Failure in a Modern Utopia
The old Utopias--save for the breeding schemes of Plato and
Campanella--ignored that reproductive competition among
individualities which is the substance of life, and dealt
essentially with its incidentals. The endless variety of men, their
endless gradation of quality, over which the hand of selection
plays, and to which we owe the unmanageable complication of real
life, is tacitly set aside. The real world is a vast disorder of
accidents and incalculable forces in which men survive or fail. A
Modern Utopia, unlike its predecessors, dare not pretend to change
the last condition; it may order and humanise the conflict, but men
must still survive or fail.
Most Utopias present themselves as going concerns, as happiness in
being; they make it an essential condition that a happy land can
have no history, and all the citizens one is permitted to see are
well looking and upright and mentally and morally in tune. But we
are under the dominion of a logic that obliges us to take over the
actual population of the world with only such moral and mental and
physical improvements as lie within their inherent possibilities,
and it is our business to ask what Utopia will do with its
congenital invalids, its idiots and madmen, its drunkards and men of
vicious mind, its cruel and furtive souls, its stupid people, too
stupid to be of use to the community, its lumpish, unteachable and
unimaginative people? And what will it do with the man who is "poor"
all round, the rather spiritless, rather incompetent low-grade man
who on earth sits in the den of the sweater, tramps the streets
under the banner of the unemployed, or trembles--in another man's
cast-off clothing, and with an infinity of hat-touching--on the
verge of rural employment?
These people will have to be in the descendant phase, the species
must be engaged in eliminating them; there is no escape from that,
and conversely the people of exceptional quality must be ascendant.
The better sort of people, so far as they can be distinguished,
must have the fullest freedom of public service, and the fullest
opportunity of parentage. And it must be open to every man to
approve himself worthy of ascendency.
The way of Nature in this process is to kill the weaker and the
sillier, to crush them, to starve them, to overwhelm them, using the
stronger and more cunning as her weapon. But man is the unnatural
animal, the rebel child of Nature, and more and more does he turn
himself against the harsh and fitful hand that reared him. He sees
with a growing resentment the multitude of suffering ineffectual
lives over which his species tramples in its ascent. In the Modern
Utopia he will have set himself to change the ancient law. No longer
will it be that failures must suffer and perish lest their breed
increase, but the breed of failure must not increase, lest they
suffer and perish, and the race with them.
Now we need not argue here to prove that the resources of the world
and the energy of mankind, were they organised sanely, are amply
sufficient to supply every material need of every living human
being. And if it can be so contrived that every human being shall
live in a state of reasonable physical and mental comfort, without
the reproduction of inferior types, there is no reason whatever why
that should not be secured. But there must be a competition in life
of some sort to determine who are to be pushed to the edge, and who
are to prevail and multiply. Whatever we do, man will remain a
competitive creature, and though moral and intellectual training
may vary and enlarge his conception of success and fortify him
with refinements and consolations, no Utopia will ever save him
completely from the emotional drama of struggle, from exultations
and humiliations, from pride and prostration and shame. He lives in
success and failure just as inevitably as he lives in space and
But we may do much to make the margin of failure endurable. On
earth, for all the extravagance of charity, the struggle for the
mass of men at the bottom resolves itself into a struggle, and often
a very foul and ugly struggle, for food, shelter, and clothing.
Deaths outright from exposure and starvation are now perhaps
uncommon, but for the multitude there are only miserable houses,
uncomfortable clothes, and bad and insufficient food; fractional
starvation and exposure, that is to say. A Utopia planned upon
modern lines will certainly have put an end to that. It will insist
upon every citizen being being properly housed, well nourished, and
in good health, reasonably clean and clothed healthily, and upon
that insistence its labour laws will be founded. In a phrasing
that will be familiar to everyone interested in social reform,
it will maintain a standard of life. Any house, unless it be a
public monument, that does not come up to its rising standard of
healthiness and convenience, the Utopian State will incontinently
pull down, and pile the material and charge the owner for the
labour; any house unduly crowded or dirty, it must in some effectual
manner, directly or indirectly, confiscate and clear and clean. And
any citizen indecently dressed, or ragged and dirty, or publicly
unhealthy, or sleeping abroad homeless, or in any way neglected or
derelict, must come under its care. It will find him work if he can
and will work, it will take him to it, it will register him and lend
him the money wherewith to lead a comely life until work can be
found or made for him, and it will give him credit and shelter him
and strengthen him if he is ill. In default of private enterprises
it will provide inns for him and food, and it will--by itself acting
as the reserve employer--maintain a minimum wage which will cover
the cost of a decent life. The State will stand at the back of the
economic struggle as the reserve employer of labour. This most
excellent idea does, as a matter of fact, underlie the British
institution of the workhouse, but it is jumbled up with the relief
of old age and infirmity, it is administered parochially and on the
supposition that all population is static and localised whereas
every year it becomes more migratory; it is administered without
any regard to the rising standards of comfort and self-respect in
a progressive civilisation, and it is administered grudgingly. The
thing that is done is done as unwilling charity by administrators
who are often, in the rural districts at least, competing for
low-priced labour, and who regard want of employment as a crime. But
if it were possible for any citizen in need of money to resort to a
place of public employment as a right, and there work for a week or
month without degradation upon certain minimum terms, it seems
fairly certain that no one would work, except as the victim of some
quite exceptional and temporary accident, for less.
