on would so be nailed to my wall. But this time he is – sadly – wrong.
He states on his homepage that the Thanksgiving tradition “is probably the only holiday that celebrates economic incentives and property rights“. Well, sure. It is true to some extent as Dr. Benjamin Powell points out in his article that Johan Norberg quotes from. But to make that to its only purpose is to widely misinterpret this American Christian tradition.
The tradition is first and foremost a strongly religious harvest tradition with religious undertones related to the Pilgrims (consisting mainly of Puritan Christians). The Puritan variant of Christianity was a form of religious fascism and definitely no political current to look up to from a classical liberal point of view.
Second, it is not a holiday for “economic incentives and property rights” as much as it is a holiday used for nation building and downplaying historical facts and real happenings. All nations need to have their foundation to stand on, and national holidays are a perfect tool to use when building the foundation for a nation. To get the citizens to gather around some certain things and values. The waving aside of historical facts is another important aspect. All countries have their own personal skeletons in their closets.
In mid-winter 1620 the English ship Mayflower landed on the North American coast, delivering 102 Puritan exiles. The original Native people of this stretch of shoreline had already been killed off. In 1614 a British expedition had landed there. When they left they took 24 Indians as slaves and left smallpox behind. Three years of plague wiped out between most of the inhabitants of the coast, destroying most villages completely.
In fact, the Puritans stole their land. On arrival, the Puritans discussed “who legally owned all land”. The Puritans embraced a line from Psalms 2:8. “Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession“. Perhaps not the strongest support to property right that is. They saw the new land as a gift to them from God, because they were Christian and the Amerindians were not. To declare God ones real estate agent is not particular “libertarian”, now is it?
Sorry Johan, but looking at the history raises a question you cannot deny: Why should anyone celebrate the survival of the earliest Puritans with a Thanksgiving Day? Certainly the Native peoples of those times had no reason to celebrate. At least it shouldn’t even be tried to be linked to capitalist and liberal believes and values, since it’s not.
Why don’t you want to celebrate and praise the Friday after Thanksgiving, the sc. Black Friday, which is the beginning of the traditional Holiday shopping season? I think you would like that one much better. I’m sure you can have your stuffed turkey even though! 🙂