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MonkeyNotes-Utopia by Sir Thomas More
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Of Travel and Economy

Utopians need a license to travel from city to city. To travel without a license is a crime. If a person stays away for longer than a day in the place he or she visits, he or she has to work in their own job. Loitering is thus avoided. With a license, a person is welcome everywhere as no household lacks anything. Everything is freely available. The whole country is like a large family.

Once the Utopians have set a store of essential things, they distribute one-sixth of the surplus to the poor of foreign countries. The rest of the surplus they trade, mostly for gold, silver and iron. They do not need to import anything except iron. The wealth they have thus collected is mostly used to recruit mercenary soldiers in times of war. This is the only use they have for money. They have no respect for gold and silver. These metals are used for the most menial purposes -- in toilets and for making handcuffs for slaves.

Utopians also regard pearls and diamonds with scant respect and use them only to adorn infants and babies and to make toys for them. They do not know the value of ostentation and showy appearances and Hythloday remarks that once when some ambassadors visited them, the Utopians mistook them for felons because of the ornaments they wore.


Notes

Here Hythloday describes the travelling habits and economics of the Utopians. Some of them seem strange and restrictive such as needing licenses to travel. But close scrutiny reveals that this restriction is in keeping with the general framework of the country. The keynote of Utopia is to maintain peace. This does not allow for a great number of people to move around and remain idle, living off the labor of the others for too long. Everyone must participate in order for the society to work efficiently.

Universal labor is a given. The Syphogrants who have to ensure this have an easy task as only a very few really shirk work. This diligence leads to great prosperity, some of which the kind-hearted Utopia give away to the poor of other countries. They themselves have no poor people. The rest of the surplus they use to trade and buy things like iron, which are essential for everyday use. Gold and silver are used to make chamber pots and shackles with. In fact, pearls and precious stones are not held in great value and like the child staring at the emperor's new clothes, the Utopia gape at richly-dressed people as if they are prisoners. This shows how in an untouched society useful things like air, water, iron are more important than gold, silver and other precious metals that are used as a status symbol but in a country where money and wealth does not exist, precious metals are not seen as having any economic weight.

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