The work publicly provided would have to be toilsome, but not
cruel or incapacitating. A choice of occupations would need to be
afforded, occupations adapted to different types of training and
capacity, with some residual employment of a purely laborious and
mechanical sort for those who were incapable of doing the things
that required intelligence. Necessarily this employment by the
State would be a relief of economic pressure, but it would not be
considered a charity done to the individual, but a public service.
It need not pay, any more than the police need pay, but it could
probably be done at a small margin of loss. There is a number of
durable things bound finally to be useful that could be made and
stored whenever the tide of more highly paid employment ebbed and
labour sank to its minimum, bricks, iron from inferior ores, shaped
and preserved timber, pins, nails, plain fabrics of cotton and
linen, paper, sheet glass, artificial fuel, and so on; new roads
could be made and public buildings reconstructed, inconveniences
of all sorts removed, until under the stimulus of accumulating
material, accumulating investments or other circumstances, the tide
of private enterprise flowed again.
The State would provide these things for its citizen as though it
was his right to require them; he would receive as a shareholder in
the common enterprise and not with any insult of charity. But on the
other hand it will require that the citizen who renders the minimum
of service for these concessions shall not become a parent until he
is established in work at a rate above the minimum, and free of any
debt he may have incurred. The State will never press for its debt,
nor put a limit to its accumulation so long as a man or woman
remains childless; it will not even grudge them temporary spells of
good fortune when they may lift their earnings above the minimum
wage. It will pension the age of everyone who cares to take a
pension, and it will maintain special guest homes for the very old
to which they may come as paying guests, spending their pensions
there. By such obvious devices it will achieve the maximum
elimination of its feeble and spiritless folk in every generation
with the minimum of suffering and public disorder.
But the mildly incompetent, the spiritless and dull, the poorer sort
who are ill, do not exhaust our Utopian problem. There remain idiots
and lunatics, there remain perverse and incompetent persons, there
are people of weak character who become drunkards, drug takers, and
the like. Then there are persons tainted with certain foul and
transmissible diseases. All these people spoil the world for others.
They may become parents, and with most of them there is manifestly
nothing to be done but to seclude them from the great body of the
population. You must resort to a kind of social surgery. You cannot
have social freedom in your public ways, your children cannot speak
to whom they will, your girls and gentle women cannot go abroad
while some sorts of people go free. And there are violent people,
and those who will not respect the property of others, thieves and
cheats, they, too, so soon as their nature is confirmed, must pass
out of the free life of our ordered world. So soon as there can be
no doubt of the disease or baseness of the individual, so soon as
the insanity or other disease is assured, or the crime repeated a
third time, or the drunkenness or misdemeanour past its seventh
occasion (let us say), so soon must he or she pass out of the common
ways of men.
The dreadfulness of all such proposals as this lies in the
possibility of their execution falling into the hands of hard, dull,
and cruel administrators. But in the case of a Utopia one assumes
the best possible government, a government as merciful and
deliberate as it is powerful and decisive. You must not too hastily
imagine these things being done--as they would be done on earth at
present--by a number of zealous half-educated people in a state of
panic at a quite imaginary "Rapid Multiplication of the Unfit."
No doubt for first offenders, and for all offenders under
five-and-twenty, the Modern Utopia will attempt cautionary and
remedial treatment. There will be disciplinary schools and colleges
for the young, fair and happy places, but with less confidence and
more restraint than the schools and colleges of the ordinary world.
In remote and solitary regions these enclosures will lie, they will
be fenced in and forbidden to the common run of men, and there,
remote from all temptation, the defective citizen will be schooled.
There will be no masking of the lesson; "which do you value most,
the wide world of humanity, or this evil trend in you?" From that
discipline at last the prisoners will return.
But the others; what would a saner world do with them?
Our world is still vindictive, but the all-reaching State of Utopia
will have the strength that begets mercy. Quietly the outcast will
go from among his fellow men. There will be no drumming of him out
of the ranks, no tearing off of epaulettes, no smiting in the face.
The thing must be just public enough to obviate secret tyrannies,
and that is all.
There would be no killing, no lethal chambers. No doubt Utopia will
kill all deformed and monstrous and evilly diseased births, but for
the rest, the State will hold itself accountable for their being.
There is no justice in Nature perhaps, but the idea of justice
must be sacred in any good society. Lives that statesmanship has
permitted, errors it has not foreseen and educated against, must
not be punished by death. If the State does not keep faith, no one
will keep faith. Crime and bad lives are the measure of a State's
failure, all crime in the end is the crime of the community. Even
for murder Utopia will not, I think, kill.
I doubt even if there will be jails. No men are quite wise enough,
good enough and cheap enough to staff jails as a jail ought to be
staffed. Perhaps islands will be chosen, islands lying apart from
the highways of the sea, and to these the State will send its
exiles, most of them thanking Heaven, no doubt, to be quit of a
world of prigs. The State will, of course, secure itself against
any children from these people, that is the primary object in their
seclusion, and perhaps it may even be necessary to make these
island prisons a system of island monasteries and island nunneries.
Upon that I am not competent to speak, but if I may believe the
literature of the subject--unhappily a not very well criticised
literature--it is not necessary to enforce this separation.
