Monday, July 20, 2009

Utopia (2). Sir Thomas More.

1516. Trans. Peter K. Marshall. New York: Washington Square Press. 1965.

Why read it? Sir Thomas More wrote his fictional account of Utopia to demonstrate that the cure for all social evil—poverty, oppression, violence, cruelty, exploitation—is in abolishing private property. Eliminate private property, he said, and you eliminate social subordination and all of the evils that accompany it. And he describes Utopia as a place where private property has been eliminated.

Sample ideas and quotes:

The State of England in Thomas More’s Time:

“…practically all princes…take greater delight in spending their time on military pursuits than on the good arts of peace…are much more concerned how to get new kingdoms for themselves, by fair means or foul, than to administer well what they already have.” p. 8.

“…he began loudly to sing the praises of that stern justice which was then being used in England against thieves, who, he said, were strung up everywhere, sometimes twenty on one gallows…. He said he was all the more puzzled, when so few escaped punishment, what evil fate produced so many robbers all over the country.” p. 10.

“…a good part of this world…seems to copy bad teachers, who more readily beat their students than educate them.” p. 10.

“For harsh and terrible punishments are inflicted upon thieves, when it would be much better to see that they had a means to earn a living…freed from the awful necessity of stealing and then being put to death.” p. 11.

“The result of a standing army is that they even have to seek out a war so as not to have unskilled soldiers, and wantonly to kill men so that…their hands or spirits may not grow dull through lack of practice.” p. 12.

“…the same lesson is shown by the Romans, the Carthaginians, the Syrians…their standing armies on various pretexts have overthrown their empires, and ravaged their country and cities.” p. 12.

“The Aristocrats are not satisfied to live in luxury and be of no use to the state…leave nothing for arable land, enclose everything for pasture…. One shepherd or attendant is enough to graze the land with cattle, although formerly many hands were needed to cultivate it so as to ensure a good harvest.” p. 14.

“Now beside this wretched poverty and need we find wanton luxury.” p. 16.

“When you allow people to be brought up in the worst possible way and their characters to be gradually corrupted from a tender age, and then punish them when they commit these crimes as men which they showed all signs of doing from their childhood on—I ask you, what else are you doing than making men thieves and then punishing them?” p. 17.

“For when a robber sees that no less a danger awaits a man condemned for theft than one convicted of homicide as well, by this single thought he is driven to murder the man he would otherwise merely have robbed.” p. 19.

“…Plato judges that states will become blessed only if philosophers become kings or kings philosophers.” p. 27.

“…I think that wherever there are private possessions, where everything is measured by money, there a state can scarcely ever be justly and successfully managed—unless you think that is justice where all the best things come to the worst men, or that is success where everything is divided among a very few.” p. 37.

To be continued.

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