It is humbling to remember those who gave the supreme sacrifice of their lives for the greater good of society. These are military service members, fire fighters, the police, missionaries, civil rights workers, journalists, and all others who put themselves in physical danger to promote a defensible ideal in society.
Bernard Mandeville would, of course, say that all such people really had ulterior selfish motives of seeking fame or fortune through their exploits, hence, we should not hold anyone up as exemplars of virtue.
One can imagine Adam Smith becoming red-faced at this scurrilous attack on those who demonstrate “superior” prudence:
Whether the most generous and public-spirited actions may not, in some sense, be regarded as proceeding from self-love, I shall not at present examine. The decision of this question is not, I apprehend, of any importance towards establishing the reality of virtue, since self-love may frequently be a virtuous motive of action. I shall only endeavour to show that the desire of doing what is honourable and noble, of rendering ourselves the proper objects of esteem and approbation, cannot with any propriety be called vanity….
It is the great fallacy of Dr. Mandeville's book to represent every passion as wholly vicious, which is so in any degree and in any direction. It is thus that he treats every thing as vanity which has any reference, either to what are, or to what ought to be the sentiments of others: and it is by means of this sophistry, that he establishes his favourite conclusion, that private vices are public benefits.
Donald Trump, who attacks prisoner of war hero John McCain for being a “loser” apparently has a Mandevillian view of things: there is no such thing as heroism or bravery in service of one’s country, the only thing that matters is winning. If you sacrificed but lost, your sacrifice was worthless. Is this viewpoint compatible with being commander in chief?
Let us remember those who sacrificed for us, and celebrate their virtues even in failure.