[Footnote: See for example Dr. W. A. Chapple's The Fertility of
About such islands patrol boats will go, there will be no freedoms
of boat building, and it may be necessary to have armed guards at
the creeks and quays. Beyond that the State will give these
segregated failures just as full a liberty as they can have. If
it interferes any further it will be simply to police the islands
against the organisation of serious cruelty, to maintain the freedom
of any of the detained who wish it to transfer themselves to other
islands, and so to keep a check upon tyranny. The insane, of course,
will demand care and control, but there is no reason why the islands
of the hopeless drunkard, for example, should not each have a
virtual autonomy, have at the most a Resident and a guard. I believe
that a community of drunkards might be capable of organising even
its own bad habit to the pitch of tolerable existence. I do not
see why such an island should not build and order for itself and
manufacture and trade. "Your ways are not our ways," the World State
will say; "but here is freedom and a company of kindred souls. Elect
your jolly rulers, brew if you will, and distil; here are vine
cuttings and barley fields; do as it pleases you to do. We will take
care of the knives, but for the rest--deal yourselves with God!"
And you see the big convict steamship standing in to the Island of
Incurable Cheats. The crew are respectfully at their quarters,
ready to lend a hand overboard, but wide awake, and the captain is
hospitably on the bridge to bid his guests good-bye and keep an eye
on the movables. The new citizens for this particular Alsatia, each
no doubt with his personal belongings securely packed and at hand,
crowd the deck and study the nearing coast. Bright, keen faces would
be there, and we, were we by any chance to find ourselves beside the
captain, might recognise the double of this great earthly magnate or
that, Petticoat Lane and Park Lane cheek by jowl. The landing part
of the jetty is clear of people, only a government man or so stands
there to receive the boat and prevent a rush, but beyond the gates a
number of engagingly smart-looking individuals loiter speculatively.
One figures a remarkable building labelled Custom House, an
interesting fiscal revival this population has made, and beyond,
crowding up the hill, the painted walls of a number of comfortable
inns clamour loudly. One or two inhabitants in reduced circumstances
would act as hotel touts, there are several hotel omnibuses and a
Bureau de Change, certainly a Bureau de Change. And a small house
with a large board, aimed point-blank seaward, declares itself a
Gratis Information Office, and next to it rises the graceful dome of
a small Casino. Beyond, great hoardings proclaim the advantages of
many island specialities, a hustling commerce, and the opening of a
Public Lottery. There is a large cheap-looking barrack, the school
of Commercial Science for gentlemen of inadequate training....
Altogether a very go-ahead looking little port it would be, and
though this disembarkation would have none of the flow of hilarious
good fellowship that would throw a halo of genial noise about the
Islands of Drink, it is doubtful if the new arrivals would feel
anything very tragic in the moment. Here at last was scope for
adventure after their hearts.
This sounds more fantastic than it is. But what else is there to do,
unless you kill? You must seclude, but why should you torment? All
modern prisons are places of torture by restraint, and the habitual
criminal plays the part of a damaged mouse at the mercy of the cat
of our law. He has his little painful run, and back he comes again
to a state more horrible even than destitution. There are no
Alsatias left in the world. For my own part I can think of no crime,
unless it is reckless begetting or the wilful transmission of
contagious disease, for which the bleak terrors, the solitudes and
ignominies of the modern prison do not seem outrageously cruel. If
you want to go so far as that, then kill. Why, once you are rid of
them, should you pester criminals to respect an uncongenial standard
of conduct? Into such islands of exile as this a modern Utopia will
have to purge itself. There is no alternative that I can
Will a Utopian be free to be idle?
Work has to be done, every day humanity is sustained by its
collective effort, and without a constant recurrence of effort in
the single man as in the race as a whole, there is neither health
nor happiness. The permanent idleness of a human being is not
only burthensome to the world, but his own secure misery. But
unprofitable occupation is also intended by idleness, and it may be
considered whether that freedom also will be open to the Utopian.
Conceivably it will, like privacy, locomotion, and almost all the
freedoms of life, and on the same terms--if he possess the money to
pay for it.
That last condition may produce a shock in minds accustomed to the
proposition that money is the root of all evil, and to the idea that
Utopia necessarily implies something rather oaken and hand-made and
primitive in all these relations. Of course, money is not the root
of any evil in the world; the root of all evil in the world, and the
root of all good too, is the Will to Live, and money becomes harmful
only when by bad laws and bad economic organisation it is more
easily attained by bad men than good. It is as reasonable to say
food is the root of all disease, because so many people suffer from
excessive and unwise eating. The sane economic ideal is to make the
possession of money the clear indication of public serviceableness,
and the more nearly that ideal is attained, the smaller is the
justification of poverty and the less the hardship of being poor. In
barbaric and disorderly countries it is almost honourable to be
indigent and unquestionably virtuous to give to a beggar, and even
in the more or less civilised societies of earth, so many children
come into life hopelessly handicapped, that austerity to the poor
is regarded as the meanest of mean virtues. But in Utopia everyone
will have had an education and a certain minimum of nutrition and
training; everyone will be insured against ill-health and accidents;
there will be the most efficient organisation for balancing the
pressure of employment and the presence of disengaged labour, and so
to be moneyless will be clear evidence of unworthiness. In Utopia,
no one will dream of giving to a casual beggar, and no one will
dream of begging.
