Examples of Vice and Virtue


Breakfast cereal

is an example of a delicious and sugary vice that is less harmful than many other vices. Merriam-Webster defines vice as: a moral depravity or corruption, a moral fault or failing, a habitual and usually trivial defect or shortcoming. A vice that is commonly referred to is smoking cigarettes.


is arguably one of the noblest of virtues. Merriam-Webster defines compassion as: sympathetic¬†consciousness¬†of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. Sharing your food with a hungry child would be an example of compassion.

Even the best virtues

can become a vice, however. Consider what happens when a society takes compassion to its furthest possible conclusion. If a well-to-do society welcomes a significant needy population in the present, the related financial costs could annihilate the ability to help any needy populations in the future.

Suppose the leaders

of a society decide they want citizens to be more compassionate, and force the population to give a significant portion of its own wealth and prosperity to the less fortunate. It is compassionate to give to one group, but it is not compassionate to take from the other.

There is indeed

a fine line between greed and charity, as well as vice and virtue. As economist Milton Friedman challenges, “Tell me, is there some society that does not operate on greed?” Compassion can certainly become a form of greed if it is unchecked. Any governing body that would force charity on its citizens is not a truly charitable body.

Government often

introduces rules and regulations in the name of compassion, but rules and regulations in the name of compassion often come in the form of lobbying. When companies use capital to influence political policy, that is not an example of a government being compassionate toward its citizens.

Both vice and virtue can come in simple or complex forms, and both can become manipulated versions of themselves if not carefully examined.