Bernard de Mandeville, an eighteenth century Dutch radical thinker, was widely condemned in his day for his views, but is important to us today because many of his ideas have had an influence on subsequent economic thought. Mandeville (1670-1733) was a precursor to Adam Smith, who has been clubbed the father of classical economics. Contrary to popular belief, it was Mandeville and not Smith who first described the seeming paradox that through individuals pursuing their own self-interests, the good of the public as a whole is increased. Also, Mandeville was one of the first proponents of free trade and specialization as keys to economic growth. To a more limited extent, Mandeville might also be considered a precursor to John Maynard Keynes, often referred to as the father of macroeconomics. Keynes concurred with Mandeville's vision of the effect on the economy of too little consumption, i.e., too much savings. It is lamentable that despite these noteworthy contributions, to most people Mandeville remains an obscure figure in the evolution of economic thought.
Although Mandeville published thirteen separate works, only the two most pertinent to his economic views will be discussed here. They are The Fable of the Bees: Or, Private Vices, Public Benefits and his Modest Defence of Publick Stews. Or, an Essay Upon Whoring as it is Now Practiced in These Kingdoms. The Fable of the Bees is Mandeville's most well-known work and has received the most scholarly attention and criticism. The Fable grew out of an allegorical poem, The Grumbling Hive: Or, Knaves Turn'd Honest, which Mandeville published as a six-penny pamphlet in 1705. It remains today, as when it was written, quite controversial. Indeed, the book was declared a public nuisance by the grand jury of Middlesex in 1723.
© 1997 by the Board of Student Publications, University of Northern Iowa
Tuley, Bret T.
"The Forgotten Legacy of Bernard Mandeville,"
Draftings In: Vol. 9:
3, Article 5.
Available at: https://scholarworks.uni.edu/draftings/vol9/iss3/5