There will need to be, in the place of the British casual wards,
simple but comfortable inns with a low tariff--controlled to a
certain extent no doubt, and even in some cases maintained, by the
State. This tariff will have such a definite relation to the minimum
permissible wage, that a man who has incurred no liabilities through
marriage or the like relationship, will be able to live in comfort
and decency upon that minimum wage, pay his small insurance premium
against disease, death, disablement, or ripening years, and have a
margin for clothing and other personal expenses. But he will get
neither shelter nor food, except at the price of his freedom, unless
he can produce money.
But suppose a man without money in a district where employment is
not to be found for him; suppose the amount of employment to have
diminished in the district with such suddenness as to have stranded
him there. Or suppose he has quarrelled with the only possible
employer, or that he does not like his particular work. Then no
doubt the Utopian State, which wants everyone to be just as happy as
the future welfare of the race permits, will come to his assistance.
One imagines him resorting to a neat and business-like post-office,
and stating his case to a civil and intelligent official. In any
sane State the economic conditions of every quarter of the earth
will be watched as constantly as its meteorological phases, and a
daily map of the country within a radius of three or four hundred
miles showing all the places where labour is needed will hang upon
the post-office wall. To this his attention will be directed. The
man out of work will decide to try his luck in this place or that,
and the public servant, the official, will make a note of his name,
verify his identity--the freedom of Utopia will not be incompatible
with the universal registration of thumb-marks--and issue passes for
travel and coupons for any necessary inn accommodation on his way to
the chosen destination. There he will seek a new employer.
Such a free change of locality once or twice a year from a region of
restricted employment to a region of labour shortage will be among
the general privileges of the Utopian citizen.
But suppose that in no district in the world is there work within
the capacity of this particular man?
Before we suppose that, we must take into consideration the general
assumption one is permitted to make in all Utopian speculations. All
Utopians will be reasonably well educated upon Utopian lines; there
will be no illiterates unless they are unteachable imbeciles, no
rule-of-thumb toilers as inadaptable as trained beasts. The Utopian
worker will be as versatile as any well-educated man is on earth
to-day, and no Trade Union will impose a limit to his activities.
The world will be his Union. If the work he does best and likes best
is not to be found, there is still the work he likes second best.
Lacking his proper employment, he will turn to some kindred
But even with that adaptability, it may be that sometimes he will
not find work. Such a disproportion between the work to be done and
the people to do it may arise as to present a surplus of labour
everywhere. This disproportion may be due to two causes: to an
increase of population without a corresponding increase of
enterprises, or to a diminution of employment throughout the world
due to the completion of great enterprises, to economies achieved,
or to the operation of new and more efficient labour-saving
appliances. Through either cause, a World State may find itself
doing well except for an excess of citizens of mediocre and lower
But the first cause may be anticipated by wise marriage laws.... The
full discussion of these laws will come later, but here one may
insist that Utopia will control the increase of its population.
Without the determination and ability to limit that increase as well
as to stimulate it whenever it is necessary, no Utopia is possible.
That was clearly demonstrated by Malthus for all time.
The second cause is not so easily anticipated, but then, though its
immediate result in glutting the labour market is similar, its final
consequences are entirely different from those of the first. The
whole trend of a scientific mechanical civilisation is continually
to replace labour by machinery and to increase it in its
effectiveness by organisation, and so quite independently of any
increase in population labour must either fall in value until it
can compete against and check the cheapening process, or if that
is prevented, as it will be in Utopia, by a minimum wage, come out
of employment. There is no apparent limit to this process. But a
surplus of efficient labour at the minimum wage is exactly the
condition that should stimulate new enterprises, and that in a State
saturated with science and prolific in invention will stimulate new
enterprises. An increasing surplus of available labour without an
absolute increase of population, an increasing surplus of labour
due to increasing economy and not to proliferation, and which,
therefore, does not press on and disarrange the food supply, is
surely the ideal condition for a progressive civilisation. I am
inclined to think that, since labour will be regarded as a
delocalised and fluid force, it will be the World State and not the
big municipalities ruling the force areas that will be the reserve
employer of labour. Very probably it will be convenient for the
State to hand over the surplus labour for municipal purposes, but
that is another question. All over the world the labour exchanges
will be reporting the fluctuating pressure of economic demand and
transferring workers from this region of excess to that of scarcity;
and whenever the excess is universal, the World State--failing an
adequate development of private enterprise--will either reduce the
working day and so absorb the excess, or set on foot some permanent
special works of its own, paying the minimum wage and allowing them
to progress just as slowly or just as rapidly as the ebb and flow of
labour dictated. But with sane marriage and birth laws there is no
reason to suppose such calls upon the resources and initiative of
the world more than temporary and exceptional occasions.
The existence of our blond bare-footed friend was evidence enough
that in a modern Utopia a man will be free to be just as idle or
uselessly busy as it pleases him, after he has earned the minimum
wage. He must do that, of course, to pay for his keep, to pay his
assurance tax against ill-health or old age, and any charge or debt
paternity may have brought upon him. The World State of the modern
Utopist is no state of moral compulsions. If, for example, under the
restricted Utopian scheme of inheritance, a man inherited sufficient
money to release him from the need to toil, he would be free to go
where he pleased and do what he liked. A certain proportion of men
at ease is good for the world; work as a moral obligation is the
morality of slaves, and so long as no one is overworked there is no
need to worry because some few are underworked. Utopia does not
exist as a solace for envy. From leisure, in a good moral and
intellectual atmosphere, come experiments, come philosophy and the
In any modern Utopia there must be many leisurely people. We are all
too obsessed in the real world by the strenuous ideal, by the idea
that the vehement incessant fool is the only righteous man. Nothing
done in a hurry, nothing done under strain, is really well done. A
State where all are working hard, where none go to and fro, easily
and freely, loses touch with the purpose of freedom.
