Thomas More's "Utopia" features the description of an ideal commonwealth established in the island of Utopia. The first book contains a lengthy dialogue concerning the argument whether Raphael Hythloday should be a part of a royal council. The second book describes the country of Utopia, its inhabitants and their customs in great detail. For the purpose of this essay I will discuss the theme of unemployment in Book I and formulate an argument to show how the presence of this theme in the first book allows the readers to grasp the contents of Book II.
The theme of unemployment is introduced by Raphael Hythloday, while giving detailed reasons for his disinterest in serving royalty. He talks about his visit to the home of Cardinal Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury. Hythloday had challenged one of Morton's guest lawyers in the an argument concerning the effectiveness of the English system of justice. He stated capital punishment is "too harsh in itself, yet it isn't an effective deterrent." (Utopia, Bk. 1; Logan and Adams, p.9) Hythloday explained, men were forced into a life of thievery through desperation. The unemployed population of England "soon set about starving, unless they set about stealing"(Utopia, Bk. 1; Logan and Adams, p.9). He argued, "no punishment however severe can restrain those from robbery"(Utopia, Bk. 1; Logan and Adams, p.9) who have no source of income and no other means to support themselves and their families, while suggesting that it would do better to seek for remedies to eliminate the causes of thievery.
Hytholoday identifies mainly three causes of unemployment in England, along with certain parts of England: wars, idleness and sheep. Warring results in cripples who can no longer work, while it also causes mercenaries to accumulate in an country who do not know how to work either. Idleness restricts one from learning new trades, thus unable to make an independent living.