True virtue, of course, cannot be dictated, legislated or forced. Truly virtuous acts must be inspired by right motivation. And yet, moral virtue, Aristotle claims, comes from habituation and intellectual virtue from instruction. What is the initial impetus for people to do virtuous acts that develops their capacity and eventually results in the habituation? Where does the instruction come from which develops the intellectual virtues? I agree with Aristotle that men have the capacity for virtue inherently, but their development is not spontaneous. Instruction, rewards, punishments, norms, and expectations are extremely important to the development of virtue. Parents use those means regularly and with little criticism. Aristotle says that we [must be] trained from infancy to feel joy and grief for the right things.
Virtue is only partially dependent on government. In it’s role as law giver, it’s rewards and punishments government can be extremely heavy handed. Modern government’s ability to influence and inculcate virtue is smaller than that of Aristotle’s polis. As I understand it, polis implies more than mere government. Aristotle’s “polis” was not only laws and governing elites, but also a community and body of citizens who had a more cohesive sense of identity. In so far as government is also community and has a role in socialization and establishment of norms and expectations, to that degree government can more effectively influence virtue, because it has access to more subtle rewards and punishments of influencing social norms and paradigms about the virtues it wants to inculcate.