But inherited independence will be the rarest and least permanent of
Utopian facts, for the most part that wider freedom will have to be
earned, and the inducements to men and women to raise their personal
value far above the minimum wage will be very great indeed. Thereby
will come privacies, more space in which to live, liberty to go
everywhere and do no end of things, the power and freedom to
initiate interesting enterprises and assist and co-operate with
interesting people, and indeed all the best things of life. The
modern Utopia will give a universal security indeed, and exercise
the minimum of compulsions to toil, but it will offer some acutely
desirable prizes. The aim of all these devices, the minimum wage,
the standard of life, provision for all the feeble and unemployed
and so forth, is not to rob life of incentives but to change their
nature, to make life not less energetic, but less panic-stricken and
violent and base, to shift the incidence of the struggle for
existence from our lower to our higher emotions, so to anticipate
and neutralise the motives of the cowardly and bestial, that the
ambitious and energetic imagination which is man's finest quality
may become the incentive and determining factor in survival.
After we have paid for our lunch in the little inn that corresponds
to Wassen, the botanist and I would no doubt spend the rest of the
forenoon in the discussion of various aspects and possibilities of
Utopian labour laws. We should examine our remaining change, copper
coins of an appearance ornamental rather than reassuring, and we
should decide that after what we had gathered from the man with the
blond hair, it would, on the whole, be advisable to come to the
point with the labour question forthwith. At last we should draw the
deep breath of resolution and arise and ask for the Public Office.
We should know by this time that the labour bureau sheltered with
the post-office and other public services in one building.
The public office of Utopia would of course contain a few surprises
for two men from terrestrial England. You imagine us entering, the
botanist lagging a little behind me, and my first attempts to be
offhand and commonplace in a demand for work.
The office is in charge of a quick-eyed little woman of six and
thirty perhaps, and she regards us with a certain keenness of
"Where are your papers?" she asks.
I think for a moment of the documents in my pocket, my passport
chequered with visas and addressed in my commendation and in the
name of her late Majesty by We, Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoigne
Cecil, Marquess of Salisbury, Earl of Salisbury, Viscount Cranborne,
Baron Cecil, and so forth, to all whom it may concern, my Carte
d'Identite (useful on minor occasions) of the Touring Club de
France, my green ticket to the Reading Room of the British Museum,
and my Lettre d'Indication from the London and County Bank. A
foolish humour prompts me to unfold all these, hand them to her
and take the consequences, but I resist.
"Lost," I say, briefly.
"Both lost?" she asks, looking at my friend.
"Both," I answer.
I astonish myself by the readiness of my answer.
"I fell down a snow slope and they came out of my pocket."
"And exactly the same thing happened to both of you?"
"No. He'd given me his to put with my own." She raised her eyebrows.
"His pocket is defective," I add, a little hastily.
Her manners are too Utopian for her to follow that up. She seems to
reflect on procedure.
"What are your numbers?" she asks, abruptly.
A vision of that confounded visitors' book at the inn above comes
into my mind. "Let me _see_," I say, and pat my forehead and
reflect, refraining from the official eye before me. "Let me
"What is yours?" she asks the botanist.
"A. B.," he says, slowly, "little a, nine four seven, I
"Don't you know?"
"Not exactly," says the botanist, very agreeably. "No."
"Do you mean to say neither of you know your own numbers?" says the
little post-mistress, with a rising note.
"Yes," I say, with an engaging smile and trying to keep up a good
social tone. "It's queer, isn't it? We've both forgotten."
"You're joking," she suggests.
"Well," I temporise.
"I suppose you've got your thumbs?"
"The fact is----" I say and hesitate. "We've got our thumbs, of
"Then I shall have to send a thumb-print down to the office and get
your number from that. But are you sure you haven't your papers or
numbers? It's very queer."
We admit rather sheepishly that it's queer, and question one another
She turns thoughtfully for the thumb-marking slab, and as she does
so, a man enters the office. At the sight of him she asks with a
note of relief, "What am I to do, sir, here?"
He looks from her to us gravely, and his eye lights to curiosity at
our dress. "What is the matter, madam?" he asks, in a courteous
So far the impression we have had of our Utopia is one of a quite
unearthly sanity, of good management and comprehensive design in
every material thing, and it has seemed to us a little incongruous
that all the Utopians we have talked to, our host of last night,
the post-mistress and our garrulous tramp, have been of the most
commonplace type. But suddenly there looks out from this man's pose
and regard a different quality, a quality altogether nearer that of
the beautiful tramway and of the gracious order of the mountain
houses. He is a well-built man of perhaps five and thirty, with the
easy movement that comes with perfect physical condition, his face
is clean shaven and shows the firm mouth of a disciplined man, and
his grey eyes are clear and steady. His legs are clad in some woven
stuff deep-red in colour, and over this he wears a white shirt
fitting pretty closely, and with a woven purple hem. His general
effect reminds me somehow of the Knights Templars. On his head is a
cap of thin leather and still thinner steel, and with the vestiges
of ear-guards--rather like an attenuated version of the caps that
were worn by Cromwell's Ironsides.
