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Main page » Fiction literature » The Fable of the Bees by Bernard de Mandeville

The Fable of the Bees by Bernard de Mandeville


The Fable of The Bees: or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits is a book by Bernard Mandeville, consisting of the poem The Grumbling Hive: or, Knaves turn’d Honest and prose discussion of it. The poem was published in 1705 and the book first appeared in 1714. The poem elucidates many key principles of economic thought, including division of labor and the invisible hand, seventy years before Adam Smith (indeed, John Maynard Keynes argues Smith was probably referencing Mandeville. It also describes the paradox of thrift centuries before Keynes, and may been seen as part of the school of underconsumption.

At the time, however, it was considered scandalous. Keynes reports in his General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, that it was "convicted as a nuisance by the grand jury of Middlesex in 1723, which stands out in the history of the moral sciences for its scandalous reputation. Only one man is recorded as having spoken a good word for it, namely Dr. Johnson, who declared that it did not puzzle him, but 'opened his eyes into real life very much'."

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Tags: Mandeville, Smith, Keynes, before, Bernard, Fable, labor