“There is no danger of a man’s asking for more than he need”: From Thomas More’s Utopia

“…every father goes and takes whatever he or his family stand in need of, without either paying for it, or leaving anything in exchange. There is no reason for giving a denial to any person, since there is such plenty of everything amongst them; and there is no danger of a man’s asking for more than he need; they have no inducements to do this, since they are sure that they shall always be supplied. It is the fear of want that makes any of the whole race of animals either greedy or ravenous; but besides fear, there is in man a pride that makes him fancy it a particular glory to excel others in pomp and excess. But by the laws of the Utopia, there is no room for this.” -Excerpt from More’s Utopia, pp 82 in “The Utopia Reader”

When reading about the governance of any utopia, we are almost always presented with rules that enforce the society’s perfection. A few pages earlier, More explains that in an effort to contain communities and counter any over-crowding, families must be held to a strict limit of members. Laws like these are necessary to maintaining a utopia. We can observe similar  regulations in the controversial one-child policy demanded by the Chinese government. However, here we are told that men are simply trusted to act in accordance with what is deemed best for society in terms of commerce and trade. Why should we blindly accept the fact that in More’s utopia, men will follow the ideas set forth by the rulers of this society without any fear of punishment? In other words, what is there to stop a man from taking more than just what he needs to survive?

I recall that our country’s founding fathers had explicit reasoning behind their intricate design of checks and balances in our government: all of this is necessary for people to prosper and order to be kept due to the inevitable fact that “men are no angels,” as BLANK once declared. This is true in our society, and in every society on this earth; thus why should this truth be ignored in More’s society? Why must the line between the fantastic and the realistic be crossed when discussing men in his utopia?