He looks at us and we interpolate a word or so as she explains and
feel a good deal of embarrassment at the foolish position we have
made for ourselves. I determine to cut my way out of this
entanglement before it complicates itself further.
"The fact is----" I say.
"Yes?" he says, with a faint smile.
"We've perhaps been disingenuous. Our position is so entirely
exceptional, so difficult to explain----"
"What have you been doing?"
"No," I say, with decision; "it can't be explained like that."
He looks down at his feet. "Go on," he says.
I try to give the thing a quiet, matter-of-fact air. "You see," I
say, in the tone one adopts for really lucid explanations, "we come
from another world. Consequently, whatever thumb-mark registration
or numbering you have in this planet doesn't apply to us, and we
don't know our numbers because we haven't got any. We are really,
you know, explorers, strangers----"
"But what world do you mean?"
"It's a different planet--a long way away. Practically at an
He looks up in my face with the patient expression of a man who
listens to nonsense.
"I know it sounds impossible," I say, "but here is the simple
fact--we _appear_ in your world. We appeared suddenly upon the neck
of Lucendro--the Passo Lucendro--yesterday afternoon, and I defy you
to discover the faintest trace of us before that time. Down we
marched into the San Gotthard road and here we are! That's our fact.
And as for papers----! Where in your world have you seen papers like
I produce my pocket-book, extract my passport, and present it to
His expression has changed. He takes the document and examines it,
turns it over, looks at me, and smiles that faint smile of his
"Have some more," I say, and proffer the card of the T.C.F.
I follow up that blow with my green British Museum ticket, as
tattered as a flag in a knight's chapel.
"You'll get found out," he says, with my documents in his hand.
"You've got your thumbs. You'll be measured. They'll refer to the
central registers, and there you'll be!"
"That's just it," I say, "we sha'n't be."
He reflects. "It's a queer sort of joke for you two men to play," he
decides, handing me back my documents.
"It's no joke at all," I say, replacing them in my pocket-book.
The post-mistress intervenes. "What would you advise me to do?"
"No money?" he asks.
He makes some suggestions. "Frankly," he says, "I think you have
escaped from some island. How you got so far as here I can't
imagine, or what you think you'll do.... But anyhow, there's the
stuff for your thumbs."
He points to the thumb-marking apparatus and turns to attend to his
Presently we emerge from the office in a state between discomfiture
and amusement, each with a tramway ticket for Lucerne in his hand
and with sufficient money to pay our expenses until the morrow. We
are to go to Lucerne because there there is a demand for
comparatively unskilled labour in carving wood, which seems to us a
sort of work within our range and a sort that will not compel our
The old Utopias are sessile organisations; the new must square
itself to the needs of a migratory population, to an endless coming
and going, to a people as fluid and tidal as the sea. It does not
enter into the scheme of earthly statesmanship, but indeed all local
establishments, all definitions of place, are even now melting under
our eyes. Presently all the world will be awash with anonymous
Now the simple laws of custom, the homely methods of identification
that served in the little communities of the past when everyone knew
everyone, fail in the face of this liquefaction. If the modern
Utopia is indeed to be a world of responsible citizens, it must have
devised some scheme by which every person in the world can be
promptly and certainly recognised, and by which anyone missing can
be traced and found.
This is by no means an impossible demand. The total population of
the world is, on the most generous estimate, not more than
1,500,000,000, and the effectual indexing of this number of people,
the record of their movement hither and thither, the entry of
various material facts, such as marriage, parentage, criminal
convictions and the like, the entry of the new-born and the
elimination of the dead, colossal task though it would be, is still
not so great as to be immeasurably beyond comparison with the work
of the post-offices in the world of to-day, or the cataloguing of
such libraries as that of the British Museum, or such collections as
that of the insects in Cromwell Road. Such an index could be housed
quite comfortably on one side of Northumberland Avenue, for example.
It is only a reasonable tribute to the distinctive lucidity of the
French mind to suppose the central index housed in a vast series of
buildings at or near Paris. The index would be classified primarily
by some unchanging physical characteristic, such as we are told
the thumb-mark and finger-mark afford, and to these would be
added any other physical traits that were of material value.
The classification of thumb-marks and of inalterable physical
characteristics goes on steadily, and there is every reason for
assuming it possible that each human being could be given a distinct
formula, a number or "scientific name," under which he or she could
be docketed. [Footnote: It is quite possible that the actual
thumb-mark may play only a small part in the work of identification,
but it is an obvious convenience to our thread of story to assume
that it is the one sufficient feature.] About the buildings in which
this great main index would be gathered, would be a system of other
indices with cross references to the main one, arranged under names,
under professional qualifications, under diseases, crimes and the
These index cards might conceivably be transparent and so contrived
as to give a photographic copy promptly whenever it was needed, and
they could have an attachment into which would slip a ticket bearing
the name of the locality in which the individual was last reported.
