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Utopian Economics

Section 1.

These modern Utopians with the universally diffused good manners,
the universal education, the fine freedoms we shall ascribe to them,
their world unity, world language, world-wide travellings,
world-wide freedom of sale and purchase, will remain mere
dreamstuff, incredible even by twilight, until we have shown that at
that level the community will still sustain itself. At any rate, the
common liberty of the Utopians will not embrace the common liberty
to be unserviceable, the most perfect economy of organisation still
leaves the fact untouched that all order and security in a State
rests on the certainty of getting work done. How will the work of
this planet be done? What will be the economics of a modern

Now in the first place, a state so vast and complex as this world
Utopia, and with so migratory a people, will need some handy symbol
to check the distribution of services and commodities. Almost
certainly they will need to have money. They will have money, and
it is not inconceivable that, for all his sorrowful thoughts, our
botanist, with his trained observation, his habit of looking at
little things upon the ground, would be the one to see and pick up
the coin that has fallen from some wayfarer's pocket. (This, in our
first hour or so before we reach the inn in the Urseren Thal.) You
figure us upon the high Gotthard road, heads together over the
little disk that contrives to tell us so much of this strange

It is, I imagine, of gold, and it will be a convenient accident if
it is sufficient to make us solvent for a day or so, until we are a
little more informed of the economic system into which we have come.
It is, moreover, of a fair round size, and the inscription declares
it one Lion, equal to "twaindy" bronze Crosses. Unless the ratio of
metals is very different here, this latter must be a token coin, and
therefore legal tender for but a small amount. (That would be pain
and pleasure to Mr. Wordsworth Donisthorpe if he were to chance to
join us, for once he planned a Utopian coinage, [Footnote: A System
of Measures, by Wordsworth Donisthorpe.] and the words Lion and
Cross are his. But a token coinage and "legal tender" he cannot
abide. They make him argue.) And being in Utopia, that unfamiliar
"twaindy" suggests at once we have come upon that most Utopian of
all things, a duodecimal system of counting.

My author's privilege of details serves me here. This Lion is
distinctly a beautiful coin, admirably made, with its value in fine,
clear letters circling the obverse side, and a head thereon--of
Newton, as I live! One detects American influence here. Each
year, as we shall find, each denomination of coins celebrates a
centenary. The reverse shows the universal goddess of the Utopian
coinage--Peace, as a beautiful woman, reading with a child out of a
great book, and behind them are stars, and an hour-glass, halfway
run. Very human these Utopians, after all, and not by any means
above the obvious in their symbolism!

So for the first time we learn definitely of the World State, and we
get our first clear hint, too, that there is an end to Kings. But
our coin raises other issues also. It would seem that this Utopia
has no simple community of goods, that there is, at any rate, a
restriction upon what one may take, a need for evidences of
equivalent value, a limitation to human credit.

It dates--so much of this present Utopia of ours dates. Those former
Utopists were bitterly against gold. You will recall the undignified
use Sir Thomas More would have us put it to, and how there was no
money at all in the Republic of Plato, and in that later community
for which he wrote his Laws an iron coinage of austere appearance
and doubtful efficacy.... It may be these great gentlemen were a
little hasty with a complicated difficulty, and not a little unjust
to a highly respectable element.

Gold is abused and made into vessels of dishonour, and abolished
from ideal society as though it were the cause instead of the
instrument of human baseness; but, indeed, there is nothing bad in
gold. Making gold into vessels of dishonour and banishing it from
the State is punishing the hatchet for the murderer's crime. Money,
did you but use it right, is a good thing in life, a necessary thing
in civilised human life, as complicated, indeed, for its purposes,
but as natural a growth as the bones in a man's wrist, and I do not
see how one can imagine anything at all worthy of being called a
civilisation without it. It is the water of the body social, it
distributes and receives, and renders growth and assimilation and
movement and recovery possible. It is the reconciliation of human
interdependence with liberty. What other device will give a man so
great a freedom with so strong an inducement to effort? The economic
history of the world, where it is not the history of the theory of
property, is very largely the record of the abuse, not so much of
money as of credit devices to supplement money, to amplify the scope
of this most precious invention; and no device of labour credits
[Footnote: Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward, Ch. IX.] or free
demand of commodities from a central store [Footnote: More's Utopia
and Cabet's Icaria.] or the like has ever been suggested that does
not give ten thousand times more scope for that inherent moral dross
in man that must be reckoned with in any sane Utopia we may design
and plan.... Heaven knows where progress may not end, but at any
rate this developing State, into which we two men have fallen, this
Twentieth Century Utopia, has still not passed beyond money and the
use of coins.


Section 2.

Now if this Utopian world is to be in some degree parallel to
contemporary thought, it must have been concerned, it may be still
concerned, with many unsettled problems of currency, and with the
problems that centre about a standard of value. Gold is perhaps of
all material substances the best adapted to the monetary purpose,
but even at that best it falls far short of an imaginable ideal. It
undergoes spasmodic and irregular cheapening through new discoveries
of gold, and at any time it may undergo very extensive and sudden
and disastrous depreciation through the discovery of some way of
transmuting less valuable elements. The liability to such
depreciations introduces an undesirable speculative element into the
relations of debtor and creditor. When, on the one hand, there is
for a time a check in the increase of the available stores of gold,
or an increase in the energy applied to social purposes, or a
checking of the public security that would impede the free exchange
of credit and necessitate a more frequent production of gold in
evidence, then there comes an undue appreciation of money as against
the general commodities of life, and an automatic impoverishment of
the citizens in general as against the creditor class. The common
people are mortgaged into the bondage of debt. And on the other
hand an unexpected spate of gold production, the discovery of a
single nugget as big as St. Paul's, let us say--a quite possible
thing--would result in a sort of jail delivery of debtors and a
financial earthquake.

