“ [A] permanent possibility of selfishness arises from the mere fact of having a self, and not from any accidents of education or ill-treatment. And the weakness of all Utopias is this, that they take the greatest difficulty of man and assume it to be overcome, and then give an elaborate account of the overcoming of the smaller ones. They first assume that no man will want more than his share, and then are very ingenious in explaining whether his share will be delivered by motor-car or balloon. ”
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What happens to those slaves (bondsmen) who helped feed the citizens of Utopia by butchering animals for food and thus suffering the apparent moral consequence of diminished compassion is not stated. Perhaps Utopia uses only slaves gotten from outside the citizenry of Utopia for their necessary killing. Utopia has slaves captured in wars they fought and other "foreigners who have been condemned to death" which the Utopians "acquire [...] sometimes cheaply, more often gratis and take them away." Foreign slaves are kept "constantly at work" and in chains. (95) Utopia also has slaves who entered into slavery by choice. These are "poor, overworked drudges from other nations [...] who chose to be slaves among the Utopians." Such slaves can relinquish their slavery whenever they choose, but in doing so they leave Utopia, although they are not "sent away empty-handed." (96)
Bergen is on the editorial board of Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, a leading scholarly journal in the field, and has testified before multiple congressional committees about Afghanistan, Pakistan and terrorism issues. He is a member of the Homeland Security Project, a successor to the 9/11 Commission, and also of the Aspen Homeland Security Group. He is the editor of the AfPak Channel, a joint publication of Foreign Policy magazine and the New America Foundation that can be found at www.foreignpolicy.com/afpak. The AfPak Channel was nominated in 2011 for a National Magazine Award for Best Online Department.
The one major work preceding More's in the field was Plato's Republic. Its influence on Utopia is extensive and unmistakable. To begin with, the central theme of both works is the search for justice. In the Republic, the rulers are to be a group of intelligent, unselfish men called the guardians or philosopher-kings, who conduct public affairs for the good of the whole nation. The principle of community of property is in effect: "No man calls anything his own." Gold and silver coinage is outlawed, and there is a rigid proscription against luxury and ostentation. Throughout the society, life is directed by a highly moral code of conduct. An educational system for the intelligentsia is elaborately and idealistically designed. Equality of men and women is proposed in both works, though with certain qualifications. There is allowance made in Plato's scheme for the practice of slavery, as there is in More's. There are, on the other hand, departures from Plato in Utopia, some quite radical. The Republic establishes sharply defined class distinctions — the ruling intelligentsia; the warrior class; commoners, consisting of merchants, artisans, and laborers; and finally, at the lowest level, the slaves. Utopians recognize no such gradations among their citizens. The religious beliefs and practices in the two books are, of course, quite different. There is also a sharp difference in the treatment of families. In the Republic, women and children are held in common — "there is no marrying nor giving in marriage" — and mating is regulated to serve eugenic ends; whereas in Utopia, the family unit is the core of the entire social structure.
Outside of Utopia, money is the cause of endless trouble. In Utopia, "once the use of money was abolished, and together with it all greed for it, what a mass of troubles was cut away, what a crop of crimes was pulled up by the roots! Is there anyone who does not know that fraud, theft, plunder, strife, turmoil, contention, rebellion, murder, treason, poisoning, crimes which are constantly punished but never held in check, would die away if money were eliminated?" (132)
The Medieval document most frequently cited in historical surveys of the utopian theme is Dante's Latin treatise on government, De Monarchia (1308?). Here again the differences between that work and More's are greater than the resemblances, and it is not suggested that More was acquainted with Monarchia. Dante, living in the period when the rivalry between popes and emperors for secular supremacy was splitting nations, cities, and even families, wrote his book to maintain the right of the emperor to independent authority over Europe in temporal matters, refuting the claims of the papacy that the emperor owed his title to the pope as God's vicar and was the pope's subject in matters temporal as well as spiritual. Dante does present his practical concept of an ideal commonwealth, the Holy Roman Empire. What this meant to him was a United Europe under the rule of a man of authority, an emperor elected — not by the populace but by the designated electors.
The first discussions with Raphael allow him to discuss some of the modern ills affecting Europe such as the tendency of kings to start wars and the subsequent loss of money on fruitless endeavours. He also criticises the use of execution to punish theft, saying thieves might as well murder whom they rob, to remove witnesses, if the punishment is going to be the same. He lays most of the problems of theft on the practice of enclosure—the enclosing of common land—and the subsequent poverty and starvation of people who are denied access to land because of sheep farming.
One of the first signs of renewed enlightenment in England, after the rude and bloody 15th century, was the appearance of a group of "humanist" scholars that flourished at Oxford and in London in the early decades of the 16th century, notably John Colet, William Latimer, Thomas Linacre, Reginald Pole, and Thomas More — a group that Erasmus pronounced both congenial and distinguished.