My research brief this week looks at the history behind the first Thanksgiving. It almost never happened, because the Pilgrims were dedicated to communal living, sharing the work and sharing the wealth.

The problem is, this socialist dream utopia — instituted by a highly moral citizenry, no less — incentivized shirking. In two years, half the settlers had starved and there was no end to the famine in sight.

It was in sheer desperation that their leaders decided to let families own and farm their own land.

Imagine being so desperate that you leave a utopian worldview and adopt the best way possible forward. It’s no wonder that Gov. William Bradford would write about it by chiding the vanity all the utopian thinkers going all the way back to Plato and the ancients:

The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s and other ancients applauded by some of later times; that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God.