Why Thomas More thought the #barkercomm was needed

UtopiaSir Thomas More’s years of power were in the early 16th Century. The Barker Commission on the Future of Health and Social Care (#barkercomm) reported yesterday.

Nevertheless, the latter certainly addresses a need and injustice that the former identified when writing “Utopia” in 1516:

“I’m damned if I can see the slightest trace of justice or fairness. For what sort of justice do you call this? People like aristocrats, goldsmiths, money-lenders, who either do no work at all, or do work that’s really not essential, are rewarded for their laziness or their unnecessary activities by a splendid life of luxury. But labourers, coachmen, carpenters, and farmhands, who never stop working like cart-horses, at jobs so essential that, if they did stop working, they’d bring any country to a standstill within twelve months – what happens to them? … They’re not only ground down by unrewarding toil in the present, but also worried to death by the prospect of a poverty-stricken old age – since their daily wages aren’t enough to support them for one day, let alone leave anything over to be saved up for when they’re old.

“Can you see any fairness or gratitude in a societal system which lavishes such great rewards on so-called noblemen, goldsmiths, and people like that[,] but makes no such kind provision for farm-hands, coal-heavers, labourers, carters or carpenters, without whom society couldn’t exist at all?

“And the climax of ingratitude comes when they’re old and ill and completely destitute. Having taken advantage of them throughout the best years of their lives, society now forgets all the sleepless hours they’ve spent in its service, and repays them for all the vital work they’ve done, by letting them die in misery. What’s more, the wretched earnings of the poor are daily whittle away by the rich, not only through private dishonesty, but through public legislation. As if it weren’t unjust enough already that the man who contributes most to society should get the least in return, they make it even worse, and then arrange for injustice to be legally described as justice.”

(“Utopia” by Thomas More, tr. Paul Turner – 1965, 2003 edition)


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Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.

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