It was Ruskin who first suggested that income tax should be graduated, and that super-tax should be imposed. And there are a hundred other details in the grand scheme of his Utopia which have already been embodied in the fabric of the State, while the startling and revolutionary theories which he advanced half a century ago have become the commonplaces of our political thought. There have been many makers of Utopian schemes. Ruskin used the epithet proudly, blaming his fellow-countrymen for the ignoble sneer with which they generally uttered the word; but there are very few whose Utopias have in any detail come true, or have, like Ruskin's, remained a permanently fruitful ideal. In politics his influence has been entirely for good. — Aldous Huxley, 1919

It is, however, as an observer of politics — for he is no politician — that Mr. Ruskin is perhaps the most remarkably in antagonism with the current Englishman. He sees in the universal desire to make money exclude every other object of exertion the great and fatal evil of the times, and rebels entirely against all the complex social and political arrangements which have been constituted into a system to that end. He holds that to rely on manufactures for greatness is to lean upon a broken reed, and that England must live upon herself through agriculture if ever she would return to a healthy condition of existence. So convinced is he of this that he has given a tenth part of his fortune to found a colony in which Englishmen shall be developed, through the alternation of agricultural labour with artistic pursuits, into the better specimens of humanity which he believes can thus alone be produced. That he will ever see his opinions adopted or even seriously entertained is not to be expected; but by those who have not bowed the knee to the modern Baal he will be gratefully remembered as one preaching in the wilderness the abandonment of the grosser things of life and the realisation of the Ideal. — from caricature page in the magazine, Vanity Fair, 1872

But if you can fix some conception of a true human state of life to be striven for — life, good for all men, as for yourselves; if you can determine some honest and simple order of existence; following those trodden ways of wisdom, which are pleasantness, and seeking her quiet and withdrawn paths, which are peace;- then, and so sanctifying wealth into "common wealth," all your art, your literature, your daily labors, your domestic affection, and citizen's duty, will join and increase into one magnificent harmony. You will know then how to build, well enough; you will build with stone well, but with flesh better; temples not made with hands, but riveted of hearts; and that kind of marble, crimson-veined, is indeed eternal. — John Ruskin, "Traffic," 18.458)



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Last modified 13 July 2010