In the early 18th Century, it was satirist Bernard Mandeville who suggested that private vice led to public virtue. More specifically, baser human qualities such as avarice, greed, envy, and pride were said to mobilize the industrial forces in a manner that spurred economic growth and efficiency, an outcome seemingly beneficial to all. While few would argue for vice on such terms today, this article suggests that a neo-Mandevillian argument has found its way into our present context. This argument contends that it is virtue, not vice, that actually services economic growth. Importantly, this manner for animating virtue maintains the same utilitarian essence as Mandeville’s original justification for vice. Here, we may helpfully turn to the theology of John Wesley, who provides a teleological argument for heart holiness and heavenly “fitness” that challenges the various utilitarian rationalizations commonly invoked in today’s commercial marketplace. Wesley’s unique theological perspective provides a more faithful means to navigate market complexities, as believers are called to orient themselves to a heavenly reality that moderates our commercial practice without abandoning human creativity, industriousness, or business sensibility.
Brown, Kevin J.
"Wesley, ‘Holy Tempers’, and Commercial Practice,"
Journal of Religion and Business Ethics: Vol. 4, Article 13.
Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/jrbe/vol4/iss1/13