Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A World Without Conspicuous Consumption

...some may like it and others may not.  Of course, those who want to read something other than the Bible could simply leave the community.  This is what Thomas More dreamed of in Utopia.

“We are as prosperous and as happy as any one; we have here all we need.”
As all work for the common good, so all are supplied from the common stores.  I asked the purchasing agent about the book-keeping of the place; he replied, “As there is no trading, few accounts are needed.  Much of what we raise is consumed on the place, and of what the people us no account is kept.  Thus, if a family needs flour, it goes freely to the mill and gets what it requires.  If butter, it goes to the store in the same way.  We need only to keep account of what we sell of our own products, and of what we buy from abroad, and these accounts check each other.  When we make money, we invest in land.”  Further, I was told that tea, coffee, and sugar are roughly allowanced to each family.
Each family has either a house, or apartments in one of the large houses.  Each has a garden patch, and keeps chickens; and every year a number of pigs are set apart for each household, according to its number.  These are fed with the leavings of the table, and are fattened and killed in the winter, and salted down.  Fresh beef is not commonly used.  If any one needs vegetables, he can get them in the large garden.  There seemed to be an abundance of good plain food everywhere.
In fact there is little room for poetry or for the imagination in the life of Aurora.  What is not directly useful is sternly left out.  There are no carpets, even in Dr. Keil’s house; no sofa or easy chairs...no books, except a Bible and hymn-book, and a few medical works; no pictures—nothing to please the taste; no pretty out-look, for the house lies somewhat low down.  Such was the house of the founder and president of the community; and the other houses were neither better nor much worse.  There is evidently plenty of scrubbing in-doors, plenty of plain cooking, plenty of every thing that is absolutely necessary to support life—and nothing superfluous.
—Charles Nordhoff.  American Utopias.  1875.  This passage concerned the Aurora commune.

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