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Fault Lines by Raghuram G. Rajan

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CHAPTER TEN

The Fable of the Bees Replayed

IN 1714, BERNARD MANDEVILLE, a Dutchman living in England, wrote The Fable of the Bees: Or Private Vices, Public Benefits. Part verse, part prose, the tract was an indictment of the sharp practices, extravagance, and hypocrisy of the rich ruling class. For example, his portrait of lawyers in his fictitious beehive, a thinly disguised allegory for the England of his time, is one that should strike a chord with people in many countries today:

The Lawyers, of whose Art the Basis

Was raising Feuds and splitting Cases,…

They kept off Hearings wilfully,

To finger the retaining Fee;

And to defend a wicked Cause,

Examin’d and survey’d the Laws;

As Burglars Shops and Houses do;

To find out where they’d best ...

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