It has been suggested by an ingenious thinker that it is possible
to use as a standard of monetary value no substance whatever, but
instead, force, and that value might be measured in units of energy.
An excellent development this, in theory, at any rate, of the
general idea of the modern State as kinetic and not static; it
throws the old idea of the social order and the new into the
sharpest antithesis. The old order is presented as a system of
institutions and classes ruled by men of substance; the new, of
enterprises and interests led by men of power.

Now I glance at this matter in the most incidental manner, as a man
may skim through a specialist's exposition in a popular magazine.
You must figure me, therefore, finding from a casual periodical
paper in our inn, with a certain surprise at not having anticipated
as much, the Utopian self of that same ingenious person quite
conspicuously a leader of thought, and engaged in organising the
discussion of the currency changes Utopia has under consideration.
The article, as it presents itself to me, contains a complete
and lucid, though occasionally rather technical, explanation of
his newest proposals. They have been published, it seems, for
general criticism, and one gathers that in the modern Utopia the
administration presents the most elaborately detailed schemes of any
proposed alteration in law or custom, some time before any measure
is taken to carry it into effect, and the possibilities of every
detail are acutely criticised, flaws anticipated, side issues
raised, and the whole minutely tested and fined down by a planetful
of critics, before the actual process of legislation begins.

The explanation of these proposals involves an anticipatory glance
at the local administration of a Modern Utopia. To anyone who has
watched the development of technical science during the last decade
or so, there will be no shock in the idea that a general
consolidation of a great number of common public services over areas
of considerable size is now not only practicable, but very
desirable. In a little while heating and lighting and the supply of
power for domestic and industrial purposes and for urban and
inter-urban communications will all be managed electrically from
common generating stations. And the trend of political and social
speculation points decidedly to the conclusion that so soon as it
passes out of the experimental stage, the supply of electrical
energy, just like drainage and the supply of water, will fall to the
local authority. Moreover, the local authority will be the universal
landowner. Upon that point so extreme an individualist as Herbert
Spencer was in agreement with the Socialist. In Utopia we conclude
that, whatever other types of property may exist, all natural
sources of force, and indeed all strictly natural products, coal,
water power, and the like, are inalienably vested in the local
authorities (which, in order to secure the maximum of convenience
and administrative efficiency, will probably control areas as large
sometimes as half England), they will generate electricity by water
power, by combustion, by wind or tide or whatever other natural
force is available, and this electricity will be devoted, some of it
to the authority's lighting and other public works, some of it, as
a subsidy, to the World-State authority which controls the high
roads, the great railways, the inns and other apparatus of world
communication, and the rest will pass on to private individuals
or to distributing companies at a uniform fixed rate for private
lighting and heating, for machinery and industrial applications of
all sorts. Such an arrangement of affairs will necessarily involve a
vast amount of book-keeping between the various authorities, the
World-State government and the customers, and this book-keeping will
naturally be done most conveniently in units of physical energy.

It is not incredible that the assessment of the various local
administrations for the central world government would be already
calculated upon the estimated total of energy, periodically
available in each locality, and booked and spoken of in these
physical units. Accounts between central and local governments could
be kept in these terms. Moreover, one may imagine Utopian local
authorities making contracts in which payment would be no longer in
coinage upon the gold basis, but in notes good for so many thousands
or millions of units of energy at one or other of the generating

Now the problems of economic theory will have undergone an enormous
clarification if, instead of measuring in fluctuating money values,
the same scale of energy units can be extended to their discussion,
if, in fact, the idea of trading could be entirely eliminated. In my
Utopia, at any rate, this has been done, the production and
distribution of common commodities have been expressed as a problem
in the conversion of energy, and the scheme that Utopia was now
discussing was the application of this idea of energy as the
standard of value to the entire Utopian coinage. Every one of those
giant local authorities was to be free to issue energy notes against
the security of its surplus of saleable available energy, and to
make all its contracts for payment in those notes up to a certain
maximum defined by the amount of energy produced and disposed of in
that locality in the previous year. This power of issue was to be
renewed just as rapidly as the notes came in for redemption. In a
world without boundaries, with a population largely migratory and
emancipated from locality, the price of the energy notes of these
various local bodies would constantly tend to be uniform, because
employment would constantly shift into the areas where energy was
cheap. Accordingly, the price of so many millions of units of energy
at any particular moment in coins of the gold currency would be
approximately the same throughout the world. It was proposed to
select some particular day when the economic atmosphere was
distinctly equable, and to declare a fixed ratio between the gold
coinage and the energy notes; each gold Lion and each Lion of credit
representing exactly the number of energy units it could buy on that
day. The old gold coinage was at once to cease to be legal tender
beyond certain defined limits, except to the central government,
which would not reissue it as it came in. It was, in fact, to become
a temporary token coinage, a token coinage of full value for the day
of conversion at any rate, if not afterwards, under the new standard
of energy, and to be replaceable by an ordinary token coinage as
time went on. The old computation by Lions and the values of the
small change of daily life were therefore to suffer no disturbance

