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Thread: Update of a 300 year old poem - "The Grumbling Hive " aka "The Fable Of the Bees"

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    Default Update of a 300 year old poem - "The Grumbling Hive " aka "The Fable Of the Bees"

    (snip)"The author, Bernard Mandeville, was a dentist in England who had immigrated from the Netherlands. His poem was meant to shock, and it did. Its subtitle was "Knaves Turned Honest." It is the story of society. Society is filled with knaves in every field. He begins, appropriately, with lawyers. Then he goes to physicians, then priests, then soldiers, then advisers to kings. They cheat. They lie. They grow rich. And they spend.

    That is the key. They spend. If they ever stop spending, the economy will collapse. They buy luxuries and vices. These create employment. The wheels of commerce, he was saying, are lubricated by knavery.

    The poem created a scandal. So did the book that followed. F. A. Hayek wrote that by 1720, every intellectual in Europe had read it. It was widely condemned as an attack on morality. Adam Smith's teacher, Francis Hutchison railed against it constantly half a century later. Smith also takes a shot at it in his The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759).

    Yet the heart of the poem was its theory of economic causation. Mandeville tied the economy to individual decisions. These shape the economy, not social planning. This was a radical concept, and Smith adopted it in The Wealth of Nations, even though he attacked the poem in The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

    The poem was the first grand presentation of Keynesianism. It says that spending, as spending, is the source of wealth. It rests on the fallacy identified by Frédéric Bastiat in the mid-19th century, what we now call the fallacy of the broken window. It is the fallacy of the thing not seen. Break a window. The owner must now spend money to get it fixed. This creates demand.

    This is the heart of Keynesianism. The governments' solution to the Great Depression, 1931–36, was deficit spending. Keynes saw this, changed his economic views (again), and wrote a convoluted defense of this: The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936). It made him famous. The missing discussion was this: "Where did the government get the money to spend?" He failed to trace back the origin of wealth. So did Mandeville.

    With the vast deficit spending and central bank inflation in 2008, wavering economists returned to the Keynesian fold after three decades in the free market wilderness. Just as deficits and central bank inflation persuaded Keynes to abandon his somewhat free market views, so did government policies persuade non-Keynesians to capitulate in the name of pragmatism in 2008.

    I offer this poem as a way for you to understand Keynesianism better. You can follow my poem. You cannot follow the text of The General Theory. If you think I'm wrong, give it a try.

    As the author, I authorize you to reprint it, post it, mail it, or do whatever you want with it without permission or payment of royalties. Poems deserve to be read. Maybe someone will make a rap song out of it.

    A hive of bees is in a field,
    Within a climate sunny.
    It will survive to multiply
    If work supplies the honey.

    The queen supplies a stream of eggs
    Which soon turn into workers.
    Except for one dependent class
    Who live full-time as shirkers.

    These are the drones, and every hive
    Supplies them with a living.
    They dance and sing and whoop it up,
    Consuming, but not giving.

    The drones spend days and nights enthralled
    By pleasures of a season.
    Convinced that life is far too short
    To waste on prayer or reason.

    They are supported by the queen,
    The mistress of seduction.
    She has a plan to make them wish
    They'd labored in production.

    But that comes later, this is now.
    Each drone, content, relaxes.
    So, worker bees work extra hard
    And grumble at the taxes.

    And so, drones while away their time
    In games and food and squander.
    That is her plan, because she knows
    That drones are prone to wander.

    The drones play on and on for weeks,
    Oblivious to hunches
    That there might come a time to pay,
    For hives have no free lunches.

    To serve the drones, some other bees
    Supply a range of vices
    That only queens can subsidize
    So high are vices' prices.

    But where, you ask, does cunning queen
    Accumulate the treasure
    That celebrating hordes of drones
    Can waste in weeks of pleasure?

    The hive itself, without a plan,
    Produces streams of honey.
    The system runs on payments made
    In liquid golden money.

    The queen has passed a law of iron
    That drones must gain a portion
    Of honey gold, which they will spend,
    Which workers think extortion.

    So, in the hive two classes form
    Which scheme like rival brothers
    To profit from the hive's output
    Without the claims from others.

    One class grows rich by selling goods
    To drones, who live by spending.
    The other class works day and night,
    In labor never-ending.

    The drones grow fat, and specialize
    In ever-greater pleasures.
    While worker bees begin to plan
    A host of counter-measures.

    The workers come before the queen
    Ten thousand wings a-humming.
    She says to bide their time instead;
    Payday is surely coming.

    They are not sure she speaks the truth,
    But great is their devotion.
    They give her time to prove her case,
    Suppressing dark emotion.

