'The Fable of the Bees: Or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits' by Bernard Mandeville (1714)

The analogy of the Commonwealth with a Beehive first makes its appearance in the early 17th century, after the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and by the time of Mandeville's writing (1714) had become an established metaphore. Mandeville's book could loosely be described as the first polemic of Capitalism, long before Karl Marx's 'Das Capital'. Adam Smith's 'Theory of Moral Sentiments' (1759), which formulated the Moral Philosophy of Laissez faire Political-Economy, was in large part writen as a responce to Mandeville's pamphlet.

Milton Friedman on Greed.

Bernard Mandeville's 'The Fable of the Bees: Or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits' (1714):

[T]hey 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 of 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.

[T]he main design of [the present work] ... is to shew the Impossibility of enjoying all the most elegant Comforts of Life that are to be met with in an industrious, welthy and powerful Nation, and at the same time be bless'd with all the Virtue and Innocence that can be wish'd for in a Golden Age; and ... to expose the Unreasonableness and Folly of those, that desirous of being an opulent and flourishing People, and wonderfully greedy after all the Benefits they can receive as such, are yet always murmuring at and exclaiming against those Vices and Inconveniencies, that from the beginning of the World to this present Day, have been inseparable from all Kingdoms and States that ever were fam'd for Strength, Riches and Politeness at the same time.

[The] Vices of every Particular Person by skilful Management were made subservient to the Grandeur... Happiness of the whole.  ... if Mankind could be cured of the Failings they are Naturally guilty of they would cease to be capable of being rais'd into such vast, potent and polite Societies, as they have been under the several great Common-wealths and Monarchies that have flourish'd since the Creation.

When I assert, that Vices are inseparable from great and potent Societies, and that it is impossible their Wealth and Grandeur should subsist without, I do not say that the particular Members of them who are guilty of any, should not be continually reprov'd, or not be punish'd for them when they grow into Crimes.
There are, I believe, few People in London, of those that are at any time forc'd to go a foot, but what could wish the Streets of it much cleaner than generally they are; whilst they regard nothing but their own Cloaths and private Conveniency; but when once they come to consider, that what offends them is the result of the Plenty, great Traffick and Opulency of that mighty City, if they have any Concern in its Welfare, they will hardly ever wish to see the Streets of it less dirty. For if we mind the Materials of all sorts that must supply such an infinite number of Trades and Handicrafts, as are always going forward; the vast quanitity of Victuals, Drink and Fewel that are daily consum'd in it, and the Waste and Superfluities that must be produc'd from them; the multitudes of Horses and other Cattle that are always dawbing the Streets, the Carts, Coaches and more heavy Carriages that are perpetually wearing and breaking the Pavement of them, and above all the numberless swarms of People that are continually harrassing and trampling through every part of them. If, I say, we mind all these, we shall find that every Moment must produce new Filth, and considering how far distant the great Streets are from the River side, what Cost and Care soever be bestow'd to remove the Nastiness almost as fast as 'tis made, it is impossible London should be more cleanly before it is less flourishing.

[I]f, without any regard to the Interest or Happiness of the City, the Question was put, What Place I thought most pleasant to walk in? No body can doubt but before the stinking Streets of London, I would esteem a fragrant Garden, or a shady Grove in the Country. In the same manner, if laying aside all worldly Greatness and Vain Glory, I should be ask'd where I thought it was most probable that Men might enjoy true Happiness, I would prefer a small peaceable Society, in which Men neither envy'd nor esteem'd by Neighbours, should be contented to live upon the Natural Product of the Spot they inhabit, to a vast multitude abounding in Wealth and Power, that should always be conquering others by their Arms Abroad, and debauching themselves by Foreign Luxury at Home.

