Saturday, July 5, 2014
Land Ownership: Thomas More vs. Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Written in April 2008 for a course on political theory,
Edited in July 2014
[Thomas] More's character Raphael Nonsenso says that nobles “have grown dissatisfied with the income that their predecessors got out of their estates. They're no longer content to lead lazy, comfortable lives, which do no good to society – they must actively do it harm, by enclosing all the land they can for pasture, and leaving none for cultivation.”
[According to More, t]he sheep market is “almost entirely under control of a few rich men, who don't need to sell unless they feel like it, and never do feel like it until they get the price they want.” [He continues,] “These few greedy people have converted one of England's greatest natural advantages into a national disaster. For it's the high price of food that makes employers turn off so many of their servants – which inevitably means turning them into beggars or thieves.”
[According to Jean-Jacques Rousseau,] “The first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took it into his head to say this is mine and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, wars, murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared, had someone pulled up the stakes or filled in the ditch and cried out to his fellow men: 'Do not listen to this impostor. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to all and the earth to no one!”
More and Rousseau agree that inequality arises when a person with a claim to land forbids other people from living on it or working the land for food. More says that for an employer to kick his servants off of his land causes them to become beggars and thieves. Rousseau believes that all people have the right to the fruits of the earth and that the land belongs to no one.