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The long history of thought about vices and destructive habits has had little impact on modern economic thought. Theories about the economy have generally left little room for the kind of rich character descriptions found in classical thinking about vices and virtues. Nevertheless, destructive behaviors do have an important impact on economic phenomena, and government policy is often conceived and framed as a way to counter vicious behaviors. Moreover, some vices, greed in particular, are sometimes thought to be an economic blessing. In fact, a complete understanding of classical vices makes it clear that economic progress depends more on virtue than on vice. Consequentially, it is worth paying attention to the ways in which economic life encourages or discourages vices among citizens.

Vices in Classical Thought

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