Bioethics Blogs

The Campaign Trail as a Carnival of Virtues

by Andreas Kappes


Imagine you are asked to evaluate candidates who apply for a job. The person who gets the job will interact with you a lot. What would be more important to you, that the person is friendly, honest, and overall a good person or that the person is competent, educated, and good at what they are doing?

Or imagine your adult child is bringing home a new partner, would you rather have that person to be honest and trustworthy or have a great job and a great salary?

Now, consider the next prime minster of Britain. Do you want to give the job to a person that has good intentions toward you and people you like, or do you want somebody who is fantastically efficient in implementing their policies?

Ideally, you want each of the people mentioned so far to have both but that is not how life often works. If you have to choose, then, what do you feel is the lesser evil (or the greater good)?

If you are like most people, the choice is easy: you strongly prefer a person that is benevolent toward you and yours over a person who lacks such compassion but is highly competent. And this is also true when we evaluate political candidates. Sure, both morality and competence are important, but morality dominates the picture. Morality here refers to whether you perceive the political candidate to be partial towards the well-being of you and others you care about. Just imagine how devastating it would be to have an evil, yet brilliant leader, and you will happily live with a nice, yet dull mind at the helm.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.