I only recently read “The Fable of the Bees,” a poem by Bernard Mandeville (1670–1733), a Dutch physician living in London. The poem was controversial in its day (it was published in England in 1714) and, it struck me, is relevant to our own. In the manner of the fables of La Fontaine, “The Fable of the Bees” surveys the populace of a successful beehive, setting out the reasons for its success, and finding them in, of all places, its vices, greed prominent among them.
No Bees had better Government,
More Fickleness, or less Content:
They were not slaves to Tyranny,
Nor ruled by
This article appears as “Beehives, Past and Present” in the July 29, 2019, print edition of National Review.