Defining “Vice” To understand Mandible’s claim that society is vice-driven, one needs to loosely examine The Grumbling Hive which was later included in his larger work, The Fable of the Bees: OR, Private Vices, Public Benefits. Mandible starts off by describing “A Spacious Hive well stock’s with Bees, That lived in Luxury and Ease” (Mandible, 1705, lines 1-2). He states they were a large colony with science and industry and a good government, evidenced by the fact that “They were not Slaves to Tyranny” (Mandible, 1 705, line 9).
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The bees worked hard at their trades, which served to make the society (the hive) thrive, but he observes that this was not without consequences. He notes hat although the hive worked hard and “Millions were employed” (Mandible, 1705, line 35), there was always a separate class or group that worked harder than the rest: “And some were damned to Scythes and Spades, And all those hard laborious Trades; Where willing Wretches daily sweat, And wear out Strength and Limbs to eat” (Mandible, 1 705, lines 41-44).
He also notes that there is always a group of people who will take advantage of those hard workers for their own gain, and that this deceit was wide-spread and affected all groups and trades. As evidence, he points out that people filed needless assists; lawyers would delay hearings and pocket the retaining fees like burglars looking for the best way to break in; physicians valued money and power over the health and well-being of their patients and instead chose to study “Rules of Art”; the “Priests of Jove”, although eloquent,” . Al past Muster, that could hide Their Sloth, Lust, Avarice and Pride” (Mandible, 1705, lines 74, 85, 89-90); the Kings were cheated by those who served them, and even Lady Justice dropped her scales so she could grasp her bribe of gold. (Mandible, 1705, line 142). In this description of the flourishing hive, Mandible paints us a picture, not of a society flourishing from hard work, sweat, and “doing the right thing’, but of a society getting ahead through tricks, deceit, and greed.
This is the entire basis for his concept of ‘Vice”. We do nothing out of pure altruism. In Mandible’s eyes, everything is driven by Our own self-interest, our need to fulfill our own wishes, Wants, and desires through selfishness, dishonesty and indulgence on luxury goods. In the Preface of his larger work, The Fable of the Bees: or, Private Vices, Public
Benefits, Mandible clarifies his position further when he states: ” so they that examine into the Nature of Man, abstract from Art and Education, may observe, that what renders him a Sociable Animal, consists not in his desire or Company, Good-nature, Pity, Affability, and other Graces of a fair Outside; but that his vilest and most hateful Qualities are the most necessary Accomplishments to fit him for the largest, and, according to the World, the happiest and most flourishing Societies” (Mandible, 1714, p. ). Mandible’s views were refuted by Adam Smith in his 1759 work, The Theory f Moral Sentiments when he stated: “Every thing, according to him, is luxury which exceeds what is absolutely necessary for the support of human nature, so that there is vice even in the use of a clean shirt, or of a convenient habitation” (Smith, 1 759, p. 506). It is Smith’s view that there is no vice present or intended when our actions are “honorable and noble” (Smith, 1759, p. 501).
However, even Smith, who was one of Mandible’s biggest detractors, later admitted: “But how destructive sever, this system may appear, it could never have imposed upon so great a number of persons, nor eve occasioned so general an alarm among those who are the friends of better principles, had it not in some respects bordered upon the truth” (Smith, 1 759, p. 508), leaving us to believe that perhaps Mandible’s concept (and consequence) of “vice” is actually true.
The Products of “Vice” In Mandible’s hive, the society and it’s economy is driven by the vices of the bees. Their wishes, wants, and desires for “things” drive the production and consumption of these commodities. An increased demand for “things” will lead to more people working to produce those items, which will lead to a argue supply available to the populace (many times at a lower cost due to mass production), and an increased consumption of those items, which leads us back to higher demand, which equals more work, and so on.
Mandible also goes on to say that there is a causal relationship between this “vice” and the ingenuity of the worker, which leads to prosperity even for the poorest members of the hive (society): “Thus Vice nursed Ingenuity, Which joined with Time; and Industry Had carry’s Life’s Conveniences, It’s real Pleasures, Comforts, Ease, To such a Height, the very Poor Lived better than the Rich before; And nothing could be added more” (Mandible, 1705, lines 97-103).
It is important to pause here a moment and point out that we are not discussing those items required to meet basic, day-to-day needs (food, clothing, and housing). We are discussing those items over and above the basics, I. E. : fine clothing, fancy furniture, and expensive food and drink (what he would call luxury items). This “conspicuous consumption” (a term first coined by Thorniest Evolve in his 1 899 book entitled, The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of he Evolution of Institutions) still drives our economy today.
A large portion of our population lives well above their means. They purchase houses many times larger than they need, drive vehicles marketed to “upscale” buyers interested in “brand identification”, and take out second mortgages they can’t afford so they can purchase huge Class A motherhood they use once a year, or install a pool which sees limited usage, all because of this need to have the “things” that project a certain image or lifestyle. These luxury items and the markets they drive were huge in our current society, until the bottom fell out
Of the market and everything came crashing down. In 2005, Carol Lloyd Of the San Francisco Chronicle noted: “In the U.S. , a trend in 1 sass toward large houses began, with the average size of a home doubling over the next 50 years. This trend has been compared to the increase in SUB purchases, also often a symbol of conspicuous consumption. People have purchased huge houses even at the expense of the size of their yard, the inability to save funds for retirement, or a greatly increased commute time, up to a couple of hours.
Such large homes can also facilitate other forms of consumption, in roving extra storage space for vehicles, clothes, and other objects” (Lloyd, 2005). In The Theory of the Leisure Class, Evolve argued that social honor was originally based on ownership of private property. In earlier times, wealth was seen as evidence of the instinct of workmanship, but more recently wealth itself is worthy of praise. Originally, the leisure class sought to demonstrate its wealth by not working. But as industrial society evolved, conspicuous consumption became the best way to demonstrate one’s wealth.
