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The radical wrongness of Bernard Mandeville: the free marketeer whose bee analogy came back to sting him

His cherished text “The Fable of the Bees” is undermined by the fate of our modern pollinators

By Julian Baggini  

In 1714, philosopher Bernard Mandeville set out in over 400 lines of doggerel the most enduring argument for the value of the free market. The Fable of the Bees tells of a hive full of selfish, deceitful, mean-spirited insects. However, the consequence of each looking after their own was a thriving community. “Thus every Part was full of Vice, Yet the whole Mass a Paradise”.

Subtitled Private Vices, Public Benefits, The Fable of the Bees anticipated every argument made since for the virtues of not just tolerating selfishness…

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