This work edited by Richardson, Martinez and Stewart explores the ethical tensions public officials face as they promote various political, social, and economic virtues associated with democratic governments while also attempting to maintain the requisite constitutional restraints needed to control the destructive tendencies of majorities. Since the earliest days of the western intellectual tradition, this tension between democratic and undemocratic elements—between freedom and authority, liberty and equality, merit and reward—has confounded theorists and practitioners alike. Ultimately, the core inquiry has become: How can regimes committed to popular government reliably instill those virtues that are necessary to control passions and ensure the survival of the regime through its citizens and leaders without undermining critical elements of the democratic process? Ethics and Character explores classic and contemporary answers to this conundrum in detail.
Scholars in the work address the question from many perspectives and across several fields, including political science, philosophy, law, public administration, and public policy. Part I reviews the development and promotion of virtues and character in western thought. Part II examines the tension between law (public duties) and ethics (private duties) as well as the "unpopular and morally suspect" role of lawyers as they counterbalance vagaries of popular government with the pressures of the market. In part III, this examination leads to a discussion of the importance of virtue and character as leaders exercise discretion in governing modern regimes. Part IV concludes with an inquiry into the nature of leadership and virtue as well as their importance in balancing democratic and undemocratic elements of the regime.