Handbook of Economics and Ethics
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Handbook of Economics and Ethics

Edited by Jan Peil and Irene van Staveren

The Handbook of Economics and Ethics portrays an understanding of economic methodology in which facts and values, though distinct, are closely interconnected in a variety of ways. From theory building to data collection, and from modelling to policy evaluation, this encyclopaedic Handbook is at the intersection of economics and ethics.
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Chapter 64: Sin

Samuel Cameron


Samuel Cameron Introduction Sin is not at the forefront of work by economists. Recent applied work by mainstream economists has, however, mentioned gluttony and sloth. There is also a tendency for academic economics writings on addiction and subjects of a sexual nature to stray into implicitly treating these activities as sins. Yet sin, in general, is not a regular topic in applied economics, though theoretical discussion has shown some emphasis on the converse, those being acts of virtue, particularly altruism. A full treatment of sin within the field of economics requires a debate on the extent to which indulging in sin can be treated as rational choice behaviour. This debate is the subject of the current chapter, which looks at the concept of sin in the context of both the standard rational choice model and the expanded version represented in multiple utility models. It also discusses the function of religions as suppliers of moral standards about what is considered to be a sin. Archetypal categories of sin Sins appear to fall into three categories: ● ● ● actions attitudes (or states of mind or emotions) inaction The obvious examples of actions are purchases, such as buying huge amounts of forbidden goods or actions involving deceit, such as adultery or deceiving subscribers to a pension fund to rob them of their savings. Envy is a clear example of an attitude. Envy may or may not translate into action. If television advertising creates envy of other people’s car ownership, then it may translate into action,...

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