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Economizing on virtue

Brennan, Geoffrey and Hamlin, Alan (1995) Economizing on virtue Constitutional Political Economy, 6, (1), pp. 35-56. (doi:10.1007/BF01298375).

Record type: Article


Our central aim is to explore the ideas involved in the claim that certain institutional structures economize on virtue and, in particular, to explore the widely held idea that reliance on institutions that economize on virtue may undermine virtue itself. We explore these ideas both by discussing alternative conceptions of virtue and economizing, and by constructing a simple model of the relationship between a specific institutional structure that may be said to economize on virtue and the emergence of virtue.
"There exists in every human breast an inevitable state of tension between the aggressive and acquisitive instincts and the instincts of benevolence and self-sacrifice. It is for the preacher, lay or clerical, to inculcate the duty of subordinating the former to the latter. It is the humbler, and often invidious, role of the economist to help, so far as he can, in reducing the preacher's task to manageable dimensions. It is his function to emit a warning bark if he sees courses of action being advocated or pursued which will increase unnecessarily the inevitable tension between self-interest and public duty; and to wag his tail in approval of courses of action which will tend to keep the tension low and tolerable.... What does the economist economize? Tis love, tis love... that scarce resource, love—which we know, just as well as anybody else, to be the most precious thing in the world" (Robertson 1956: 148–54).

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Published date: December 1995


Local EPrints ID: 32951
PURE UUID: dec9ced4-a5d9-4e65-8f46-0f6af4320e37

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Date deposited: 11 Dec 2007
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 15:54

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Author: Geoffrey Brennan
Author: Alan Hamlin

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