Bert hamminga: "grave pensive looks"
recommended for "publick benefit"

The Blessings of Vices

A doctor lived in London Town,
Who saw that All was Vicious.
But tasting up and tasting down,
He wrote: "it is Delicious!"
(from: The Humbling Strife)

Londen, 1723. Bernard Mandeville, physician, hobby writing, suddenly rose to fame by arousing indignation among the conservative Christians and country elite, and hidden smiles and winks from the modern and vibrant London city community. This was caused by a book The Fable of the Bees in which he elaborately explained a 400 line satirical poem he had published earlier: The Grumbling Hive. The explanation centres around the poem's "Moral": the economy of a nation benefits dramatically from the abundant vices of its citizens; and a general loss of such vices would be a national calamity worse than any other imaginable, raging pestilence not excepted.
Christian officials requested Mandeville's arrest and prohibition of his book, but failed. Other champions of conservative morality wrote condemnations stuffed with big words and gross misunderstanding of Mandeville's intelligent line of thought on how human psychology bears on economics. The moral indignation - sometimes bordering outright panic - completely blocked a cool, detached analysis of the imperfections Mandeville's reasoning surely had. That started only when half a century later the indignation was sidelined by a new generation of economists and philosophers. Tactically, those wise scholars gradually changed the moral associations of Mandeville's concepts by calling them ever more neutral names: "vices" became named "passions" (already in Mandeville), then "pleasures", and finally "demand" and "utility". Thus his reasoning was made ready to find its way to mainstream economic ideology and the standard phrasing in which nowadays vain, greedy and untrustworthy public figures from all shades of intelligence, still using the same cheap vicious tricks unmasked by Mandeville three centuries ago, address their eager audiences, who in the same three centuries did in no way part with Ignorance - a "necessary ingredient in the mixture of society". To relive the passion of Mandeville the thinker, author and true connoisseur of Pride, of playfully but neatly putting his well taken message in the least flattering of possible phrasings, will forever remain a Modest, Temperate, Praiseworthy and Affordable joy. To The Grumbling Hive!

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