Bernard Mandeville concludes his fable of the bees with a moral homily on the virtues of peace, hard work, and diligence (1705)
2005 was the 300th anniversary of the publication of the poem “The Grumbling Hive” which began Bernard Mandeville’s exploration of the idea that the pursuit of selfish goals by individuals, within the confines of the free market, could produce beneficial public benefits. This Moral concludes the poem:
THEN leave Complaints: Fools only strive To make a Great an Honest Hive T’ enjoy the World’s Conveniencies, Be fam’d in War, yet live in Ease, Without great Vices, is a vain Eutopia seated in the Brain. Fraud, Luxury and Pride must live, While we the Benefits receive: Hunger’s a dreadful Plague, no doubt, Yet who digests or thrives without? Do we not owe the Growth of Wine To the dry shabby crooked Which, while its Shoots neglected stood, Chok’d other Plants, and ran to Wood; But blest us with its noble Fruit, As soon as it was ty’d and cut: So Vice is beneficial found, When it’s by Justice lopt and bound; Nay, where the People would be great, As necessary to the State, As Hunger is to make ’em eat. Bare Virtue can’t make Nations live In Splendor; they, that would revive A Golden Age, must be as free, For Acorns, as for Honesty.
We continue our exploration of Mandeville’s “The Grumbling Hive” (1705) in this anniversary year. In the conclusion to the poem Mandeville makes the then shocking claim that often out of Vice comes much good, that when Vice is bound by Justice it becomes beneficial, and that if we wish to enter another Golden Age of mankind then we must be “as free for Acorns as for Honesty.”