Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thomas More's Utopia

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Poverty and War

Thomas Mores Utopia is a book on political theory. Utopia is a well written text with a complex structure. The book is presented in two different narrative perspectives of Raphael Hythloday and Thomas More himself. More discusses various issues that were common in the past. Poverty is an issue that is discussed numerous times throughout Utopia. In this paper I will discuss the connection between poverty and war, the relationship between private property and poverty, and the impact of the enclosure of common land in Britain upon the poor population.

War is the main cause of poverty; it causes people to loose their homes and employment. Many soldiers who fight in a war, are usually homeless. They don’t have any other skills, therefore, they don’t see any harm in fighting the war. Once they become injured in the war, for example loose their leg or arm, they are unable to make a living for themselves. Hythloday states, “These men, who have lost their limbs in the service of the common good or the King, are too shattered to follow their old trades and too tired to learn new ones.” 1. Upon realizing that they will die by starving, the soldiers then turn into thieves and start to steal. Therefore shortage of employment after the war has ended, leads to stealing. The realization that they lack the necessary things needed for survival, leads people into stealing.

The ownership of private property by the richer class of people distinguishes them as being better from the other classes. It automatically separates the rich from the poor. A place that is meant to be a perfect place is now divided amongst only the ones who are able to

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1 - Hythloday, Utopia Pg. 16

afford it. Having private property causes the rest to suffer. It denies the unfortunate poor population of people, the access to work. The land that everyone once worked upon to make a living is now owned by someone and ends with poor loosing their jobs. Once again unemployment also forces people to steal in order to survive. People become thieves and these are the same thieves who are later drafted into the army to fight wars. They join the army because there is no other employment out there for them. The following quote describes the situation best, “Thus I am wholly that unless private property is entirely abolished, there can be no fair or just distribution of goods, nor can the business of mortals be conducted happily. As long as private property remains, by far the largest and best part of the human race will be oppressed by a distressing and inescapable burden of poverty and anxieties.”

The enclosure of Common land in Britain worsen the conditions of the poor because the price of living became high. People started to live on the streets; instead of begging for food or money, they chose to steal; they rather steal than beg. Food prices after the enclosure of land, went up along with the price of raw wool. Many people who depended upon the wool to make clothes were now unable to afford it to make clothes. Therefore, “…and so great numbers are forced from work to idleness.” . Many of the people’s hopes and dreams are shattered by this movement. It leaves them to wander around in the streets.

War is a negative aspect in this situation, it leads to destruction of the lives of many. Also, it brings poverty and homelessness along with it. Utopia, therefore, achieves in providing useful information that helps me to understand that there is no perfect world after all; War, poverty, the difference between rich and the poor will always be there to remind us of our differences from each other.

- Plato Utopia Pg. 8 , - Utopia Pg. 1

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