The economists of Utopia, as I apprehended them, had a different
method and a very different system of theories from those I have
read on earth, and this makes my exposition considerably more
difficult. This article upon which I base my account floated before
me in an unfamiliar, perplexing, and dream-like phraseology. Yet I
brought away an impression that here was a rightness that earthly
economists have failed to grasp. Few earthly economists have been
able to disentangle themselves from patriotisms and politics, and
their obsession has always been international trade. Here in Utopia
the World State cuts that away from beneath their feet; there are no
imports but meteorites, and no exports at all. Trading is the
earthly economists' initial notion, and they start from perplexing
and insoluble riddles about exchange value, insoluble because all
trading finally involves individual preferences which are
incalculable and unique. Nowhere do they seem to be handling really
defined standards, every economic dissertation and discussion
reminds one more strongly than the last of the game of croquet Alice
played in Wonderland, when the mallets were flamingoes and the balls
were hedgehogs and crawled away, and the hoops were soldiers and
kept getting up and walking about. But economics in Utopia must be,
it seems to me, not a theory of trading based on bad psychology, but
physics applied to problems in the theory of sociology. The general
problem of Utopian economics is to state the conditions of the most
efficient application of the steadily increasing quantities of
material energy the progress of science makes available for human
service, to the general needs of mankind. Human labour and existing
material are dealt with in relation to that. Trading and relative
wealth are merely episodical in such a scheme. The trend of the
article I read, as I understood it, was that a monetary system based
upon a relatively small amount of gold, upon which the business of
the whole world had hitherto been done, fluctuated unreasonably and
supplied no real criterion of well-being, that the nominal values of
things and enterprises had no clear and simple relation to the real
physical prosperity of the community, that the nominal wealth of
a community in millions of pounds or dollars or Lions, measured
nothing but the quantity of hope in the air, and an increase of
confidence meant an inflation of credit and a pessimistic phase a
collapse of this hallucination of possessions. The new standards,
this advocate reasoned, were to alter all that, and it seemed to me
they would.

I have tried to indicate the drift of these remarkable proposals,
but about them clustered an elaborate mass of keen and temperate
discussion. Into the details of that discussion I will not enter
now, nor am I sure I am qualified to render the multitudinous aspect
of this complicated question at all precisely. I read the whole
thing in the course of an hour or two of rest after lunch--it was
either the second or third day of my stay in Utopia--and we were
sitting in a little inn at the end of the Lake of Uri. We had
loitered there, and I had fallen reading because of a shower of
rain.... But certainly as I read it the proposition struck me as a
singularly simple and attractive one, and its exposition opened out
to me for the first time clearly, in a comprehensive outline, the
general conception of the economic nature of the Utopian State.


Section 3.

The difference between the social and economic sciences as they
exist in our world [Footnote: But see Gidding's Principles of
Sociology, a modern and richly suggestive American work, imperfectly
appreciated by the British student. See also Walter Bagehot's
Economic Studies.] and in this Utopia deserves perhaps a word or
so more. I write with the utmost diffidence, because upon earth
economic science has been raised to a very high level of tortuous
abstraction by the industry of its professors, and I can claim
neither a patient student's intimacy with their productions
nor--what is more serious--anything but the most generalised
knowledge of what their Utopian equivalents have achieved. The vital
nature of economic issues to a Utopia necessitates, however, some
attempt at interpretation between the two.

In Utopia there is no distinct and separate science of economics.
Many problems that we should regard as economic come within the
scope of Utopian psychology. My Utopians make two divisions of the
science of psychology, first, the general psychology of individuals,
a sort of mental physiology separated by no definite line from
physiology proper, and secondly, the psychology of relationship
between individuals. This second is an exhaustive study of
the reaction of people upon each other and of all possible
relationships. It is a science of human aggregations, of all
possible family groupings, of neighbours and neighbourhood, of
companies, associations, unions, secret and public societies,
religious groupings, of common ends and intercourse, and of the
methods of intercourse and collective decision that hold human
groups together, and finally of government and the State. The
elucidation of economic relationships, depending as it does on the
nature of the hypothesis of human aggregation actually in operation
at any time, is considered to be subordinate and subsequent to this
general science of Sociology. Political economy and economics, in
our world now, consist of a hopeless muddle of social assumptions
and preposterous psychology, and a few geographical and physical
generalisations. Its ingredients will be classified out and widely
separated in Utopian thought. On the one hand there will be the
study of physical economies, ending in the descriptive treatment of
society as an organisation for the conversion of all the available
energy in nature to the material ends of mankind--a physical
sociology which will be already at such a stage of practical
development as to be giving the world this token coinage
representing energy--and on the other there will be the study of
economic problems as problems in the division of labour, having
regard to a social organisation whose main ends are reproduction and
education in an atmosphere of personal freedom. Each of these
inquiries, working unencumbered by the other, will be continually
contributing fresh valid conclusions for the use of the practical

In no region of intellectual activity will our hypothesis of freedom
from tradition be of more value in devising a Utopia than here. From
its beginning the earthly study of economics has been infertile and
unhelpful, because of the mass of unanalysed and scarcely suspected
assumptions upon which it rested. The facts were ignored that trade
is a bye-product and not an essential factor in social life, that
property is a plastic and fluctuating convention, that value is
capable of impersonal treatment only in the case of the most
generalised requirements. Wealth was measured by the standards of
exchange. Society was regarded as a practically unlimited number of
avaricious adult units incapable of any other subordinate groupings
than business partnerships, and the sources of competition were
assumed to be inexhaustible. Upon such quicksands rose an edifice
that aped the securities of material science, developed a technical
jargon and professed the discovery of "laws." Our liberation from
these false presumptions through the rhetoric of Carlyle and Ruskin
and the activities of the Socialists, is more apparent than real.
The old edifice oppresses us still, repaired and altered by
indifferent builders, underpinned in places, and with a slight
change of name. "Political Economy" has been painted out, and
instead we read "Economics--under entirely new management." Modern
Economics differs mainly from old Political Economy in having
produced no Adam Smith. The old "Political Economy" made certain
generalisations, and they were mostly wrong; new Economics evades
generalisations, and seems to lack the intellectual power to make
them. The science hangs like a gathering fog in a valley, a fog
which begins nowhere and goes nowhere, an incidental, unmeaning
inconvenience to passers-by. Its most typical exponents display a
disposition to disavow generalisations altogether, to claim
consideration as "experts," and to make immediate political
application of that conceded claim. Now Newton, Darwin, Dalton,
Davy, Joule, and Adam Smith did not affect this "expert"
hankey-pankey, becoming enough in a hairdresser or a fashionable
physician, but indecent in a philosopher or a man of science. In
this state of impotent expertness, however, or in some equally
unsound state, economics must struggle on--a science that is no
science, a floundering lore wallowing in a mud of statistics--until
either the study of the material organisation of production on the
one hand as a development of physics and geography, or the study
of social aggregation on the other, renders enduring foundations


Section 4.

