Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Utopia (3). 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:


“…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.

“So I think over the wise and holy customs of the Utopians, who need so few laws for government…then I compare and contrast…so many other nations, always making laws…countless laws passed every day.” p. 37.

“For where each man by fixed titles appropriates as much as he can, a few share out all the wealth and leave poverty for the rest.” p. 37.

“For the rich are greedy, wicked and useless…. So I am quite convinced that things cannot be distributed in equity and justice, nor mortals’ affairs be managed prosperously, unless private ownership is totally abolished.” p. 38.

Utopia: “The Senate has the practice of debating nothing on the first day it is proposed to them….to prevent someone from babbling the first thing that comes into his head, and then from a perverse and unnatural fear of seeming to have been short-sighted in the beginning, thinking up arguments to defend his plan rather than consulting the interests of the state, ready to damage the public good rather than his own reputation.” p. 50. [The Senate never debates any issue on the first day because someone will babble some nonsense about it and then feel he has to defend his babbling.]

Utopia: “All the men and women have one occupation in common—agriculture, in which everyone is skilled.... Besides agriculture, each man is taught one occupation as his own specialty.” p. 51.

Utopia: “Throughout the island there is only one style of clothing, except that one sex is distinguished from another and unmarried from married people by their dress.” p. 51.

Utopia: “…that as far as necessity allows, all citizens should be given as much time as possible away from bodily service for the freedom and cultivation of the mind…. There, they think, lies happiness in life.” p. 56.

Utopia: “Wives serve their husbands, children their parents, and, in short, the younger serve the older.” p. 58.

Utopia: “For they do not allow their own citizens to grow accustomed to the slaughter of animals, as they think that constant practice in this gradually destroys the kindness and gentle feeling of our souls.” p. 59.

To be continued.

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