A Letter to The Wall Street Journal,
"Economic Liberty Turns Vice Into Virtue"

about a column by Stephen Miller,
November 15, 2018, page A21

"Letters to the Editor"
The Wall Street Journal

Dear Sirs:

Is Stephen Miller going to suggest that we win lawsuits by bribing the judge? I hope not. But this is Bernard Mandeville’s recommendation. And if Miller does not mention things like this, perhaps he has missed something. Mandeville does not distinguish between honest self-interest, whose virtue has always been “prudence,” and the dishonest. Instead, he seems to regard honest merchants and officials as either non-existent or suitable prey for the dishonest. But we know what such principles will generate. It is called “kleptocracy.”

Stephen Miller can cherry-pick favorable comments about Mandeville; but David Hume, at least, always recommends moderation. Mandeville does not. Yet, since Aristotle, excess is that by which virtues can become vices. Mandeville urges, not merely excess, but fraud and corruption. For this he was universally condemned, a side of the matter we do not hear about from Stephen Miller. With Mandeville, as with quoting Karl Marx about accurately discerning “the evil basis of commerce,” this is no way to defend capitalism, private property, or the free market. As happens all too often, Miller concedes far too much to both the enemies and the false friends of liberty.

Yours truly,

Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D.

Bernard Mandeville, The False Friend of Freedom


Political Economy


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