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plicity. There is no notion that money is in any special sense wealth ; it is, in fact, regarded as a hindrance to the diffusion of true wealth, which is abundance.
Gold and silver in Utopia are degraded to base uses, that the citizens may never be tempted into sin by “love of gold.” Iron is prized much more highly,' for (we are told) its usefulness is greater, and “ Nature” has plainly showed her preference by making iron, like air and water and earth, accessible to all, whereas gold and silver are valued because hard to come at. The Utopian Commonwealth keeps a store of gold and silver for high political purposes, and its foreign trade in surplus produce is useful in procuring these metals for it ; but in their every-day life its citizens despise them, and make their meanest vessels of them.
Such is More's view of Wealth. His scheme of Production and Distribution is as follows. Separate occupations are allowed, but besides his and her separate occupation every man and woman must practise the one common occupation of agriculture, which is to be restored to its ancient glory. They first learn farming, and not till then may they take up one of the four or five “sciences, crafts, , and occupations ” above allowed on the island. They may be weavers, smiths, carpenters, or masons, at choice. The Syphograuntes (or Guardians) must see to it that no one is either idle or over-worked. As a rule the division of labour will be hereditary. The men will follow their fathers' crafts. The women will apply themselves to the easier handicrafts. There are to be six hours of labour a day;" three before noon, and, after two hours' interval, three again. Yet an ample supply of wealth will be furnished for all ; and no one will be without leisure for study and literature, as well as amusement. The reduction of the time of labour will seem quite possible (he says) to any one who considers how many men and women, whether ecclesiastics or nobility, are now supported by the labour of others. If these were to do their share of
Quis non videt quam longe infra ferrum sunt ? Lib. ii. 2 Artes is his general word. The section is headed De artificiis. 3 In his own day, he says, artisans worked like oxen.
4 Sex (horas) duntaxat operi deputant. Ralph Robinson's translation is less clear on this point than the original.
work, the rest would not need to exhaust themselves as they now do. If every one worked a little, and only for what is necessary and natural for men to obtain, there would be no one who need work to excess; all might be healthy, wealthy, and wise. But that will never be till private property is abolished, and, like Plato's Guardians and the early Christians, the citizens have all things in common. This is the central political change prescribed in Utopia. It differs from Plato's communism, for (1) the family and family life are preserved (the family being indeed the political unit); and on the other hand, (2) it extends, not merely to the ruling class, but to all citizens in the State. The only “lower class ” is the class of criminals who are bondsmen for their crimes. In thus, as it were, throwing open Plato's ideal to all sorts and conditions of men, Sir Thomas More was taking a step of great theoretical as well as practical importance. He was introducing into the region of political theory the notion that there was a normal standard of outward comforts below which no human being could be allowed to fall without danger and disgrace to his country.
The special economical development of this view was the work of a later time. It seems to be logically involved in every theory of communism, but, though a particular political or social theory may be generically the same as one a thousand years older, there is seldom more than a generic resemblance. The special reasons for its appearance at one particular epoch always give it a new aspect, and make its lessons appear entirely new. The communism of Sir Thomas More (like Plato's, in so far as material well-being is always subordinated to spiritual) is unlike Plato's, not only in its extent, but in its intention. To improve the condition of the poorer classes would seem to be More's first and last thought. With Plato it is a mere incident. More is impressed by the fact that in England “the sheep are devouring the men,” covetous proprietors are throwing corn lands into pasture, and throwing men out of employment for the sake of gain. Agrarian difficulties were of course present to Plato's mind; but they were less important to him than the question of political government and political power. Plato's warriors are a class by themselves, and war (except against Greeks) has its honour. The Utopians abhor war; but, when they need to fight, all are warriors, even the women. Though More, like Plato, has no love for merchants, usury, and foreign trade, he has no hatred of foreigners. It might be doubted whether it was Plato's influence that widened More's Christianity, or More's Christianity that widened his Platonism. He allows much greater room for individual enterprise and emulation, as well as much greater tolerance for differences of speculative belief, than Plato would have done, and his sympathy is wider. But, after saying that the Utopians incline most to the Christian religion, he gives one reason which is essentially in the spirit of Plato : they do so because “ Christ instituted, among his, all things common, and the same community doth remain among the rightest Christian companies”; and he gives us to understand that the people of Utopia lived a good and happy life by means of their communism and before they heard of Christianity. As Machiavelli had separated politics, so More separates social reform from the Church, though not to the same extent.
