See The Pilgrims Were ... Socialists? from The New York Times. There seems to be some controversy. One story has them owning property in common and not doing well until they went with private property. Not everyone agrees with that version of history. Here is what seems to be the most interesting thing from the report:
"Historians say that the settlers in Plymouth, and their supporters in England, did indeed agree to hold their property in common — William Bradford, the governor, referred to it in his writings as the “common course.” But the plan was in the interest of realizing a profit sooner, and was only intended for the short term; historians say the Pilgrims were more like shareholders in an early corporation than subjects of socialism.
“It was directed ultimately to private profit,” said Richard Pickering, a historian of early America and the deputy director of Plimoth Plantation, a museum devoted to keeping the Pilgrims’ story alive."
So when you eat turkey tomorrow, you might really be celebrating that great American institution...the corporation. Makes me feel real patriotic.
This part was interesting too.
"The competing versions of the story note Bradford’s writings about “confusion and discontent” and accusations of “laziness” among the colonists. But Mr. Pickering said this grumbling had more to do with the fact that the Plymouth colony was bringing together settlers from all over England, at a time when most people never moved more than 10 miles from home. They spoke different dialects and had different methods of farming, and looked upon each other with great wariness."
"“One man’s laziness is another man’s industry, based on the agricultural methods they’ve learned as young people,” he said."
"Bradford did get rid of the common course — but it was in 1623, after the first Thanksgiving, and not because the system wasn’t working. The Pilgrims just didn’t like it. In the accounts of colonists, Mr. Pickering said, “there was griping and groaning.”"
"“Bachelors didn’t want to feed the wives of married men, and women don’t want to do the laundry of the bachelors,” he said.
The real reason agriculture became more profitable over the years, Mr. Pickering said, is that the Pilgrims were getting better at farming crops like corn that had been unknown to them in England."