The older Utopias were all relatively small states; Plato's
Republic, for example, was to be smaller than the average English
borough, and no distinction was made between the Family, the Local
Government, and the State. Plato and Campanella--for all that the
latter was a Christian priest--carried communism to its final point
and prescribed even a community of husbands and wives, an idea that
was brought at last to the test of effectual experiment in the
Oneida Community of New York State (1848-1879). This latter body did
not long survive its founder, at least as a veritable communism, by
reason of the insurgent individualism of its vigorous sons. More,
too, denied privacy and ruled an absolute community of goods, at
any rate, and so, coming to the Victorian Utopias, did Cabet. But
Cabet's communism was one of the "free store" type, and the goods
were yours only after you had requisitioned them. That seems the
case in the "Nowhere" of Morris also. Compared with the older
writers Bellamy and Morris have a vivid sense of individual
separation, and their departure from the old homogeneity is
sufficiently marked to justify a doubt whether there will be any
more thoroughly communistic Utopias for ever.

A Utopia such as this present one, written in the opening of the
Twentieth Century, and after the most exhaustive discussion--nearly
a century long--between Communistic and Socialistic ideas on the one
hand, and Individualism on the other, emerges upon a sort of
effectual conclusion to those controversies. The two parties have so
chipped and amended each other's initial propositions that, indeed,
except for the labels still flutteringly adhesive to the implicated
men, it is hard to choose between them. Each side established a good
many propositions, and we profit by them all. We of the succeeding
generation can see quite clearly that for the most part the heat and
zeal of these discussions arose in the confusion of a quantitative
for a qualitative question. To the onlooker, both Individualism and
Socialism are, in the absolute, absurdities; the one would make men
the slaves of the violent or rich, the other the slaves of the State
official, and the way of sanity runs, perhaps even sinuously, down
the intervening valley. Happily the dead past buries its dead, and
it is not our function now to adjudicate the preponderance of
victory. In the very days when our political and economic order is
becoming steadily more Socialistic, our ideals of intercourse turn
more and more to a fuller recognition of the claims of individuality.
The State is to be progressive, it is no longer to be static, and
this alters the general condition of the Utopian problem profoundly;
we have to provide not only for food and clothing, for order and
health, but for initiative. The factor that leads the World State
on from one phase of development to the next is the interplay of
individualities; to speak teleologically, the world exists for the
sake of and through initiative, and individuality is the method
of initiative. Each man and woman, to the extent that his or her
individuality is marked, breaks the law of precedent, transgresses
the general formula, and makes a new experiment for the direction of
the life force. It is impossible, therefore, for the State, which
represents all and is preoccupied by the average, to make effectual
experiments and intelligent innovations, and so supply the essential
substance of life. As against the individual the state represents
the species, in the case of the Utopian World State it absolutely
represents the species. The individual emerges from the species,
makes his experiment, and either fails, dies, and comes to an end,
or succeeds and impresses himself in offspring, in consequences and
results, intellectual, material and moral, upon the world.

Biologically the species is the accumulation of the experiments of
all its successful individuals since the beginning, and the World
State of the Modern Utopist will, in its economic aspect, be a
compendium of established economic experience, about which
individual enterprise will be continually experimenting, either to
fail and pass, or to succeed and at last become incorporated with
the undying organism of the World State. This organism is the
universal rule, the common restriction, the rising level platform
on which individualities stand.

The World State in this ideal presents itself as the sole landowner
of the earth, with the great local governments I have adumbrated,
the local municipalities, holding, as it were, feudally under it as
landlords. The State or these subordinates holds all the sources of
energy, and either directly or through its tenants, farmers and
agents, develops these sources, and renders the energy available for
the work of life. It or its tenants will produce food, and so human
energy, and the exploitation of coal and electric power, and the
powers of wind and wave and water will be within its right. It will
pour out this energy by assignment and lease and acquiescence and
what not upon its individual citizens. It will maintain order,
maintain roads, maintain a cheap and efficient administration of
justice, maintain cheap and rapid locomotion and be the common
carrier of the planet, convey and distribute labour, control, let,
or administer all natural productions, pay for and secure healthy
births and a healthy and vigorous new generation, maintain the
public health, coin money and sustain standards of measurement,
subsidise research, and reward such commercially unprofitable
undertakings as benefit the community as a whole; subsidise when
needful chairs of criticism and authors and publications, and
collect and distribute information. The energy developed and the
employment afforded by the State will descend like water that the
sun has sucked out of the sea to fall upon a mountain range, and
back to the sea again it will come at last, debouching in ground
rent and royalty and license fees, in the fees of travellers and
profits upon carrying and coinage and the like, in death duty,
transfer tax, legacy and forfeiture, returning to the sea. Between
the clouds and the sea it will run, as a river system runs, down
through a great region of individual enterprise and interplay, whose
freedom it will sustain. In that intermediate region between the
kindred heights and deeps those beginnings and promises will arise
that are the essential significance, the essential substance, of
life. From our human point of view the mountains and sea are for
the habitable lands that lie between. So likewise the State is
for Individualities. The State is for Individuals, the law is for
freedoms, the world is for experiment, experience, and change: these
are the fundamental beliefs upon which a modern Utopia must go.


Section 5.

Within this scheme, which makes the State the source of all energy,
and the final legatee, what will be the nature of the property a man
may own? Under modern conditions--indeed, under any conditions--a
man without some negotiable property is a man without freedom, and
the extent of his property is very largely the measure of his
freedom. Without any property, without even shelter or food, a man
has no choice but to set about getting these things; he is in
servitude to his needs until he has secured property to satisfy
them. But with a certain small property a man is free to do many
things, to take a fortnight's holiday when he chooses, for example,
and to try this new departure from his work or that; with so much
more, he may take a year of freedom and go to the ends of the earth;
with so much more, he may obtain elaborate apparatus and try
curious novelties, build himself houses and make gardens, establish
businesses and make experiments at large. Very speedily, under
terrestrial conditions, the property of a man may reach such
proportions that his freedom oppresses the freedom of others. Here,
again, is a quantitative question, an adjustment of conflicting
freedoms, a quantitative question that too many people insist on
making a qualitative one.

