Literature Essay 2

Prompt: Why does More Present the traveler as a sensible reformer early in book 1, but not later?

In More’s Utopia, Raphael is a traveler that has seen many societies in the world. He has spent a chunk of time in the fictional society of Utopia, learning their customs.  Because of this, he has several reforms he thinks would better everyone. His ideas start out practical enough. He’s against standing armies for one. He sees them as tools used by the rulers to intimidate and overtake other nations, he uses France as an example. He’s also against thieves being killed for their crimes. He says since that’s the same punishment murderers get, it will make a thief more likely to kill rather then just steal. If they are getting the same punishment for both crimes its easier to just kill the witness.

After this his reformation ideas begin to get a lot more radical. He says the government should step in and abolish private property. He says that the landowners herding sheep eventually turns those sheep into beasts, and that renting to tenants eventually turns them to thieves. He also says money should be abolished, and that people should be able to go into town and take what they need without needing to pay. He says the government should be the ones controlling and regulating the market, and the people within the system will get everything they need.

He also says the government should abolish gambling, taverns, and sporting events. According to Raphael people are incapable of quitting these habits themselves, and will continue to ruin their own lives by wasting their money. If the government not only gets rid of these recreational markets, but also gets rid of money in general people will live much better lives. If the government has complete control of the cultivation and supply of the market then people wont have to worry about making financial mistakes, and can more efficiently produce for said government controlled market.

More’s response to this was that the system wont work. The sin of sloth is too potent in man, and having an opportunity to slack off and let the government handle things is far too tempting. He explains that if people are to have ambition they need something real to work for. More’s quote is as follows: “It seems to me that men cannot live conveniently where all things are common: how can there be any plenty, where every man will excuse himself from labor? For as the hope of gain doth not excite him, so the confidence that he has in other men’s industry may make him slothful.”

The closest form of government to what Raphael was speaking is socialism: the government controlling the market and the people receiving an equal and common wealth. More was using the traveler as a mouthpiece to why this government type wouldn’t work, and why a capitalistic society is the only way to motivate people into working. While its idealistic to think of needing something, receiving it, and not having to give any sort of payment; this sort of lifestyle would only encourage lazy inefficient behavior.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s