All untaught Animals are only Sollicitous of pleasing themselves, and naturally follow the bent of their own Inclinations, without considering the good or harm that from their being pleased will accrue to others. This is the Reason, that in the wild State of Nature those Creatures are fittest to live peaceably together in great Numbers, that discover the least of Understanding, and have the fewest Appetites to gratify, and consequently no Species of Animals is without the Curb of Government, less capable of agreeing long together in Multitudes than that of Man; yet such are his Qualities, whether good or bad, I shall not determine, that no Creature besides himself can ever be made sociable: But being an extraordinary selfish and headstrong, as well as cunning Animal, however he may be subdued by superior Strength, it is impossible by force alone to make him tractable, and receive the Improvements he is capable of.
The chief Thing therefore, which Lawgivers and other Wise Men, that have laboured for the Establishment of Society, have endeavour'd, has been to make the People they were to govern, believe, that it was more beneficial for every body to conquer than indulge his Appetites, and much better to mind the Publick than what seem'd his private Interest. As this has always been a very difficult Task, so no Wit or Eloquence has been left untried to compass it; and the Moralists and Philosophers of all Ages employ'd their utmost Skill to prove the truth of so useful an Assertion. But whether Mankind would have ever believ'd it or not, it is not likely that any body could have perswaded them to disapprove of their natural Inclinations, or prefer the good of others to their own, if at the same time he had not shew'd them an Equivalent to be enjoy'd as a Reward for the Violence, which by so doing they of necessity must commit upon themselves.
[...]They thoroughly examin'd all the Strength and Frailties of our Nature, and observing that none were either so savage as not to be charm'd with Praise, or so despicable as patiently to bear Contempt, justly concluded, that Flattery must be the most powerful Argument that cou'd be used to Human Creatures. Making use of this bewitching Engine, they extoll'd the Excellency of our Nature above other Animals, and setting forth with unbounded Praises the Wonders of our Sagacity and vastness of Understanding, bestow'd a thousand Encomiums on the Rationality of our Souls, by the help of which we were capable of performing the most noble Atchievements. Having by this artful way of Flattery insinuated themselves into the Hearts of Men, they began to instruct them in the Notions of Honour and Shame; representing the one as the worst of all Evils, and the other as the highest good to which Mortals could aspire: Which being done, they laid before them how unbecoming it was the Dignity of such sublime Creatures to be sollicitous about gratifying those Appetites, which they had in common with Brutes, and at the same time unmindful of those higher qualities that gave them the preeminence over all visible Beings. They indeed confess'd, that those impulses of Nature were very pressing; that it was troublesome to resist, and very difficult wholly to subdue them: But this they only used as an Argument to demonstrate, how glorious the Conquest of them was on the one hand, and how scandalous on the other not to attempt it.
To introduce... an Emulation amongst Men, they divided the whole Species in two Classes, vastly differing from one another: The one consisted of abject, low minded People, that always hunting after immediate Enjoyment, were wholly incapable of Self-denial, and without regard to the good of others, had no higher Aim than their private Advantage; such as being enslaved by Voluptuousness, yielded without Resistance to every gross desire, and made no use of their Rational Faculties but to heighten their Sensual Pleasures. These vile grov'ling Wretches, they said, were the Dross of their kind, and having only the Shape of Men, differ'd from Brutes in nothing but their outward Figure. But the other Class was made up of lofty high-spirited Creatures, that free from sordid Selfishness, esteem'd the Improvements of the Mind to be their fairest Possessions; and setting a true value upon themselves, took no delight but in imbellishing that Part in which their Excellency consisted; such as despising whatever they had in common with irrational Creatures, opposed by the help of Reason their most violent Inclinations; and making a continual War with themselves to promote the Peace of others, aim'd at no less than the Publick Welfare and the Conquest of their Own Passions.

Fortior est qui se quam quifortissima Vincit Maenia ["He who conquers himself is stronger than one who takes the greatest fortress."]

These they call'd the true Representatives of their sublime Species, exceeding in worth the first Class by more degrees, than that it self was superior to the Beasts of the Field.

Lessons and Remonstrances, ... skillfully adapted to the good Opinion Man has of himself, as those I have mentioned, must, if scatter'd amongst a Multitude, ...induce several, especially the fiercest, most resolute, and best among them, to endure a thousand Inconveniences, and undergo as many hardships, that they may have the pleasure of counting themselves Men of the second Class, and consequently appropriating to themselves all the Excellencies they have heard of it.

This Foundation of Politicks being once laid, it is impossible that Man should long remain uncivilis'd: For even those who only strove to gratify their Appetites, being continually cross'd by others of the same Stamp, could not but observe, that whenever they check'd their Incilinations, or but follow'd them with more Circumspection, they avoided a world of Troubles, and often escap'd many of the Calamities that genearlly attended the too eager pursuit after Pleasure.

No States or Kingdoms under Heaven have yielded more or greater Paterns in all sorts of Moral Virtues than the Greek and Roman Empires... .  [I]f we would know what made 'em excel in Fortitude, Courage and Magnanimity, we must cast our Eyes on the Pomp of their Triumphs, the Magnificence of their Monuments and Arches, their Trophies, Statues, and Inscriptions; the variety of their Military Crowns, their Honours decreed to the Dead, Publick Encomiums on the Living, and other imaginary Rewards they bestow'd on Men of Merit; and we shall find that what carried so many of them to the utmost Pitch of Self-denial, was nothing but their Policy in making use of the most effectual Means that human Pride could be flatter'd with.