1 Like convicts in our day.
He does not assert that a mere change in the arrangements for the distribution of wealth will make and keep a people morally good, as if without moral goodness (to say nothing of science and wisdom) such a change could be either made or kept with success. He is alive to the current objections against communism, and he makes provision for the expansion of population by laying down a severe prohibition of waste land (as contrary to the “ law of nature"), though diminution of population seems to him almost as likely an event as excessive increase. But he makes clear his opinion that the moral standard is most likely to be high among a people when every citizen (and not merely a solitary individual here and there) has a high standard of living, and therewith normal, but not excessive work, wealth, and leisure. If it is impossible in our own time for a political philo
1 Utopia, bk. II. 163, 164. (Pitt Press Transl.).
sophy to leave out the economical element in the body politic without forfeiting all claim to be practicable, we owe this in some part to Sir Thomas More. His own scheme made no pretence to be practicable; it was too strongly opposed (he said) by two great enemies, “ Lady Money and Princess Pride,” one feature of the latter being that she measures her own wealth by the misery of others. He does not attempt (like Plato in the Laws) to show what legislation would make the new State practicable. Good men need few laws, he says, and good States few leagues. The bond of sentiment is better than a law, and institutions once established will gain strength by entering into the customs and traditions of the people. Spontaneous institutions would thus seem to bulk more largely in Utopia than legislative creations ; but we have no clear account of the first genesis of the government of the Utopians itself. Whatever it is, it is not historical ; and a more complete contrast to Machiavelli's writings than More's it would be hard to find.
It was not by accident that the first important English work on political philosophy in modern times had laid so strong an emphasis on the economical element in States. England had gained internal peace under a strong monarchy, and, self-preservation being assured, the question of self-development became important. When the stability of government is again insecure, we find the more strictly political questions displacing the social, in the philosophy of Hobbes, though in Harrington the latter reappear, and they are never afterwards wholly forgotten.
For our present purpose, in the interval of a century that elapsed between More and Hobbes, the interest shifts from England to the Continent. Bacon, “the father of Inductive Philosophy,” gave no special attention to economic subjects, and his New Atlantis, though it touches incidentally on social reform, and its author seems frequently to have Sir Thomas More in view, is yet essentially an Ideal University rather than an Ideal Society. “Economics,” in the great treatise on the Advancement of Learning (Bk. VIII. III. init.) has its ancient sense of Domestic Economy, though it is hinted that we may use it analogically of the husbandry of the State. The economic observations of Bacon, sometimes in advance of his times—as on the whole on Usury and Colonies, (Plantations),—sometimes on a par with current prejudices (as in dislike of foreign trade),' are given in the form of aphorisms ; and we cannot speak of a philosophical treatment of the subject even in the matter of method. The Abstract or Geometrical Method and the Experimental are to him the only two possible in science. Whether he would have adopted the latter in Economics as in Physics we cannot say with certainty, for his only connected consideration of economic subjects is under the head of the Art of Government, and, even there, he takes us but a little way.
Bodin (1530-97) (in his République, 1576) does not desire, like Plato and Sir Thomas More, to found an ideal State, but, like Machiavelli, to work out the rules of a practicable political philosophy. Machiavelli however, in Bodin's opinion, gave us the wrong political philosophy. Bodin tries to do the work over again.
All the three writers are still on the old classical ground so far as they do not begin with the individual human unit, but take human society for granted. Bodin not only agrees with More and Aristotle in regarding the Family as the political unit, but, like More, he conceives the State itself as a large family, and will not distinguish politics from “æconomy” (in its old sense). A State, he says, is in principle and origin an equitable government of several families together, and of what belongs to them all jointly, though this government, as time goes on, embraces the free associations of men outside of the family, formed for example for purposes of commerce. A national characters
? See Atlantis, the essays on Riches, Seditions, Expense, True Greatness of Kingdoms, etc., and the famous passage on Enclosures near the beginning of the Life of Henry VII.
2 For an account of Bacon's economical views see W. Roscher, Zur Geschichte d. Englischen Volkswirthschaftslehre (1851), pp. 36-44. For an account of More from the economic point of view, Kautsky's Thomas More und seine “ Utopie" (Stuttgart, 1888) is of interest; it presents a full statement of the historical context of our author's writings, though Kautsky, following Marx, is too inclined to refer all historical events to economical causes.
3 An idea followed out by Montesquieu, Esprit des Lois, more than a century later.