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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 11: Conclusion

Rational Choice or No Choice at All?

Samuel Cameron


The journey taken here has been made for two main purposes. Firstly, to explore the implications of the rational choice model, as used within the discipline of economics, with an eye on the degree to which economists are consistent in the readings they derive from it. Secondly, to analyse the nature of the acknowledged sins as both causes and effects in the context of the economy as the driver of institutions. Inevitably the second objective has given rise to eclectic traversing of the boundaries of neo-classical microeconomics. Three main areas of discourse from beyond economics have intruded themselves. In the order of probably increasing influence these are: linguistics, psychology and anthropology. Explicit analysis of language has had relatively few airings in economics. In 1937, L.M. Fraser produced a now forgotten text on the meanings attached to words as used by economists. This kind of thing was revived by McCloskey (1985), who began something of a bandwagon of literature and economics writings, overwhelmingly focused on the use of rhetorical strategies to persuade readers of the correctness of one’s argument. This has expanded to include various explorations of the intersection between economics and literature, as revealed in the collection edited by Woodmansee & Osteen (1999). Still, there is not much focus on the use of language, in economics, to convey gradations of moral meaning. As we saw in Chapter 6, the precise use of words by economists can be an important tool in branding, or rebranding, the sin level of an activity in...

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