[T]he nearer we search into human Nature, the more we shall be convinc'd, that the Moral Virtues are Political Offspring which Flattery begot upon Pride.

These extravagant Praises would by any one, above the Capacity of an Infant, be call'd fulsome Flatteries, and, if you will, abominable Lies; yet Experience teaches us, that by the help of such gross Encomiums, young Misses will be brought to make pretty Curt'sies, and behave themselves womanly much sooner, and with less trouble, than they would without them. 'Tis the same with Boys, whom they'll strive to perswade, that all fine Gentlemen do as they are bid, and that none but Beggar Boys are rude, or dirty their Cloaths; nay, as soon as the wild Brat with his untaught Fist begins to fumble for his Hat, the Mother, to make him pull it off, tells him before he is two Years old, that he is a Man; and if he repeats that Action when she desires him, he's presently a Captain, a Lord Mayor, a King, or something higher if she can think of it, till egg'd on by the force of Praise, the little Urchin endeavours to imitate Man as well as he can, and strains all his Faculties to appear what his shallow Noddle imagines he is believ'd to be.

To define then the Reward of Glory in the amplest manner, the most that can be said of it, is, that it consists in a superlative Felicity which a Man, who is conscious of having perform'd a noble Action, enjoys in Self love, whilst he is thinking on the Applause he expects of other.

By Honour, in its proper and genuine Signification, we mean nothing else but the good Opinion of others, which is counted more or less Substantial, the more or less Noise or Bustle there is made about the demonstration of it; and when we say the Sovereign is the Fountain of Honour, it signifies that he has the Power, by Titles or Ceremonies, or both together, to stamp a Mark upon whom he pleases, that shall be as current as his Coin, and procure the Owner the good Opinion of every Body, whether he deserves it or not.
The Reverse of Honour is Dishonour, or Ignominy, which consists in the bad Opinion and Contempt of others; and as the first is counted a Reward for good Actions, so this is esteem’d a Punishment for bad ones; and the more or less publick or heinous the manner is in which this Contempt of others is shewn, the more or less the Person so suffering is degraded by it. This Ignominy is likewise called Shame, from the Effect it produces; for tho’ the Good and Evil of Honour and Dishonour are imaginary, yet there is a Reality in Shame, as it signifies a Passion, that has its proper Symptoms, over-rules our Reason, and requires as much Labour and Self-denial to be subdued, as any of the rest; and since the most important Actions of Life often are regulated according to the Influence this Passion has upon us, a thorough Understanding of it must help to illustrate the Notions the World has of Honour and Ignominy. I shall therefore describe it at large.
First, to define the Passion of Shame, I think it may be call’d a sorrowful Reflexion on our own Unworthiness, proceeding from an Apprehension that others either do, or might, if they knew all, deservedly despise us. The only Objection of weight that can be rais’d against this Definition is, that innocent Virgins are often asham’d, and blush when they are guilty of no Crime, and can give no manner of Reason for this Frailty: .... . To answer this, I would have it... consider’d, that the Modesty of Women is the Result of Custom and Education, by which all unfashionable Denudations and filthy Expressions are render’d frightful and abominable to them, and that notwithstanding this, the most Virtuous Young Woman alive will often, in spite of her Teeth, have Thoughts and confus’d Ideas of Things arise in her Imagination, which she would not reveal to some People for a Thousand Worlds. Then, I say, that when obscene Words are spoken in the presence of an unexperienced Virgin, she is afraid that some Body will reckon her to understand what they mean, and consequently that she understands this and that and several things, which she desires to be thought ignorant of. The reflecting on this, and that Thoughts are forming to her Disadvantage, brings upon her that Passion which we call Shame; and whatever can fling her, tho’ never so remote from Lewdness, upon that Set of Thoughts I hinted, and which she thinks Criminal, will have the same Effect, especially before Men, as long as her Modesty lasts.

The Reverse of Shame is Pride, yet no Body can be touch'd with the first, that never felt any thing of the latter; for that we have such an extraordinary Conern in what others think of us, can proceed from nothing but the vast Esteem we have for our selves.