A little army of attendants would be at work upon this index day and
night. From sub-stations constantly engaged in checking back
thumb-marks and numbers, an incessant stream of information would
come, of births, of deaths, of arrivals at inns, of applications to
post-offices for letters, of tickets taken for long journeys, of
criminal convictions, marriages, applications for public doles and
the like. A filter of offices would sort the stream, and all day and
all night for ever a swarm of clerks would go to and fro correcting
this central register, and photographing copies of its entries for
transmission to the subordinate local stations, in response to their
inquiries. So the inventory of the State would watch its every man
and the wide world write its history as the fabric of its destiny
flowed on. At last, when the citizen died, would come the last entry
of all, his age and the cause of his death and the date and place of
his cremation, and his card would be taken out and passed on to the
universal pedigree, to a place of greater quiet, to the ever-growing
galleries of the records of the dead.
Such a record is inevitable if a Modern Utopia is to be
Yet at this, too, our blond-haired friend would no doubt rebel. One
of the many things to which some will make claim as a right, is that
of going unrecognised and secret whither one will. But that, so far
as one's fellow wayfarers were concerned, would still be possible.
Only the State would share the secret of one's little concealment.
To the eighteenth-century Liberal, to the old-fashioned
nineteenth-century Liberal, that is to say to all professed
Liberals, brought up to be against the Government on principle, this
organised clairvoyance will be the most hateful of dreams. Perhaps,
too, the Individualist would see it in that light. But these are
only the mental habits acquired in an evil time. The old Liberalism
assumed bad government, the more powerful the government the worse
it was, just as it assumed the natural righteousness of the free
individual. Darkness and secrecy were, indeed, the natural refuges
of liberty when every government had in it the near possibility of
tyranny, and the Englishman or American looked at the papers of a
Russian or a German as one might look at the chains of a slave. You
imagine that father of the old Liberalism, Rousseau, slinking off
from his offspring at the door of the Foundling Hospital, and you
can understand what a crime against natural virtue this quiet eye of
the State would have seemed to him. But suppose we do not assume
that government is necessarily bad, and the individual necessarily
good--and the hypothesis upon which we are working practically
abolishes either alternative--then we alter the case altogether. The
government of a modern Utopia will be no perfection of intentions
ignorantly ruling the world.... [Footnote: In the typical modern
State of our own world, with its population of many millions, and
its extreme facility of movement, undistinguished men who adopt an
alias can make themselves untraceable with the utmost ease. The
temptation of the opportunities thus offered has developed a new
type of criminality, the Deeming or Crossman type, base men who
subsist and feed their heavy imaginations in the wooing, betrayal,
ill-treatment, and sometimes even the murder of undistinguished
women. This is a large, a growing, and, what is gravest, a prolific
class, fostered by the practical anonymity of the common man. It is
only the murderers who attract much public attention, but the supply
of low-class prostitutes is also largely due to these free
adventures of the base. It is one of the bye products of State
Liberalism, and at present it is very probably drawing ahead in the
race against the development of police organisation.]
Such is the eye of the State that is now slowly beginning to
apprehend our existence as two queer and inexplicable parties
disturbing the fine order of its field of vision, the eye that will
presently be focussing itself upon us with a growing astonishment
and interrogation. "Who in the name of Galton and Bertillon," one
fancies Utopia exclaiming, "are _you_?"
I perceive I shall cut a queer figure in that focus. I shall affect
a certain spurious ease of carriage no doubt. "The fact is, I shall
And now see how an initial hypothesis may pursue and overtake its
maker. Our thumb-marks have been taken, they have travelled by
pneumatic tube to the central office of the municipality hard by
Lucerne, and have gone on thence to the headquarters of the index at
Paris. There, after a rough preliminary classification, I imagine
them photographed on glass, and flung by means of a lantern in
colossal images upon a screen, all finely squared, and the careful
experts marking and measuring their several convolutions. And then
off goes a brisk clerk to the long galleries of the index
I have told them they will find no sign of us, but you see him going
from gallery to gallery, from bay to bay, from drawer to drawer, and
from card to card. "Here he is!" he mutters to himself, and he whips
out a card and reads. "But that is impossible!" he says....
You figure us returning after a day or so of such Utopian
experiences as I must presently describe, to the central office in
Lucerne, even as we have been told to do.
I make my way to the desk of the man who has dealt with us before.
"Well?" I say, cheerfully, "have you heard?"
His expression dashes me a little. "We've heard," he says, and adds,
"it's very peculiar."
"I told you you wouldn't find out about us," I say,
"But we have," he says; "but that makes your freak none the less
"You've heard! You know who we are! Well--tell us! We had an idea,
but we're beginning to doubt."
"You," says the official, addressing the botanist, "are----!"
And he breathes his name. Then he turns to me and gives me mine.
For a moment I am dumbfounded. Then I think of the entries we made
at the inn in the Urserenthal, and then in a flash I have the truth.
I rap the desk smartly with my finger-tips and shake my index-finger
in my friend's face.
"By Jove!" I say in English. "They've got our doubles!"
The botanist snaps his fingers. "Of course! I didn't think of
"Do you mind," I say to this official, "telling us some more about
"I can't think why you keep it up," he remarks, and then almost
wearily tells me the facts about my Utopian self. They are a little
difficult to understand. He says I am one of the samurai, which
sounds Japanese, "but you will be degraded," he says, with a gesture
almost of despair. He describes my position in this world in phrases
that convey very little.
"The queer thing," he remarks, "is that you were in Norway only
three days ago."
"I am there still. At least----. I'm sorry to be so much trouble to
you, but do you mind following up that last clue and inquiring if
the person to whom the thumb-mark really belongs isn't in Norway
The idea needs explanation. He says something incomprehensible about
a pilgrimage. "Sooner or later," I say, "you will have to believe
there are two of us with the same thumb-mark. I won't trouble you
with any apparent nonsense about other planets and so forth again.
