An excerpt from Thomas More’s book “Utopia”

Here are selected excerpts from Thomas More’s book Utopia, written in the early 16th Century and later translated to English by H.V.S. Ogden, pages 80-82 in Book II:

Is not a government unjust and ungrateful that squanders rich rewards on noblemen (as they are called), goldsmiths, and others that do not work but live only by flattery or by catering to useless pleasures? And is it just for a government to ignore the welfare of farmers, charcoal burners, servants, drivers, and blacksmiths, without whom the commonwealth could not exist at all? After their best years have been consumed by labor and they are worn out by age and sickness, they are still penniless, and the thankless state, unmindful of their many great services, rewards them with nothing but a miserable death. Furthermore the rich constantly try to whittle away something from the pitiful wages of the poor by private fraud and even by public laws. To pay so little to men who deserve the best from the state is in itself unjust, yet it is made “just” legally by passing a law.

So when I weigh in mind all the other states which flourish today, so help me God, I can discover nothing but a conspiracy of the rich, who pursue their own aggrandizement under the name and title of the Commonwealth. They devise ways and means to keep safely what they have unjustly acquired, and to buy up the toil and labor of the poor as cheaply as possible and oppress them. When these schemes of the rich become established by the government, which is meant to protect the poor as well as the rich, then they are law. With insatiable greed these wicked men divide among themselves the goods which would have been enough for all.

[…]

If that one monster pride, the first and foremost of all evils, did not forbid it, the whole world would doubtless have adopted the laws of the Utopians long before this […]. Pride measures her prosperity not by her own goods but by others’ wants. Pride would not deign to be a goddess, if there were no inferiors she could rule and triumph over. Her happiness shines brightly only in comparison to others’ misery, and their poverty binds them and hurts them the more as her wealth is displayed. Pride is the infernal serpent that steals into the hearts of men, thwarting and holding them back from choosing the better way of life.

Pride is far too deeply rooted in men’s hearts to be easily torn out. […]

 

It’s a very short read, and while the “utopia” described doesn’t resonate with my heart’s fantasies, nor was it necessarily More’s ideal but instead a useful alternative with which to compare and contrast his own society (under King Henry VIII). It’s eye-opening to learn that credit, gambling, and greedy, self-serving leadership was in high fashion in the 1500s just as it remains today.  Kinda depressing actually that we the masses haven’t wised up much, if any.

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