Friday, January 30, 2015

Thomas More and the Abolition of Money

In an article in the 30th Jan Times on the Green Party's proposal for a "citizens income" , Philip Collins, their chief leader writer (and Blair's former speechwriter) claims:
“It was Thomas More, in his Utopia of 1516, who first suggested the idea of a basic income, paid as a right of citizenship to all.”

On the island of Utopia money was completely abolished so that any idea of people being "paid" a monetary "income" wouldn't make sense.

Right at the end of the tale, More's traveller says:
“The use as well as the desire of money being extinguished, much anxiety and great occasions of mischief is cut off with it, and who does not see that the frauds, thefts, robberies, quarrels, tumults, contentions, seditions, murders, treacheries, and witchcrafts, which are, indeed, rather punished than restrained by the seventies of law, would all fall off, if money were not any more valued by the world? Men's fears, solicitudes, cares, labours, and watchings would all perish in the same moment with the value of money; even poverty itself, for the relief of which money seems most necessary, would fall. But, in order to the apprehending this aright, take one instance:-
 "Consider any year, that has been so unfruitful that many thousands have died of hunger; and yet if, at the end of that year, a survey was made of the granaries of all the rich men that have hoarded up the corn, it would be found that there was enough among them to have prevented all that consumption of men that perished in misery; and that, if it had been distributed among them, none would have felt the terrible effects of that scarcity: so easy a thing would it be to supply all the necessities of life, if that blessed thing called money, which is pretended to be invented for procuring them was not really the only thing that obstructed their being procured!”

It is for this, not for proposing any pathetic scheme for a basic income, that More has been held in high regard by socialists.

Earlier the traveller had described the use the people of Utopia put gold and silver to:
 “They eat and drink out of vessels of earth or glass, which make an agreeable appearance, though formed of brittle materials; while they make their chamber-pots and close-stools of gold and silver, and that not only in their public halls but in their private houses.”

This, no doubt, is from where Lenin got his idea that in socialism public urinals would be made of gold (not that the Bolsheviks could or did do this, but then they weren't establishing socialism only state capitalism).


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Basic income is very likely to be a future tool for containing class insurgency. As inequality soars and becomes clearer and the people have a limited access to the means of enjoyment, they become more susceptible to ideas of social justice and radical change, which might threaten the status quo. Therefore, it becomes necessary to institute measures and laws which guarantee their access to basic rights, without disrupting the structures of power. People might not have gotten a virtuous and ethical share out of the world's wealth, but they have received enough to be wary of left-wing political movements which seek complete abolition of the current economic system.
In terms of strategy, basic income can be an useful device of maintenance of capitalism. Even liberal economists, like Hayek for example, supported such idea, which implies that it isn't a costly legislation for the system. And it's going to be even more useful as jobs are being constantly automated.