Here I am. If I was in Norway a few days ago, you ought to be able
to trace my journey hither. And my friend?"
"He was in India." The official is beginning to look perplexed.
"It seems to me," I say, "that the difficulties in this case are
only just beginning. How did I get from Norway hither? Does my
friend look like hopping from India to the Saint Gotthard at one
hop? The situation is a little more difficult than that----"
"But here!" says the official, and waves what are no doubt
photographic copies of the index cards.
"But we are not those individuals!"
"You _are_ those individuals."
"You will see," I say.
He dabs his finger argumentatively upon the thumb-marks. "I see
now," he says.
"There is a mistake," I maintain, "an unprecedented mistake. There's
the difficulty. If you inquire you will find it begin to unravel.
What reason is there for us to remain casual workmen here, when you
allege we are men of position in the world, if there isn't something
wrong? We shall stick to this wood-carving work you have found us
here, and meanwhile I think you ought to inquire again. That's how
the thing shapes to me."
"Your case will certainly have to be considered further," he says,
with the faintest of threatening notes in his tone. "But at the same
time"--hand out to those copies from the index again--"there you
are, you know!"
When my botanist and I have talked over and exhausted every
possibility of our immediate position, we should turn, I think, to
more general questions.
I should tell him the thing that was becoming more and more apparent
in my own mind. Here, I should say, is a world, obviously on the
face of it well organised. Compared with our world, it is like a
well-oiled engine beside a scrap-heap. It has even got this
confounded visual organ swivelling about in the most alert and
lively fashion. But that's by the way.... You have only to look at
all these houses below. (We should be sitting on a seat on the
Gutsch and looking down on the Lucerne of Utopia, a Lucerne that
would, I insist, quite arbitrarily, still keep the Wasserthurm and
the Kapellbrucke.) You have only to mark the beauty, the simple
cleanliness and balance of this world, you have only to see the free
carriage, the unaffected graciousness of even the common people, to
understand how fine and complete the arrangements of this world must
be. How are they made so? We of the twentieth century are not going
to accept the sweetish, faintly nasty slops of Rousseauism that so
gratified our great-great-grandparents in the eighteenth. We know
that order and justice do not come by Nature--"if only the policeman
would go away." These things mean intention, will, carried to a
scale that our poor vacillating, hot and cold earth has never known.
What I am really seeing more and more clearly is the will beneath
this visible Utopia. Convenient houses, admirable engineering that
is no offence amidst natural beauties, beautiful bodies, and a
universally gracious carriage, these are only the outward and
visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace. Such an order means
discipline. It means triumph over the petty egotisms and vanities
that keep men on our earth apart; it means devotion and a nobler
hope; it cannot exist without a gigantic process of inquiry, trial,
forethought and patience in an atmosphere of mutual trust and
concession. Such a world as this Utopia is not made by the chance
occasional co-operations of self-indulgent men, by autocratic rulers
or by the bawling wisdom of the democratic leader. And an
unrestricted competition for gain, an enlightened selfishness, that
too fails us....
I have compared the system of indexing humanity we have come upon to
an eye, an eye so sensitive and alert that two strangers cannot
appear anywhere upon the planet without discovery. Now an eye does
not see without a brain, an eye does not turn round and look without
a will and purpose. A Utopia that deals only with appliances and
arrangements is a dream of superficialities; the essential problem
here, the body within these garments, is a moral and an intellectual
problem. Behind all this material order, these perfected
communications, perfected public services and economic organisations,
there must be men and women willing these things. There must be a
considerable number and a succession of these men and women of will.
No single person, no transitory group of people, could order and
sustain this vast complexity. They must have a collective if not
a common width of aim, and that involves a spoken or written
literature, a living literature to sustain the harmony of their
general activity. In some way they must have put the more
immediate objects of desire into a secondary place, and that means
renunciation. They must be effectual in action and persistent in
will, and that means discipline. But in the modern world in which
progress advances without limits, it will be evident that whatever
common creed or formula they have must be of the simplest sort;
that whatever organisation they have must be as mobile and flexible
as a thing alive. All this follows inevitably from the general
propositions of our Utopian dream. When we made those, we bound
ourselves helplessly to come to this....
The botanist would nod an abstracted assent.
I should cease to talk. I should direct my mind to the confused mass
of memories three days in Utopia will have given us. Besides the
personalities with whom we have come into actual contact, our
various hosts, our foreman and work-fellows, the blond man, the
public officials and so on, there will be a great multitude of
other impressions. There will be many bright snapshots of little
children, for example, of girls and women and men, seen in shops and
offices and streets, on quays, at windows and by the wayside, people
riding hither and thither and walking to and fro. A very human crowd
it has seemed to me. But among them were there any who might be
thought of as having a wider interest than the others, who seemed in
any way detached from the rest by a purpose that passed beyond the
Then suddenly I recall that clean-shaven man who talked with us for
a little while in the public office at Wassen, the man who reminded
me of my boyish conception of a Knight Templar, and with him come
momentary impressions of other lithe and serious-looking people
dressed after the same manner, words and phrases we have read in
such scraps of Utopian reading as have come our way, and expressions
that fell from the loose mouth of the man with the blond