Mandeville's paradox

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Mandeville's paradox is named after Bernard Mandeville, who posits that actions which may be qualified as vicious with regard to individuals have benefits for society as a whole. This is alluded to in the subtitle of his most famous work, The Fable of The Bees: ‘Private Vices, Public Benefits’. He states that "Fraud, Luxury, and Pride must live; Whilst we the Benefits receive."[1]

The philosopher and economist Adam Smith opposes this (although he defends a moderated version of this line of thought in his theory of the invisible hand), since Mandeville fails, in his opinion, to distinguish between vice and virtue.[2]


  1. ^ Mandeville, Bernard (1714). The Fable of the Bees. pp. ‘The Moral’.
  2. ^ Smith, Adam (1759). The Theory of Moral Sentiments. pp. Part VII, Section II, Chapter 4 (‘Of licentious systems’).