When a Man is overwhelm'd with Shame, he observes a sinking of the Spirits, the Heart feels cold and condensed, and the Blood flies from it to the Circumference of the Body; the Face glows, the Neck and part of the Breast partake of the Fire: He is heavy as Lead; the Head is hung down; and the Eyes through a Mist of Confusion, are fix'd on the Ground: ... he is weary of his Being, and heartily wishes he could make himself invisible [my note: see the Cloud of Unknowing]: Bue when, gratifying his Vanity, he exults in his Pride he discovers quite contrary Symptoms: His Spirits swell and fan the Arterial Blood, a more than ordinary warmth strengthens and dilates the Heart; the Extremities are cool; he feels light to himself, and imagines he could tread on Air; his Head is held up, his Eyes rowl'd about with Sprightliness; he rejoyces at his Being, is prone to Anger, and would be glad that all the World could take Notice of him.
It is incredible how necessary an Ingredient Shame is to make us sociable; it is a Frailty in our Nature, all the World... submit to it with Regret, and would prevent it if they could; yet the Happiness of Conversation depends upon it, and no Society could be polish'd, if the Generality of Mankind were not subject to it.

...from his Infancy throughout his Education, we endeavour to increase instead of lessening or destroying this Sense of Shame; and the only Remedy prescrib'd, is a strict Observance of certain Rules to avoid those Things that might bring this troublesome Sense of Shame upon him. But as to rid or cure him of it, the Politician would sooner take away his Life.

The Greediness we have after the Esteem of others, and the Raptures we enjoy in the Thoughts of being liked, and perhaps admired, are Equivalents that over-pay the Conquest of the strongest Passions, and consequently keep us at a great Distance from all such Words or Actions that can bring shame upon us. The passions we chiefly ought to hide for the Happiness and Embellishment of the Society are Lust, Pride, and Selfishness... .

 A young Woman..., that would be thought well-bred, ought to be circumspect before Men in all her Behaviour, and never known to receive from, much less to bestow Favours upon them... . A young Lady of refin’d Education keeps a strict Guard over her Looks, as well as Actions, and in her Eyes we may read a Consciousness that she has a Treasure about her, not out of Danger of being lost, and which yet she is resolv’d not to part with at any Terms. Thousand Satyrs have been made against Prudes, and as many Encomiums to extol the careless Graces, and negligent Air of virtuous Beauty. But the wiser sort of Mankind are well assured, that the free and open Countenance of the Smiling Fair, is more inviting, and yields greater Hopes to the Seducer, than the ever-watchful Look of a forbidding Eye.
This strict Reservedness is to be comply'd with by all young Women, especially Virgins, if they value the Esteem of the Polite and knowing World; Men may take greater Liberty, because in them the Appetite is more violent and ungovernable. Had equal Harshness of Discipline been imposed upon both, neither of them could have made the first Advances, and Propagation must have stood still among all the Fashionable People... .
For this Reason, the Man is allow’d openly to profess the Veneration and great Esteem he has for Women, and shew greater Satisfaction, more Mirth and Gaiety in their Company, than he is used to do out of it. He may not only be complaisant and serviceable to them on all Occasions, but it is reckon’d his Duty to protect and defend them. He may praise the good Qualities they are possess’d of, and extol their Merit with as many Exaggerations as his Invention will let him, and are consistent with good Sense. He may talk of Love, he may sigh and complain of the Rigours of the Fair, and what his Tongue must not utter he has the Privilege to speak with his Eyes, and in that Language to say what he pleases; so it be done with Decency, and short abrupted Glances: But too closely to pursue a Woman, and fasten upon her with one’s Eyes, is counted very unmannerly; the Reason is plain, it makes her uneasy, and, if she be not sufficiently fortify’d by Art and Dissimulation, often throws her into visible Disorders. As the Eyes are the Windows of the Soul, so this staring Impudence flings a raw, unexperienc’d Woman into panick Fears, that she may be seen through; and thata the Man will discover, or has already betray’d, what passes within her: it keeps her on a perpetual Rack, that commands her to reveal her secret Wishes, and seems design’d to extort from her the grand Truth, which Modesty bids her with all her Faculties to deny.

It is Shame and Education that contains the Seeds of all Politeness, and he that has neither, and offers to speak the Truth of his Heart, and what he feels within, is the most contemptible Creature upon Earth, tho’ he committed no other Fault. If a Man should tell a Woman, that he could like no body so well to propagate his Species upon, as her self, and that he found a violent Desire that Moment to go about it, and accordingly offer’d to lay hold of her for that purpose; the Consequence would be, that he would be call’d a Brute, the Woman would run away, and himself never be admitted in any civil Company. There is no body that has any Sense of Shame, but would conquer the strongest Passion rather than be so serv’d. But a Man need not conquer his Passions, it is sufficient that he conceals them. Virtue bids us subdue, but good Breeding only requires we should hide our Appetites. A fashionable Gentleman may have as violent an Inclination to a Woman as the brutish Fellow; but then he behaves himself quite otherwise; ... by Flattery, Submission, Presents, and Assiduity, he endeavours to procure her Liking to his Person... .

