Magazine July 29, 2019, Issue

Our Fable of the Bees

(Yves Herman/Reuters)

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.

Joseph Epstein — Mr. Epstein is the author, most recently, of Gallimaufry, a Collection of Essays, Reviews, Bits.

In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners




After Harvey Mansfield’s disinvitation from Concordia University, a professor writes in to NR to clarify. Plus, Fred Schwartz on baseball.
The Week

The Week

The Canadian newspaper the National Post reports, ‘Ancient life awakens amid thawing ice caps and permafrost.’ Good news for Joe Biden.

Girth Dearth

According to the Left, it is bad to stigmatize the mentally ill, but unless you have the proper opinions on social issues, you have a mental illness.


The Latest

Rat Patrol

Rat Patrol

Illegal leaks of classified information should be treated as a serious offense. But they would be easier to prevent if less information were classified.