    The merchants of the drones grow rich.
    For honey flows like water.
    The hive's economy hums on,
    And drones foresee no slaughter.

    The drones resent worker bees
    Who grouse about the favors
    Displayed to drones, who spend the wealth
    Produced by others' labors.

    They set aside some honey sweet
    To purchase a solution:
    A group of masters of the arts
    Of specious elocution.

    These hired experts write reports
    That show that flowing honey
    Can only be preserved intact
    If drones are spending money.

    They say that worker bees do not
    Perceive what makes hives wealthy.
    To stop the flow of funds to drones
    Is fiscally unhealthy.

    You see, they say, the flow of funds
    Must without drones be severed.
    Without our drones, the stimulus
    Can't save the banks, full-levered.

    Without the banks, which serve the drones,
    As well as worker legions,
    The wealth of all will disappear
    Into the nether regions.

    So, we must save the hive without
    The envy-driven blaming
    Of useful drones who make us rich
    By partying and gaming.

    The worker bees do not perceive
    How this concatenation
    Of arguments implausible,
    is valid explanation.

    But these are experts with degrees
    From famous institutions,
    Which get their funding from the queen
    And rich bees' contributions.

    Therefore, the worker bees begin
    To doubt their own suspicions
    That drones are liabilities
    Not worthy of provisions.

    The hired experts collect their pay
    For having duped the masses.
    Then chortle in contempt of those
    Whom they regard as asses.

    They take their graphs and charts and chalk
    And go back to their places
    Of tenured and secure success
    With academic graces.

    And so the drones indulge themselves,
    Which they find stimulating.
    For that's what stimuli are for:
    "Let's not be hesitating!"

    Whenever their accounts run low,
    And bankers grow suspicious,
    The queen expands the flow of funds,
    Which bankers find delicious.

    And so the lending class gets rich,
    For drones have endless shop lists.
    To lend to them is safe, they think,
    The queen will never stop this.

    The lending class then borrows short
    To lend long-term to spenders,
    Short rates are low, long rates are high:
    The system has defenders.

    The experts back on campus see
    The many permutations.
    They think that they may strike it rich:
    Computerized equations!

    And so the tenured quants come forth
    To serve the lending classes.
    Who borrow even more from fools
    Who wear rose-colored glasses.

    And so the permutations spread
    Throughout the hive's insiders
    Complexity now reigns supreme,
    With kooks the sole deriders.

    And then, one summer's day, the queen
    Calls forth her close attendants.
    She lays the eggs that will decide
    The future of descendants.

    Each egg is fed, at her expense,
    To test the heirs' survival.
    One will emerge first and impose
    A death sting on each rival.

    Then up she flies, drones in pursuit
    In hope of one last action.
    A few achieve what all would like:
    Their last full satisfaction.

    "Payday has come," the queen declares.
    "Free lunches now have ended."
    The worker bees blockade the hive,
    The golden fund defended.

    The drones, now spent in every sense,
    Beg for continued feeding,
    But worker bees ignore their pleas:
    The new hive needs no breeding.

    Word spreads among the lending class:
    The formulas so splendid
    Have crashed the flow of funds outright:
    Liquidity suspended.

    And then the sellers who rode high
    On drones' relentless spending
    Discover they must switch careers:
    Their sector is descending.

    The money that the drones had spent
    Will now be spent by others.
    The queen cuts taxes and declares:
    "You now can have your druthers."

    The flow of funds continues on,
    Though drones are not surviving.
    The experts with their charts and graphs
    Were wrong: the hive is thriving.

    The lending class must now survey
    The shape of new conditions
    Without the hope of queen-backed funds
    To guarantee ambitions.

    The tenured experts, still employed,
    Release a memorandum.
    They all insist that these events
    Were all black swans and random.

    And so we see that scarcity
    Asserts its jurisdiction.
    There's greater wealth for workers now,
    Due to the drones' eviction.

    The worker bees survey the scene
    Of greater wealth for labors.
    There's always more down at the store
    When drones are not your neighbors.

    One worker bee begins to think
    About the drones' defenders.
    The tenured masters of the charts
    Who justified the spenders.

    "It seems to me," declares the bee,
    "That other drones are living
    High on the hog, beyond the rules:
    They're taking without giving."

    Considering consumption by
    Those bees in tenured splendor,
    The other bees begin to doubt
    Their claims to legal tender.

    Why should these experts with their charts
    And graphs and dense equations
    Be paid by all to generate
    Post-crisis explanations?

    What is the use of expertise
    When experts tell you little
    Of what will happen next, and why?
    They're always noncommittal.

    And so a wave of terror spreads
    In tenured education.
    To meet a market on your own:
    A frightening innovation.

