Thomas More “Utopia” ctd.

I failed to mention in the previous post that all the work of butchering animals for meat is done by slaves, because Utopians believe that killing animals gradually desensitizes people. But while they are so protective of their ability of compassion, they are apparently deprived of it when it comes to slaves. It’s interesting to see that Hythloday, together with Plato, seems to think that in every economy there are jobs so degrading that no free man would do them willingly. In late feudalism, as in our times, there were people simply forced to do them by economic necessity. But in the economy without money and property, there is no other incentive but the brute force of slavery.

Utopian meals are like lavish Renaissance feasts with music and incense, short intellectual reading before the meal and interesting disputes throughout. Children under five sit in the nursery, older children serve at the table (again like in the Renaissance courts) or if they are too young, they stand by in absolute silence (!) I’m sure anybody who’s been in a restaurant visited by families can appreciate this image. (Yes, I know, #NotAllChildren are monsters.)

Utopians can travel freely outside their district… provided they get a permission from the governor of their district, which they can easily obtain, Hythloday hastens to add, provided they are not needed at home, and they can even get an oxen cart and a slave to accompany them, if they wish. If they want to travel within their district, they may also do so, provided they have the permission of their father and spouse. There are no inns, taverns, let alone brothels, since the travellers can get food and lodging for free, provided they work in the place they visit if they stay longer there than half a day. People travelling without permission are punished, and repeated offenders turned into slaves.

I’m starting to think that Utopia is not so much a positive programme about what the ideal state should be like but a negative programme, in the sense that it expresses More;s ideas about what is the greatest threat to orderly society. He looks at inns and taverns with suspicion, as the place where vagabonds, stragglers and all sorts of low-life elements congregated. In a way More was prescient about how his proto-socialist society would function – in many countries of the Soviet bloc there were laws penalizing “social parasitism”, or what we would call nowadays NEETs.

Utopians export the surplus of their products, receiving payment either in goods, gold and silver or promissory notes. They have no use for money, so they are content to lend it to other countries at an interest and they keep a store of it in case of war to pay the mercenaries.

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