The object sought in the code of property laws that one would find
in operation in Utopia would be the same object that pervades the
whole Utopian organisation, namely, a universal maximum of
individual freedom. Whatever far-reaching movements the State or
great rich men or private corporations may make, the starvation by
any complication of employment, the unwilling deportation, the
destruction of alternatives to servile submissions, must not
ensue. Beyond such qualifications, the object of Modern Utopian
statesmanship will be to secure to a man the freedom given by all
his legitimate property, that is to say, by all the values his toil
or skill or foresight and courage have brought into being. Whatever
he has justly made he has a right to keep, that is obvious enough;
but he will also have a right to sell and exchange, and so this
question of what may be property takes really the form of what may
a man buy in Utopia?

A modern Utopian most assuredly must have a practically unqualified
property in all those things that become, as it were, by possession,
extensions and expressions of his personality; his clothing, his
jewels, the tools of his employment, his books, the objects of art
he may have bought or made, his personal weapons (if Utopia have
need of such things), insignia, and so forth. All such things that
he has bought with his money or acquired--provided he is not a
professional or habitual dealer in such property--will be
inalienably his, his to give or lend or keep, free even from
taxation. So intimate is this sort of property that I have no doubt
Utopia will give a man posthumous rights over it--will permit him to
assign it to a successor with at the utmost the payment of a small
redemption. A horse, perhaps, in certain districts, or a bicycle, or
any such mechanical conveyance personally used, the Utopians might
find it well to rank with these possessions. No doubt, too, a house
and privacy owned and occupied by a man, and even a man's own
household furniture, might be held to stand as high or almost as
high in the property scale, might be taxed as lightly and
transferred under only a slightly heavier redemption, provided he
had not let these things on hire, or otherwise alienated them from
his intimate self. A thorough-going, Democratic Socialist will no
doubt be inclined at first to object that if the Utopians make these
things a specially free sort of property in this way, men would
spend much more upon them than they would otherwise do, but indeed
that will be an excellent thing. We are too much affected by the
needy atmosphere of our own mismanaged world. In Utopia no one will
have to hunger because some love to make and have made and own and
cherish beautiful things. To give this much of property to
individuals will tend to make clothing, ornamentation, implements,
books, and all the arts finer and more beautiful, because by buying
such things a man will secure something inalienable--save in the
case of bankruptcy--for himself and for those who belong to him.
Moreover, a man may in his lifetime set aside sums to ensure special
advantages of education and care for the immature children of
himself and others, and in this manner also exercise a posthumous
right. [Footnote: But a Statute of Mortmain will set a distinct time
limit to the continuance of such benefactions. A periodic revision
of endowments is a necessary feature in any modern Utopia.]

For all other property, the Utopians will have a scantier respect;
even money unspent by a man, and debts to him that bear no interest,
will at his death stand upon a lower level than these things. What
he did not choose to gather and assimilate to himself, or assign for
the special education of his children, the State will share in the
lion's proportion with heir and legatee.

This applies, for example, to the property that a man creates and
acquires in business enterprises, which are presumably undertaken
for gain, and as a means of living rather than for themselves. All
new machinery, all new methods, all uncertain and variable and
non-universal undertakings, are no business for the State; they
commence always as experiments of unascertained value, and next
after the invention of money, there is no invention has so
facilitated freedom and progress as the invention of the limited
liability company to do this work of trial and adventure. The
abuses, the necessary reforms of company law on earth, are no
concern of ours here and now, suffice it that in a Modern Utopia
such laws must be supposed to be as perfect as mortal laws can
possibly be made. Caveat vendor will be a sound qualification of
Caveat emptor in the beautifully codified Utopian law. Whether the
Utopian company will be allowed to prefer this class of share to
that or to issue debentures, whether indeed usury, that is to say
lending money at fixed rates of interest, will be permitted at all
in Utopia, one may venture to doubt. But whatever the nature of the
shares a man may hold, they will all be sold at his death, and
whatever he has not clearly assigned for special educational
purposes will--with possibly some fractional concession to near
survivors--lapse to the State. The "safe investment," that
permanent, undying claim upon the community, is just one of those
things Utopia will discourage; which indeed the developing security
of civilisation quite automatically discourages through the fall in
the rate of interest. As we shall see at a later stage, the State
will insure the children of every citizen, and those legitimately
dependent upon him, against the inconvenience of his death; it will
carry out all reasonable additional dispositions he may have made
for them in the same event; and it will insure him against old age
and infirmity; and the object of Utopian economics will be to give a
man every inducement to spend his surplus money in intensifying the
quality of his surroundings, either by economic adventures and
experiments, which may yield either losses or large profits, or in
increasing the beauty, the pleasure, the abundance and promise of

Besides strictly personal possessions and shares in business
adventures, Utopia will no doubt permit associations of its citizens
to have a property in various sorts of contracts and concessions, in
leases of agricultural and other land, for example; in houses they
may have built, factories and machinery they may have made, and
the like. And if a citizen prefer to adventure into business
single-handed, he will have all the freedoms of enterprise enjoyed
by a company; in business affairs he will be a company of one, and
his single share will be dealt with at his death like any other
shares.... So much for the second kind of property. And these two
kinds of property will probably exhaust the sorts of property a
Utopian may possess.

The trend of modern thought is entirely against private property in
land or natural objects or products, and in Utopia these things
will be the inalienable property of the World State. Subject to the
rights of free locomotion, land will be leased out to companies
or individuals, but--in view of the unknown necessities of the
future--never for a longer period than, let us say, fifty years.

