American character strengths: How about fairness? is a major theme these days. President Obama made economic fairness a priority in his State of the Union Address last month. What some now call “Obama’s fairness doctrine” has attracted considerable support and derision. Fairness is the central theme of the Occupy movement that began in September last year and has now spread, according to some estimates, to almost 3,000 communities around the world. The movement has focused on economic unfairness, especially the widening wealth gap—which I predicted would be one of the Top Five issues that would define 2012.

But, what do you think? Does “fairness” have any place in the panoply of American character strengths? Kindness is the first American strength. As we discussed yesterday, a global study finds America unique among 54 nations in placing kindness at the very top of a list of 24 character strengths.

What’s next on the list? You might be surprised to learn that fairness is the second most important character strength. Fairness, according to the researchers who conducted the global survey, is part of the virtue of justice. It refers to treating everyone the same according to standards of justice and fairness.

Americans are not alone in their emphasis on fairness. Many other nations in the 54-nation survey gave fairness the number one or two spot, such as Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Belgium Hungry, and Mexico. Like kindness, fairness is consistent with the core values of respect for others and equality of opportunities—values we’ve discussed before.

As this week’s series continues, we’ll discuss some additional character strengths that Americans hold dear—and then the character strengths that are the weakest among Americans. Stay tuned. You might be surprised! But, today, please add a comment below …

Do you see fairness as a core part of American character?

Do you see fairness in our economic system?

Is there a clash between the two?

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Originally published at, an online experiment in civil dialogue.

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