The Economics of Sin
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The Economics of Sin

Rational Choice or No Choice at All?

Samuel Cameron

The Economics of Sin examines the definition and evolution of sin from the perspective of rational choice economics, yet is conscious of the limitations of such an approach. The author argues that because engaging in activities deemed to be sinful is an act of choice, it can therefore be subject to the logic of choice in the economic model.
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Chapter 9: Adultery

Samuel Cameron

Extract

9. Adultery You know of course, that the Tasmanians who never committed adultery are now extinct. W. Somerset Maugham, The Bread Winner, iii PUNISHMENTS Adultery is forbidden in the ten commandments of the Bible which proposes stern punishments for adulterers. Punishments are a partial index of the sinfulness with which a transgression is viewed. Table 9.1 is a summary of some historical instances of punishment for ‘adultery’. The term adultery is used, for the moment, although the terminology of the act is discussed further below. In modern times, in liberal economies, the main punishment for adultery has been divorce instigated by the ‘victim’ as this has been one of the major grounds for divorce to the extent that it was faked when divorce was hard to obtain and the partners wanted to separate for other reasons. Although legal punishments have been rescinded, in liberal economies, the implicit punishments remain of private justice from the wronged individual in the form of revenge assaults and property destruction. Further, in the spirit of the models of Chapter 2, there is the use of social exclusion to punish code (fidelity) nonobservance. The evidence below suggests that adultery is widespread, however it is not approved of as reasonable or normal behaviour in most circumstances. For example, standard male/female ‘country and western’ duet song ‘Dark End of the Street’ admits that the act is a sin and that both parties know it is wrong and yet they are unable to desist. In terms of the Akerlof...

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