If we ask the iconic “person in the street” about morality and politics, we likely receive one of two comments: “Why are politicians such immoral people?” or “What should governments be doing to solve the big ethical problems of poverty, racism, and the environment?” The first reflects a concept of the “good person” and possibly might affect how one votes. The second reflects a (more abstract) belief that political institutions and actors have a moral obligation. These important lay concerns, however, only partly reflect research on morality and political psychology.

The ancient philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Confucius had concerns about ethical leadership and the education of the morally exemplary political leader. The ideal “good person” manifested qualities desirable in everyday life but also essential ...

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