    They live secure from having to
    Explain their public errors.
    Without the queen's own guarantees,
    The world is filled with terrors.

    And so they send a delegate,
    A master of compliance,
    To once again persuade the queen
    Against their self-reliance.

    She welcomes him into her court,
    And smiles at his submission.
    She loves to see her experts squirm
    When facing competition.

    "My queen," he says, "you must beware
    Of worker bees' complaining.
    You still get value for your grant
    Of pay for all our training."

    "We serve the court, and serve it well,
    Delaying that dark day.
    When worker bees at last decide
    It's time to disobey."

    "I see your point, and see it clear,"
    She says to feckless minion.
    "You serve me as the shapers of
    The climate of opinion."

    "And so I'll still extend your pay,
    To guarantee the ridding
    Of competition's terrors,
    But you all will do my bidding."

    "We've always understood the deal,"
    Is his firm declaration.
    "When it comes time to praise the court,
    Expect no hesitation."

    And so the minion brings the news
    For academe's elation.
    Between the market and the school:
    A wall of separation.

    So now I end my poem short
    On hival operations,
    On politics and pay and deals,
    And queenly expectations.

    But this one fact I hope prevails
    From the incidents you've seen.
    There's always value rendered sure
    For benefits from the queen. "(snip)


  2. #2
    God/dess hockeybobby's Avatar
    Nov 2007
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    Default Re: Update of a 300 year old poem - "The Grumbling Hive " aka "The Fable Of the Bees"

    We are all connected. We are all necessary....queens, drones, academia, and worker bees. A healthy hive needs all of us doing what we do.

  3. #3
    Jan 2012
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    Default Re: Update of a 300 year old poem - "The Grumbling Hive " aka "The Fable Of the Bees"

    Mandeville is just saying that vice plays a big part in the economy. Social planning isn't rooted in emotion but vice is. The queen metaphor is used to depit matriarchal cultures. The poem is cute but many people understand that economics is all about attitude not numbers.

    The poem is completely dated. The lower class is not spending because they're getting smarter. If you do have a little money put it in a small local bank, paper bag it blow it on a stripper. Let them worry about academic and political BS.

    "It's a racket". -Al Capone when asked about the stock market.
    Last edited by bucket2; 01-24-2012 at 12:18 AM. Reason: more info

  4. #4
    Featured Member Vamp's Avatar
    Jul 2004
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    Default Re: Update of a 300 year old poem - "The Grumbling Hive " aka "The Fable Of the Bees"

    I will let the author of the original poem speak for himself ..

    We seldom call anybody lazy, but such as we reckon inferior to us, and of whom we expect some service.
    Bernard de Mandeville

    There is no intrinsic worth in money but what is alterable with the times, and whether a guinea goes for twenty pounds or for a shilling, it is the labor of the poor and not the high and low value that is set on gold or silver, which all the comforts of life arise from.
    Bernard de Mandeville

    People of substance may sin without being exposed for their stolen pleasure; but servants and the poorer sort of women have seldom an opportunity of concealing a big belly, or at least the consequences of it.
    Bernard de Mandeville
    Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them. ~ Mark Twain

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  6. #5
    Jan 2012
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    Default Re: Update of a 300 year old poem - "The Grumbling Hive " aka "The Fable Of the Bees"

    This poem can't be analyzed in just an hour or two but it might be worth spending more time than that. Mandeville may be saying that we are too much like a bee colony and not evolved enough. Since a bee colony is, strangely, one of the purest things on earth in terms of the absence of diseases, but is obviously totalitarian, we may not even be evolved up to it's level yet.

    Mandeville is pretty good but I'd guess he didn't drink enough. Drunks are more concise. He probably didn't have the time to write a short poem so he wrote this.
    Last edited by bucket2; 01-24-2012 at 05:31 PM. Reason: spelling

  7. #6
    Jan 2012
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    Default Re: Update of a 300 year old poem - "The Grumbling Hive " aka "The Fable Of the Bees"

    Quote Originally Posted by hockeybobby View Post
    We are all connected. We are all necessary....queens, drones, academia, and worker bees. A healthy hive needs all of us doing what we do.
    If you want to go live in a bee colony knock yourself out. I have better things to do. It's bad enough I'm referred to as a "consumer" and a "resource" but now I'm a fucking bee?

  8. #7
    Jan 2012
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    Default Re: Update of a 300 year old poem - "The Grumbling Hive " aka "The Fable Of the Bees"

    Here, I wrote a poem. I call it "The Bee"

    The Bee

    Fuck bees..

    ______________ by 'bucket'
    Last edited by bucket2; 01-24-2012 at 05:37 PM. Reason: edit

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