Tuesday, 3rd March 2015

by Joshua Gaskell

Private vices, public virtues, phr.

Pronunciation: /ˈprʌɪvᵻt ˈvʌɪsɪz ˈpʌblɪk ˈvəːtjuːz/
Etymology: < pop. var. of subtitle: The Fable of the Bees, or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits (1714) by Bernard Mandeville.

1. Regarding eighteenth-century spending: Mandeville’s provocative assertion that the private vice of acquisitiveness is a necessary evil in creating the public virtue of a thriving market economy.
2. Regarding twenty-first-century borrowing: the Tories’ self-contradictory assertion that debt is natural for private individuals (student loans: hurrah!), but unnatural for the public purse (deficit: boo!).