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The Power of Moral Consensus

There’s a scene from an episode of the AMC drama Mad Men where some characters go on a family picnic. They lay out a blanket and enjoy the sunshine. Once they are finished, the iconic Don Draper hurls his empty beer can into the distance. His wife Betty picks up the sheet, dumping their trash onto the ground. Then the couple and their kids load into a car and drive away.

In the 1950s, this behavior was commonplace. Picking up the garbage was someone else’s job. But over the next few decades, the culture shifted. Anti-littering campaigns were launched. City ordinances were passed. TV commercials and public announcements and cleanup projects slowly turned the tide.

And today, people generally do not dump their trash on the ground. The scene from Mad Men is shocking. Littering is not cool.

This isn’t the only example. Smoking cigarettes is no longer cool [1]. Marriages between people who are white and black are now widely accepted [2]. According to one prominent source, the struggle for gay rights is “over” [3]. You can probably come up with more aspects of our society that have also transformed. This is the power of moral consensus.

All of these trends, however, took decades. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes, the public adapts nearly instantly to decide what is right, and practically everyone starts doing exactly that.

Like the one epidemic, in which:

Parents so dreaded polio that they were quick to seek the vaccine for their children, and coercive policies never became necessary [4].

That’s not happening today. Maybe it’s because kids aren’t as susceptible to COVID-19. Or maybe it’s because we don’t trust the authorities like we used to.

Without moral consensus, our society cannot advance. We can’t decide what is and is not a problem and what must be done.

That’s why I’m running for office: because there is a moral consensus that traditional politicians are corrupt.

I’m not a member of a party. I’m not taking money. I’m like you.

I’m fed up.


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