The property of a parent in his children, and of a husband in his
wife, seems to be undergoing a steadily increasing qualification in
the world of to-day, but the discussion of the Utopian state of
affairs in regard to such property may be better reserved until
marriage becomes our topic. Suffice it here to remark, that the
increasing control of a child's welfare and upbringing by the
community, and the growing disposition to limit and tax inheritance
are complementary aspects of the general tendency to regard the
welfare and free intraplay of future generations no longer as the
concern of parents and altruistic individuals, but as the
predominant issue of statesmanship, and the duty and moral meaning
of the world community as a whole.


Section 6.

From the conception of mechanical force as coming in from Nature to
the service of man, a conception the Utopian proposal of a coinage
based on energy units would emphasise, arise profound contrasts
between the modern and the classical Utopias. Except for a meagre
use of water power for milling, and the wind for sailing--so meagre
in the latter case that the classical world never contrived to do
without the galley slave--and a certain restricted help from oxen in
ploughing, and from horses in locomotion, all the energy that
sustained the old-fashioned State was derived from the muscular
exertion of toiling men. They ran their world by hand. Continual
bodily labour was a condition of social existence. It is only with
the coming of coal burning, of abundant iron and steel, and of
scientific knowledge that this condition has been changed. To-day,
I suppose, if it were possible to indicate, in units of energy,
the grand total of work upon which the social fabric of the
United States or England rests, it would be found that a vastly
preponderating moiety is derived from non-human sources, from coal
and liquid fuel, and explosives and wind and water. There is every
indication of a steady increase in this proportion of mechanical
energy, in this emancipation of men from the necessity of physical
labour. There appears no limit to the invasion of life by the

Now it is only in the last three hundred years that any human being
seems to have anticipated this. It stimulates the imagination to
remark how entirely it was overlooked as a modifying cause in human
development. [Footnote: It is interesting to note how little even
Bacon seems to see of this, in his New Atlantis.] Plato clearly had
no ideas about machines at all as a force affecting social
organisation. There was nothing in his world to suggest them to him.
I suppose there arose no invention, no new mechanical appliance or
method of the slightest social importance through all his length of
years. He never thought of a State that did not rely for its force
upon human muscle, just as he never thought of a State that was not
primarily organised for warfare hand to hand. Political and moral
inventions he saw enough of and to spare, and in that direction he
still stimulates the imagination. But in regard to all material
possibilities he deadens rather than stimulates. [Footnote: The lost
Utopia of Hippodamus provided rewards for inventors, but unless
Aristotle misunderstood him, and it is certainly the fate of all
Utopias to be more or less misread, the inventions contemplated were
political devices.] An infinitude of nonsense about the Greek mind
would never have been written if the distinctive intellectual and
artistic quality of Plato's time, its extraordinarily clear
definition of certain material conditions as absolutely permanent,
coupled with its politico-social instability, had been borne in
mind. The food of the Greek imagination was the very antithesis of
our own nourishment. We are educated by our circumstances to think
no revolution in appliances and economic organisation incredible,
our minds play freely about possibilities that would have struck the
men of the Academy as outrageous extravagance, and it is in regard
to politico-social expedients that our imaginations fail. Sparta,
for all the evidence of history, is scarcely more credible to us
than a motor-car throbbing in the agora would have been to

By sheer inadvertence, therefore, Plato commenced the tradition of
Utopias without machinery, a tradition we find Morris still loyally
following, except for certain mechanical barges and such-like toys,
in his News from Nowhere. There are some foreshadowings of
mechanical possibilities in the New Atlantis, but it is only in the
nineteenth century that Utopias appeared in which the fact is
clearly recognised that the social fabric rests no longer upon human
labour. It was, I believe, Cabet [Footnote: Cabet, Voyage en Icarie,
1848.] who first in a Utopian work insisted upon the escape of man
from irksome labours through the use of machinery. He is the great
primitive of modern Utopias, and Bellamy is his American equivalent.
Hitherto, either slave labour (Phaleas), [Footnote: Aristotle's
Politics, Bk. II., Ch. VIII.] or at least class distinctions
involving unavoidable labour in the lower class, have been
assumed--as Plato does, and as Bacon in the New Atlantis probably
intended to do (More gave his Utopians bondsmen sans phrase for
their most disagreeable toil); or there is--as in Morris and the
outright Return-to-Nature Utopians--a bold make-believe that all
toil may be made a joy, and with that a levelling down of all
society to an equal participation in labour. But indeed this is
against all the observed behaviour of mankind. It needed the
Olympian unworldliness of an irresponsible rich man of the
shareholding type, a Ruskin or a Morris playing at life, to imagine
as much. Road-making under Mr. Ruskin's auspices was a joy at Oxford
no doubt, and a distinction, and it still remains a distinction; it
proved the least contagious of practices. And Hawthorne did not find
bodily toil anything more than the curse the Bible says it is, at
Brook Farm. [Footnote: The Blythedale Experiment, and see also his

If toil is a blessing, never was blessing so effectually disguised,
and the very people who tell us that, hesitate to suggest more than
a beautiful ease in the endless day of Heaven. A certain amount of
bodily or mental exercise, a considerable amount of doing things
under the direction of one's free imagination is quite another
matter. Artistic production, for example, when it is at its best,
when a man is freely obeying himself, and not troubling to please
others, is really not toil at all. It is quite a different thing
digging potatoes, as boys say, "for a lark," and digging them
because otherwise you will starve, digging them day after day as a
dull, unavoidable imperative. The essence of toil is that
imperative, and the fact that the attention _must_ cramp itself to
the work in hand--that it excludes freedom, and not that it involves
fatigue. So long as anything but a quasi-savage life depended upon
toil, so long was it hopeless to expect mankind to do anything but
struggle to confer just as much of this blessing as possible upon
one another. But now that the new conditions physical science is
bringing about, not only dispense with man as a source of energy but
supply the hope that all routine work may be made automatic, it is
becoming conceivable that presently there may be no need for anyone
to toil habitually at all; that a labouring class--that is to say,
a class of workers without personal initiative--will become
unnecessary to the world of men.

