to "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?"

NameBernhard Mandeville
Life1670 - 1733
Will the poor find work and bread if the rich stop luxury living? Vico, who now is said to be "the father of the philosophy of history", was rather neglected by his contemporaries. His idea, that the three vices of "ferocity, avarice and ambition" could be turned into "civil happiness" was not widely appreciated. Bernhard Mandeville, born two years after Vico and who had similar ideas about avarice, became the most hated author in England at the beginning of the 18th century. He went one step ahead of Vico. He went against all established moral opinions. He said that evil avarice could not only be turned into good, but that niggardly savings was positively bad for society. What is good? What is evil? That question never leaves us. In 1705 Mandeville published his famous Fable of the Bees. In that, he "set forth the appalling plight of a prosperous community in which all the citizens suddenly take it into their heads to abandon luxurious living, and the State to cut down armaments, in the interest of Saving." Simple living was, as we have seen, the ideal of Lucretius, and frugality, self-denial and asceticism that of a good Christian. Here now comes a man who says such virtues are bad and that what is really good for society is the vice of wasteful luxury living, creating employment and income for the "multitude". Today this is called "demand management" and is an established dogma of conventional economics. It wasn't, however, when Mandeville
started to preach it in 1705. However crucified he became by the mass media of that time, he didn't give up but extended his idea into a two-volume treatise. Something much more important is at stake here: our basic outlook on help and generosity towards the poor. The prophet Amos, around 750 B.C., was the first vocal voice to condemn the rich who "buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes." The moral duty of a rich man, standing in front of a starving one, is to help. What is true for an individual relation is, however, not necessarily true for social relations. Too little hunger may remove the willingness of the poor to work hard for the rich and stimulate laziness and irresponsibility. As was shown in the note on Locke, mankind increased tenfold since Mandeville published his obnoxious poem. If we think human life - your life and mine - to be our highest value, this is an enormous progress. We surely live thanks to the many life-giving technical and organizational inventions since that time. But how did we get them? By stimulating the free inventive engineers and capitalists! How did we stimulate them? By giving them plenty of that which most men want: wealth, power and status, that is, Pride. Had we not given them these possibilities to live a life in terrificly wasteful luxury - behind the envy much admired also by the multitude - why should they have made the efforts to invent new instruments or to risk their money in new and often uncertain enterprises? The hateful truth is almost certainly that Amos was wrong and that the poor in the world still live, not in spite of, but thanks to the free luxury striving of the rich! As Mandeville said!