Bernard Mandeville, or Bernard de Mandeville (15 November 1670 – 21 January 1733), was an Anglo-Dutch philosopher, political economist and satirist. Born in Rotterdam, Netherlands, he lived most of his life in England and used English for most of his published works. He became famous for The Fable of the Bees.
Bernard Mandeville, by Victor L. Nuovo, The Dictionary of Eighteenth-Century British Philosophers
Includes bibliography, related works and suggestions for further reading
Mandeville's fame or notoriety derives from The Fable of the Bees: or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits, first published in 1714. The work is constructed around a satirical poem, The Grumbling Hive; or, Knaves turn'd Honest, originally published as a pamphlet in 1705. ... In fact, most of Mandeville's works subsequent to the first edition of The Fable of the Bees are elaborations or defences of the argument of that work. Thus, Mandeville's literary output, or most of it, is the product of a single philosophical programme whose central theme is the ambivalence of modern civil society and of civic virtue.
Bernard Mandeville, a Dutch physician who settled in London shortly after earning his degree in medicine at the University of Leyden, is best known as the controversial author of The Fable of the Bees: or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits (6th ed., 1729). ... Written over a period of 24 years, it began as a brief poem, 'The Grumbling Hive: or, Knaves Turn'd Honest' (1705). In later years (beginning in 1714), Mandeville appended a number of essays, remarks, and dialogues to subsequent editions until what began as a poem of 433 lines came to fill two substantial volumes.
Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733) was born in Holland in 1670 into a family of physicians and naval officers. He received his degree of Doctor of Medicine at Leiden in 1691 and began to practice as a specialist in nerve and stomach disorders, his father's specialty. Perhaps after a tour of Europe, he ended up in London, where he soon learned the language and decided to stay. ... His most famous work, The Fable of the Bees, or Private Vices, Publick Benefits, came out in more than half a dozen editions beginning in 1714 (the poem The Grumbing Hive upon which it was based appeared in 1705) ...
Very little is known about Mandeville's life, outside of what can be gleaned from the writings. However, much is made of what there is by Kaye (1924), and by Irwin Primer, 'Bernard Mandeville,' Dictionary of Literary Biography 101 (1991): 220-39. See also M. M. Goldsmith's entry in the new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
How did Smith discover the wondrous effects of self-interest? Well, he was a remarkably perceptive person who spent years in a thriving commercial center, so he must have learned much from his own observations. Smith scholar Edwin Cannan thought that the Dutch doctor Bernard Mandeville must have influenced Smith's thinking, too, with his provocative satire The Fable of the Bees: or Private Vices, Publick Benefits (expanded edition, 1729). In it, Mandeville scandalized high-minded folks by suggesting that self-interest is good, because it leads people to serve each other and help society prosper.
[Adam] Smith showed how people could create unlimited amounts of wealth peacefully. He developed an idea expressed by the French thinker Bernard Mandeville who, in 1714, had written The Fable of the Bees, or Private Vices, Public Benefits. The idea was that when people pursue their self-interest by trying to make a profit (a private vice), they must provide something other people consider useful and are willing to pay for (a public benefit). Peaceful trade takes place when each party voluntarily exchanges something they have for something they want more, and both parties benefit.
Thus, through flattery, people are instilled with a sense of pride and shame, the two emotions that ready us for society. Once part of society, people's desire to see themselves admired and their inexhaustible desires for goods spur industry and the division of labour, through which wealth increases. Therefore, it is vanity and all its attendant vices that, when properly managed, make a society function and prosper. As Mandeville puts it: 'what we call Evil in this World [...] is the Grand Principle that makes us sociable Creatures.'
Mandeville argued that it was precisely through men pursuing their material self-interest – including 'greed' and human pleasure – that all improvements in society come about. In the poem, Mandeville imagines a hive of bees that copies in its every detail and activity everything seen in human society. ... Yet, as far as Mandeville was concerned, he saw himself to be merely bringing out the reality of human nature, and the working of self-interest and incentives in society as the motivational basis for human association and the source of human progress and improvement.
... the Fable maintained that the vice of luxury, no matter how deplorable, performs the important economic function of maintaining the prosperity of the economy. Many historians, especially F.A. von Hayek, have held Mandeville to be a forerunner of Smithian laissez-faire, since Smith held that individual self-interest is harmonized with the interests of all through the operation of competition and the free market. But the intent and the analysis are very different, for Mandeville stressed the alleged paradox of 'private vice, public benefits,' and the 'benefit' was to come through the pre-Keynesian mechanism of consumption spending.
Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733), a Dutch physician who settled in London shortly after earning his degree in medicine at the University of Leyden, is best known as the author of The Fable of the Bees; or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits (6th ed., 1729), a work that provoked enormous controversy throughout the eighteenth century. Mandeville developed a number of important themes, most notably the role of self-interest (so-called 'vices') in generating a prosperous social order, that would play a crucial role in later libertarian thought.
... Mandeville substituted vanity and pride for Hobbesian fear in his explanation of how self-interest can be manipulated by government so as to make social order possible. ... Although Mandeville discussed and defended his thesis in detail throughout both volumes of The Fable of the Bees: or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits, it would serve no purpose to follow him further. It should be noted, however, that this aspect of Mandeville's social theory does not harmonize with his reputation as a pioneer in the theory of spontaneous order and social evolution.
The Root of evil Avarice, That damn'd ill-natur'd baneful Vice, Was Slave to Prodigality, That Noble Sin; whilst Luxury. Employ'd a Million of the Poor, And odious Pride a Million more ... Thus Vice nursed Ingenuity, Which join'd with Time;and Industry Had carry'd Life's Conveniencies, It's real Pleasures, Comforts, Ease, To such a Height, the very Poor Lived better than the Rich before; And nothing could be added more:
Bernard Mandeville, by Marginal Revolution University, Great Economists: Classical Economics and Its Forerunners, 20 Jun 2015
Discusses Mandeville's contributions to economics in his work The Fable of the Bees