Jonathan Haidt is professor of business ethics at New York University's Stern School of Business and director of Ethical Systems.
Jonathan Haidt on
The expansion of the moral circle to the point where people, while they may not care a great deal about what happens far away, care a little. That, to me, is kind of amazing and wonderful. At least when there are enormous natural disasters and genocides, many people around the world actually do care, do exert some influence on their leaders, and leaders feel some pressure to respond.
Ultimately, if we're going to reach our potential, if we're going to live in decent civilized societies that don't go to war, it's going to be because we have crossed the demographic transition and the political transition, where the whole world has effective political institutions, the whole world has democratic capitalism, and not crony capitalism.
I think that an ethic emerges in relation to a community. To the extent that there is a functioning community where people are interdependent, where they know each other's names, where their reputation is on the line, then you'll get an ethic emerging. That certainly happens in local communities. It happens within companies. It happens, to a large extent, within nations. It's very hard to scale that up to a global level.
Leaders respond to the landscape as they see it, and they have to fight the battles they fight on the landscape they're given. At present there are a lot of forces pushing them to focus on party versus party as opposed to what's good for the nation.
On our current trajectory, I don't think America is going to be making much of a contribution to solving global problems in the next few years. But in the long run something's likely to happen. We can't just extrapolate current trends and say they're going to continue.