Thomas More “Utopia” ctd.

Back in More’s Utopia after the spring break. Hythloday now moves from politics to economy. He gives a long list of the unfair ways in which kings try to become rich, for most of which actually real-life examples can be found, mostly in the life of Henry VII: meddling with the currency, announcing big war taxes just in order to reach a treaty before the war begins, digging up some old regulations from statute books about which everyone has forgotten and impose heavy fines for breaking them and so on. Even though More doesn’t name Henry VII explicitly, I think it’s quite daring. The evil counsellors applaud this course of action, claiming that the people and all their property are in fact the property of the king, and whatever they own is just what he allows them graciously to have. Moreover, the poorer the people are, the stronger the king is. Hythloday answers idealistically in the vein “the king is the shepherd of his people” and quotes the example of Macarians, whose constitution does not allow the king to have in his treasury more than 1000 pounds of gold, or the equivalent thereof. The purpose of this policy is to give the king enough ready money in case an invasion has to be repelled, but not so much that he starts to indulge in luxury at the expense of his subjects or entertain rash ideas about the expansion of his kingdom. But suppose I told them all that, would they listen to me, asks Hythloday. Of course not, answers More.

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