The leisure class is expected to consume the best in food, drink, shelter, argotic, services, ornaments, apparel, amusements, and so on, and because the leisure class stands at the top of this ranking system, it is incumbent on all classes that rank below them to follow their example (Evolve, 1899, Chi. 4). When Vice is Removed So what happens when “vice” is removed from society? In Mandible’s “hive”, the bees eventually get tired of living in greed and injustice, so they call on Jove to bring virtue to their society. But, Oh ye Gods! What Consternation, How vast and sudden was the Alteration! In half an Hour, the Nation round, Meat fell a Penny in the Pound” (Mandible, 1 705, lines 242-245). Even the lawyers were affected in this new society: “The Bar was silent from that Day; For now the willing Debtors pay On which, since nothing less can thrive, Than Lawyers in an honest Hive” (Mandible, 1705, lines 250-251 256-257). Justice returned, physicians tended the ill, the clergy ministered, but yet, the hive was still collapsing.
Virtue has been restored, but the society begins to self-destruct. With the drive for self-interest gone, economic development dies and the bees become lazy and unmotivated. The bees are now selling off “Stately Horses by whole sets; And Country Houses to pay Debts” (Mandible, 1705, lines 325-326); they are moving to other trades where they feel they can make a living, only to find that those trades are “o’er-stocked accordingly” (Mandible, 1 705, lines 342). Their lands and houses aren’t worth what they paid for them, work is scarce, all, it seems is lost.
So, they resolve to go about everyday life, living as simply as they can to get by: “And, when they paid the Tavern Score, Resolved to enter it no more” (Mandible, 1705, lines 357-358). The Haughty Chloe has to sell her furniture from the Indies, she goes longer before buying new clothes, and the rare fruits she previously enjoyed are now a thing of the past (Mandible, 1705, lines 367-381). It seems that by seeking honesty and virtue, the society destroyed itself. The bees start to abandon the hive.
The few that remain take shelter in “a hollow tree, Blest with content and Honesty’ (Mandible, 1705, lines 407-408), In the last part of the doggerel, Mandible presents ‘The MORAL”: “Then leave Complaints: Fools only strive To make a Great an honest Hive. Tendon the World’s Conveniences, Be Famed in War, yet live in Ease Without great Vices, is a vain Utopia seated in the Brain. Fraud, Luxury, and Pride must live; Whilst we the Benefits receive” (Mandible, 1705, lines 409-416).
Mandible commented in the preface to Fable Of the Bees that he wrote The Grumbling Hive “to show the Vileness of the Ingredients that all together compose the wholesome Mixture of a well-ordered Society”. He further stated that: “For the main Design of the Fable … Is to she [show] the Impossibility of enjoying all the most elegant Comforts of Life that are to be met with in an industrious, lathe and powerful Nation, and at the same time be bless’s with all the Virtue and Innocence that can be wished for in a Golden Age” (Mandible, 1714, p. ). We can apply this notion that vice is the foundation of national prosperity and happiness to the economic mess in the United States today. There came a point in our current economy that people began to realize they were in debt too deep. Many times, applications for credit were “doctored” so that a consumer could take out more credit than they could really afford. The result was that consumers over-extended and bought multitudes of ‘things” hey did not need and could not pay for in pursuit of “status”.
Once this realization set in, people began to back away from the excesses of the previous decade: they spent less and tried to save more, they started to sell off their expensive purchases, and they tried to cut back, settling for the day- to-day items necessary to sustain life. Some economists say this sudden frugality actually made things worse, because when people stopped spending, the economy shriveled up. The price of land and houses plummeted, new building stopped, workers in all kinds of industries lost their bobs, factories closed, and the unemployment rate skyrocketed.
People started defaulting on loans at an alarming rate. The market was flooded with used motor homes and people were stuck with houses they couldn’t afford, but couldn’t sell. Foreclosures were (and still are) at an all-time high. It seems the American dream has vanished. While Mandible believed the ‘Vice” that causes us to buy “things” in excess is part of the downfall of the hive: “Great wealth and foreign treasure,” Mandible wrote, “will ever scorn to come among men unless you’ll admit their inseparable companions, avarice and usury: where trade is considerable, fraud will intrude.
To be at once well- bred and sincere is no less than a contradiction; and therefore while man advances in knowledge, and his manners are polished, we must expect to see at the same time his desires enlarged, his appetites refined, and his vices increased” (Mandible, 1714, p. 201 it is interesting to note that the Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Denmark and Norway) have remained relatively stable. In these countries “where many people pay 50% of their income in taxes” to support their high-benefit welfare system, these “systems eve been acting as stabilizers to their economies.
If you lose your job in Sweden, you can expect to receive of your wages for the first 200 days of inactivity, up to 680 kronor (EYE) per day, dropping to 70% for the following 100 days. If you lose your job in Norway, you will receive 62% of your previous salary for up to two years” (Pouches’, 2009). Kristin Halverson, Narrator’s finance minister, states: “In these days, we see that a strong welfare state, together with free education and healthcare, has acted as a buffer that stabilizes the economy” (Pouches’, 2009).
Perhaps this is why the Scandinavian entries were affected much less than the United States during the recent recession. I doubt it’s because Scandinavia is much less prone to Mandible’s concept of’;CE”. It is much more likely that in a country like the United States where the welfare state has such strong disapproval, the competitive, “get ahead at all costs” and “keep up with the Joneses” mentality of the American consumer is at fault. It is the “do anything, say anything” mentality that people are willing to employ to get what they want when they want it, whether they can afford it or not.