Thomas More’s Antidote to Modern Ideologies

Niccolò Machiavelli’s imprudence is surprisingly similar to that of Thomas More’s fictional character Raphael Hythloday. Since prudence is the virtue that finds practical means to moral ends, imprudence may consist in rejecting either practical realities (as does Raphael) or ethical principles (as does Machiavelli). To achieve justice, political regimes must reject both idealism and utilitarianism.
If we are to correct the wayward course of contemporary democratic societies, we must preserve what is true and good and mitigate what is false and harmful in both liberalism and nationalism. We would do well to embrace core principles of the Anglo-American constitutional tradition—principles grounded in and sustained by the virtue of prudence.
Thomas More’s Utopia suggests that a defense of property emphasizing material productivity, though valid, is inadequate. By probing classical reasons for and against private property, More goes deeper, addressing the objective needs of the human soul.
Pretending that our government is neutral actually undermines our rights, since a government that enforces manmade “rights” while denying their basis in reality moves dangerously close to using force without right—the very essence of tyranny.
The reasons for Richard’s demise constitute a warning about a deadly Machiavellian madness to which contemporary society is highly susceptible.
Both principle and prudence are necessary if “the very mercy of the law” is to be achieved.
Though he certainly finds fault in distorted versions of Christian ideals, Shakespeare pays tribute to the truth, beauty, and goodness of genuine Christian virtue.