Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Sin, and the Economics of ‘Sin’

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Abstract

In Catholic theology, sin is a rebellion against God and against our created nature. It is an alienation of the person from his own nature whose symptoms are rebellious passions and weakened reason. This alienation is not addressed by most economic analyses of choice, even analyses that address ‘sinful’ choices, although behavioral models of choice do offer real insight into the internal conflicts to which sin gives rise. The primary difference between economic and Catholic accounts of sin is the normative implications of each. In the economic account the societal problem is scarcity, and the solution is institutions and regulations which efficiently mitigate internal conflict and external coordination problems. In the Catholic account, the societal problem is disorder in the human soul, caused by sin, and the solution is reconciliation with God, restoring order in the soul.