The plain message physical science has for the world at large is
this, that were our political and social and moral devices only as
well contrived to their ends as a linotype machine, an antiseptic
operating plant, or an electric tram-car, there need now at the
present moment be no appreciable toil in the world, and only the
smallest fraction of the pain, the fear, and the anxiety that now
makes human life so doubtful in its value. There is more than enough
for everyone alive. Science stands, a too competent servant, behind
her wrangling underbred masters, holding out resources, devices, and
remedies they are too stupid to use. [Footnote: See that most
suggestive little book, Twentieth Century Inventions, by Mr. George
Sutherland.] And on its material side a modern Utopia must needs
present these gifts as taken, and show a world that is really
abolishing the need of labour, abolishing the last base reason for
anyone's servitude or inferiority.


Section 7.

The effectual abolition of a labouring and servile class will make
itself felt in every detail of the inn that will shelter us, of the
bedrooms we shall occupy. You conceive my awakening to all these
things on the morning after our arrival. I shall lie for a minute or
so with my nose peeping over the coverlet, agreeably and gently
coming awake, and with some vague nightmare of sitting at a common
table with an unavoidable dustman in green and gold called Boffin,
[Footnote: Vide William Morris's News from Nowhere.] fading out of
my mind. Then I should start up. You figure my apprehensive,
startled inspection of my chamber. "Where am I?" that classic
phrase, recurs. Then I perceive quite clearly that I am in bed in

Utopia! The word is enough to bring anyone out of bed, to the
nearest window, but thence I see no more than the great mountain
mass behind the inn, a very terrestrial looking mountain mass. I
return to the contrivances about me, and make my examination as I
dress, pausing garment in hand to hover over first this thing of
interest and then that.

The room is, of course, very clear and clean and simple; not by any
means cheaply equipped, but designed to economise the labour of
redding and repair just as much as is possible. It is beautifully
proportioned, and rather lower than most rooms I know on earth.
There is no fireplace, and I am perplexed by that until I find a
thermometer beside six switches on the wall. Above this switch-board
is a brief instruction: one switch warms the floor, which is not
carpeted, but covered by a substance like soft oilcloth; one warms
the mattress (which is of metal with resistance coils threaded to
and fro in it); and the others warm the wall in various degrees,
each directing current through a separate system of resistances. The
casement does not open, but above, flush with the ceiling, a
noiseless rapid fan pumps air out of the room. The air enters by a
Tobin shaft. There is a recess dressing-room, equipped with a bath
and all that is necessary to one's toilette, and the water, one
remarks, is warmed, if one desires it warm, by passing it through an
electrically heated spiral of tubing. A cake of soap drops out of a
store machine on the turn of a handle, and when you have done with
it, you drop that and your soiled towels and so forth, which also
are given you by machines, into a little box, through the bottom of
which they drop at once, and sail down a smooth shaft. A little
notice tells you the price of your room, and you gather the price is
doubled if you do not leave the toilette as you found it. Beside the
bed, and to be lit at night by a handy switch over the pillow, is a
little clock, its face flush with the wall. The room has no corners
to gather dirt, wall meets floor with a gentle curve, and the
apartment could be swept out effectually by a few strokes of a
mechanical sweeper. The door frames and window frames are of metal,
rounded and impervious to draught. You are politely requested to
turn a handle at the foot of your bed before leaving the room, and
forthwith the frame turns up into a vertical position, and the
bedclothes hang airing. You stand at the doorway and realise that
there remains not a minute's work for anyone to do. Memories of the
foetid disorder of many an earthly bedroom after a night's use
float across your mind.

And you must not imagine this dustless, spotless, sweet apartment as
anything but beautiful. Its appearance is a little unfamiliar of
course, but all the muddle of dust-collecting hangings and witless
ornament that cover the earthly bedroom, the valances, the curtains
to check the draught from the ill-fitting wood windows, the
worthless irrelevant pictures, usually a little askew, the dusty
carpets, and all the paraphernalia about the dirty, black-leaded
fireplace are gone. But the faintly tinted walls are framed with
just one clear coloured line, as finely placed as the member of a
Greek capital; the door handles and the lines of the panels of the
door, the two chairs, the framework of the bed, the writing table,
have all that final simplicity, that exquisite finish of contour
that is begotten of sustained artistic effort. The graciously shaped
windows each frame a picture--since they are draughtless the window
seats are no mere mockeries as are the window seats of earth--and on
the sill, the sole thing to need attention in the room, is one
little bowl of blue Alpine flowers.

The same exquisite simplicity meets one downstairs.

Our landlord sits down at table with us for a moment, and seeing we
do not understand the electrically heated coffee-pot before us,
shows us what to do. Coffee and milk we have, in the Continental
fashion, and some excellent rolls and butter.

He is a swarthy little man, our landlord, and overnight we saw him
preoccupied with other guests. But we have risen either late or
early by Utopian standards, we know not which, and this morning he
has us to himself. His bearing is kindly and inoffensive, but he
cannot conceal the curiosity that possesses him. His eye meets ours
with a mute inquiry, and then as we fall to, we catch him
scrutinising our cuffs, our garments, our boots, our faces, our
table manners. He asks nothing at first, but says a word or so about
our night's comfort and the day's weather, phrases that have an air
of being customary. Then comes a silence that is interrogative.

"Excellent coffee," I say to fill the gap.

"And excellent rolls," says my botanist.

Our landlord indicates his sense of our approval.

A momentary diversion is caused by the entry of an elfin-tressed
little girl, who stares at us half impudently, half shyly, with
bright black eyes, hesitates at the botanist's clumsy smile and nod,
and then goes and stands by her father and surveys us steadfastly.

