Here at AVPS, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving — all good things, blessings and much to be grateful for (and pie!). Thanksgiving itself is a holiday that goes to the very roots of America — in some ways, more so that the 4th of July, simply because the ritual meal of the Pilgrims predates the Declaration by more than a century. Though Thanksgiving itself didn’t become an annual holiday until Lincoln declared it so.
The economy of the country the pilgrims inadvertently founded is now one of the most complex in the world — and intersects with all the other complex economies. But what was that original “Pilgrim economy” like? Well, you didn’t have to worry about credit fraud, derivatives, or what stock market averages were doing to your retirement accounts! The main source of “income” for the original Plymouth Colony was the fur trade (so beavers could hardly wait until it shifted to the abstractions of plastic and cash!), along with cows and other critters, and agriculture.
In the latter department, the Pilgrims picked up pointers from the Native Americans (and only later would evince that particularly odd way of paying back the favor), learning how to grow maize, beans, pumpkins and other crops. The Natives also taught the Pil
If the Pilgrims knew that margin calls, credit swaps, leveraged buyouts and offshoring existed in their descendants’ future, would they have been as thankful? grims about crop rotation, and how to use dead fish as fertilizer. Which was good, since the Pilgrims also tried to use Cape Cod’s rich fishery as a source of wealth, but found they weren’t too good at plundering the sea.
Overall, there really wasn’t much cash at Plymouth Colony (and what there was would have been coins o’ the realm anyway), so most riches were measured by how much actual, tangible “stuff” (including animals) a person possessed. Trade goods — like fur – could fluctuate in value (like money does!) so more “stable” types of wealth (no, not bonds) were often sought out, like clothes, furnishings, etc., all of which originally were imported from England.
Perhaps the trick is to look around the room and see who’s there sharing that pie, and those trimmings with you, at that moment, and take the “thanks” from there.
See you next week, with some post-Black Friday musing!