FYS 100, section 50
8 October 2015
Private Property and Wealth in Utopia
In Thomas More’s “On Private Property, Riches, and Poverty,” Anthony writes a letter to his nephew defending private property and wealth (246). This letter comes in stark contrast to Raphael Hythloday’s views in Utopia. Hythloday condemns private property and wealth. He states that private property and wealth are a major problems plaguing European society. Hythloday firmly believes that communal property is a necessary component in a just and ideal society and that monetary wealth must be unimportant (46). Both of these works by More offer opposing views on wealth and private property. These works cause one to question whether private property or communal property creates a better society. In my opinion, More believes that a society based on communal property and the absence of currency is impractical and that private property and wealth are necessary to form the best possible society.
“On Private Property, Riches, and Poverty” and the character More in Utopia provide evidence that Thomas More believes that wealth and private property are necessary in society. In Utopia, the character More argues that people cannot live comfortably in a society where property is held communally because people will no longer be motivated to work if they are not making a profit (48). As a result, there will not be enough goods for everyone (48). Even after Hythloday’s description of Utopia, More still doubts that an ideal society would have communal property (134). In “On Private Property, Riches, and Poverty,” private property and wealth are thoroughly defended. Anthony writes to his nephew that it is possible to be moral and wealthy at the same time (249). He even goes so far as to say that wealthy people are essential to society because poor people rely on the wealthy for money; they provide jobs and charity to the poor (250). These two works by More reveal that he believes that private property and wealth are possible in an ideal society. More’s concern that communal property and the absence of money eliminate people’s motivation to work is valid because people want to work in order to have the best possible life. If you provide people with all of their wants regardless of their productivity, they will lose motivation to work. As a result, society’s productivity would decrease. It also is not certain whether an equal distribution of wealth and communal property increase the general quality of life because people would only have just enough to survive and could not depend on charity during an emergency, such as a famine.
More provides two opposing opinions on wealth and private property in Utopia and in “On Private Property, Riches, and Poverty.” More supports the main argument of “On Private Property, Riches, and Poverty” that private property and wealth create a more productive society because the character of More in Utopia continuously finds that communal property and the lack of monetary wealth in Utopia are absurd.
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5/5 Excellent response. Be sure when you give the page reference for each source you distinguish the different titles in the parenthetical citation.
Group Presentation Grade: A-
Thomas More. Utopia. Translated by Clarence H. Miller. New Haven: Yale University Press,
“On Private Property, Riches, and Poverty”. In A Thomas More Sourcebook, edited by Gerard B. Wegemer and Stephen W. Smith. Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2004.