"You have come far?" ventures our landlord, patting his daughter's

I glance at the botanist. "Yes," I say, "we have."

I expand. "We have come so far that this country of yours seems very
strange indeed to us."

"The mountains?"

"Not only the mountains."

"You came up out of the Ticino valley?"

"No--not that way."

"By the Oberalp?"


"The Furka?"


"Not up from the lake?"


He looks puzzled.

"We came," I say, "from another world."

He seems trying to understand. Then a thought strikes him, and he
sends away his little girl with a needless message to her

"Ah!" he says. "Another world--eh? Meaning----?"

"Another world--far in the deeps of space."

Then at the expression of his face one realises that a Modern Utopia
will probably keep its more intelligent citizens for better work
than inn-tending. He is evidently inaccessible to the idea we think
of putting before him. He stares at us a moment, and then remarks,
"There's the book to sign."

We find ourselves confronted with a book, a little after the fashion
of the familiar hotel visitors' book of earth. He places this before
us, and beside it puts pen and ink and a slab, upon which ink has
been freshly smeared.

"Thumbmarks," says my scientific friend hastily in English.

"You show me how to do it," I say as quickly.

He signs first, and I look over his shoulder.

He is displaying more readiness than I should have expected. The
book is ruled in broad transverse lines, and has a space for a name,
for a number, and a thumbmark. He puts his thumb upon the slab and
makes the thumbmark first with the utmost deliberation. Meanwhile
he studies the other two entries. The "numbers" of the previous
guests above are complex muddles of letters and figures. He writes
his name, then with a calm assurance writes down his number,
A.M.a.1607.2.ab+. I am wrung with momentary admiration. I follow
his example, and fabricate an equally imposing signature. We think
ourselves very clever. The landlord proffers finger bowls for our
thumbs, and his eye goes, just a little curiously, to our entries.

I decide it is advisable to pay and go before any conversation about
our formulae arises.

As we emerge into the corridor, and the morning sunlight of the
Utopian world, I see the landlord bending over the book.

"Come on," I say. "The most tiresome thing in the world is
explanations, and I perceive that if we do not get along, they will
fall upon us now."

I glance back to discover the landlord and a gracefully robed woman
standing outside the pretty simplicity of the Utopian inn, watching
us doubtfully as we recede.

"Come on," I insist.


Section 8.

We should go towards the Schoellenen gorge, and as we went, our
fresh morning senses would gather together a thousand factors for
our impression of this more civilised world. A Modern Utopia will
have done with yapping about nationality, and so the ugly
fortifications, the barracks and military defilements of the earthly
vale of Urseren will be wanting. Instead there will be a great
multitude of gracious little houses clustering in college-like
groups, no doubt about their common kitchens and halls, down and
about the valley slopes. And there will be many more trees, and a
great variety of trees--all the world will have been ransacked for
winter conifers. Despite the height of the valley there will be a
double avenue along the road. This high road with its tramway would
turn with us to descend the gorge, and we should hesitate upon the
adventure of boarding the train. But now we should have the memory
of our landlord's curious eye upon us, and we should decide at last
to defer the risk of explanations such an enterprise might

We should go by the great road for a time, and note something of the
difference between Utopian and terrestrial engineering.

The tramway, the train road, the culverts, and bridges, the
Urnerloch tunnel, into which the road plunges, will all be beautiful

There is nothing in machinery, there is nothing in embankments and
railways and iron bridges and engineering devices to oblige them to
be ugly. Ugliness is the measure of imperfection; a thing of human
making is for the most part ugly in proportion to the poverty of its
constructive thought, to the failure of its producer fully to grasp
the purpose of its being. Everything to which men continue to give
thought and attention, which they make and remake in the same
direction, and with a continuing desire to do as well as they can,
grows beautiful inevitably. Things made by mankind under modern
conditions are ugly, primarily because our social organisation is
ugly, because we live in an atmosphere of snatch and uncertainty,
and do everything in an underbred strenuous manner. This is the
misfortune of machinery, and not its fault. Art, like some beautiful
plant, lives on its atmosphere, and when the atmosphere is good, it
will grow everywhere, and when it is bad nowhere. If we smashed and
buried every machine, every furnace, every factory in the world, and
without any further change set ourselves to home industries, hand
labour, spade husbandry, sheep-folding and pig minding, we should
still do things in the same haste, and achieve nothing but
dirtiness, inconvenience, bad air, and another gaunt and gawky
reflection of our intellectual and moral disorder. We should mend

But in Utopia a man who designs a tram road will be a cultivated
man, an artist craftsman; he will strive, as a good writer, or a
painter strives, to achieve the simplicity of perfection. He will
make his girders and rails and parts as gracious as that first
engineer, Nature, has made the stems of her plants and the joints
and gestures of her animals. To esteem him a sort of anti-artist, to
count every man who makes things with his unaided thumbs an artist,
and every man who uses machinery as a brute, is merely a passing
phase of human stupidity. This tram road beside us will be a triumph
of design. The idea will be so unfamiliar to us that for a time it
will not occur to us that it is a system of beautiful objects at
all. We shall admire its ingenious adaptation to the need of a
district that is buried half the year in snow, the hard bed below,
curved and guttered to do its own clearing, the great arched sleeper
masses, raising the rails a good two yards above the ground, the
easy, simple standards and insulators. Then it will creep in upon
our minds, "But, by Jove! This is designed!"

Indeed the whole thing will be designed.

Later on, perhaps, we may find students in an art school working in
competition to design an electric tram, students who know something
of modern metallurgy, and something of electrical engineering, and
we shall find people as keenly critical of a signal box or an iron
bridge as they are on earth of----! Heavens! what _are_ they
critical about on earth?

The quality and condition of a dress tie!

We should make some unpatriotic comparisons with our own planet, no

H.G. Wells

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