Bernard Mandeville and the doctrine of laissez-faire

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3 Citations (Scopus)


The view of Mandeville as a pioneer of laissez-faire is difficultto reconcile with his repeated insistence that private vices were turnedinto public benefits by the ‘dexterous management of the skilfulpolitician’. Even if references to the skilful politician are regarded asshorthand for a legal and institutional framework, there remains thequestion of whether such a framework is a spontaneous order or theproduct of purposeful experiment as Mandeville thought? Mandevillewarned about the harmful effects of meddling but his complaint wasabout the actions of fashionable do-gooders rather than government. Heunderstood that the voluntariness of a transaction could be regarded asa defence against complaints of unfairness but he was quick to pointout the limitations of voluntariness especially in the market for labour.Mandeville’s objective was to teach people what they are not what theyshould be. He pointed to the strengths of the emerging market systembut was not afraid to expose its faults.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-123
Number of pages23
JournalErasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2016


  • Mandeville, laissez-faire, interventionist, education, labour,

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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