"Illa verecundis lux est præbenda puellis,
Qua timidus latebras sperat habere pudor."

['A light should be given to bashful maidens, in which coy modesty may hope to have concealment.' Ovid, Amores, v. 7-8.]

... all Passions centre in Self-Love, so it may be subdued by any Superious Passion, to sooth that same Self-Love... .

... that Branch of Modesty... by which we would make others believe, that the esteem we have for them exceeds the value we have for our selves, and that we have no disregard so great to any Interest as we have to our own. This laudable quality is commonly known by the name of Manners and good Breeding, and consists in a Fashionable Habit, acquired by Precept and Example, of flattering the Pride and Selfishness of others, and concealing our own with Judgement and Dexterity.

After this manner it is that the well Bred Man insinuates himself in the esteem of all the Companies he comes in, and if he gets nothing else by it, the Pleasure he receives in reflecting on the Applause which he knows is secretly given him, is to a Proud Man more than an Equivalent for his former Self-denial, and over-pays to Self-love with Interest, the loss it sustain'd in his Complaisance to others.

It is happy for us to have Fear for a Keeper, as long as our Reason is not strong enough to govern our Appetites... .

There is nothing refines Mankind more than Love and Honour. Those two Passions are equivalent to many Virtues, and therefore the greatest Schools of Breeding and good Manners are Courts and Armies; the first to accomplish the Women, the other to polish the Men.

Pride is that Natural Faculty by which every Moral that has any Understanding over values, and imagines better things of himself than any impartial Judge, thoroughly acquainted with all his Qualities and Circumstances could allow him. We are possess'd of no other Quality so beneficial to Society, and so necessary to render it wealthy and flourishing as this, yet it is that which is most generally detested.  ... Fornication, and Drunkenness is most abhorr'd by the Temperate; but none are so much offended at their Neighbour's Pride, as the proudest of all, and if any one can pardon it, it is the most humble: From which I think we may justly infer, that its being odious to all the World is a certain sign that all the World is troubled with it. ... There are... many who will allow that among the sinful Nations of the Times, Pride and Luxury, are the great Promoters of Trade, but they refuse to own the necessity there is, that in a more Virtuous Age, (such a one as should be free from Pride) Trade would in a great measure decay.

...this Emulation and continual striving to outdo one another... sets the Poor to Work, adds Spurs to Industry, and incourages the skilful Artificer to search after further Improvements.

The well bred Gentleman places his greatest Pride in the Skill he has of covering it with Dexterity, and some are so expert in concealing this Frailty, that when they are the most guilty of it, the Vulgar think them the most exempt from it. Thus the dissembling Courtier, when he appears in State, assumes an Air of Modesty and good Humour; and while he is ready to burst with Vanity, seems to be wholly Ignorant of his Greatness; well knowing, that those lovely Qualities must heighten him in the Esteem of others, and be an addition to that Grandeur, which the Coronets about his Coach and Harnesses, with the rest of his Equipage, cannot fail to proclaim without his Assistance.

The wealthy Parson, being.. debar'd from the Gaiety of Laymen, makes it his business to look out for ... the finest Cloath that Money can purchase, and distinguish himself by... his noble and spotless Garment; ... to all these niceties in Dress he adds a Majestick Gate, and expresses a commanding loftiness in his Carriage; yet common Civility... won't allow us to suspect any of his Actions to be the result of Pride; considering the Dignity of his Office, it is only Decency in him what would be Vanity in others; ... the worthy Gentleman... puts himself to all this trouble and expense meerly out of a respoect which is due to the Divine Order he belongs to, and a Religious Zeal to preserve his Holy Function from the Contempt of Scoffers. With all my Heart; nothing of all this shall be call'd Pride, let me only be allow'd to say, that to our Human Capacities it looks very like it.
But if at last I should grant, that there are Men who enjoy all the Fineries of Equipage and Furniture, as well as Cloaths, and yet have no Pride in them, it is certain, that if all should be such, that Emulation I spoke of before must cease, and consequently Trade, which has so great a dependenance upon it, shuffer in every branch.

If Envy was not rivetted in Human Nature, [the] Youth would not be so generally spurr'd on by Emulation.

Envy and Emulation have kept more Men in Bounds, and reformed more I'll Husbands from sloth, from drinking and other evil courses than all the Sermons that have been preach'd since the time of the Apostles.

The Ostracism of the Greeks was a Sacrifice of valuable Men made to Epidemick Envy, and often applied as an infallible Remedy to Cure and prevent the Mischiefs of Pupular Spleen and Rancour.