How should we make sense of praise and blame and other such reactions towards collective agents like governments, universities, or corporations? Collective agents can be appropriate targets for our moral feelings and judgements because they can maintain and express moral positions of their own. Moral agency requires being capable of recognising moral considerations and reasons. It also necessitates the ability to react reflexively to moral matters, i.e. to take into account new moral concerns when they arise. While members of a (...) collective agent are capable of this, the collective frames the thinking of the individual moral agents within it and affects their options in myriad ways. The moral positions thus formed and expressed belong to the collective. Crucially, unlike marginal moral agents, collective agents as moral actors can be held fully responsible for their acts and omissions. (shrink)
In July 2020, more than 1,000 companies that advertise on social media platforms withdrew their business, citing failures of the platforms (especially Facebook) to address the proliferation of harmful content. The #StopHateForProfit movement invites reflection on an understudied topic: the ethics of boycotting by corporations. Under what conditions is corporate boycotting permissible, required, supererogatory, or forbidden? Although value-driven consumerism has generated significant recent discussion in applied ethics, that discussion has focused almost exclusively on the consumption choices of individuals. As this (...) article underscores, value-driven consumerism by business corporations complicates these issues and invites further examination. We propose principles for the ethics of boycotting by corporations, indicate how these principles relate to different CSR paradigms, and show how these insights can help assess recent instances of corporate boycotting. (shrink)
Are hierarchical arrangements in the workplace, including the employer-employee relationship, consistent with the ideal of relating to one another as moral equals? With this question at its core, this volume of essays by leading moral and political philosophers explores ideas about justice in the workplace, contributing to both political philosophy and business ethics. Relational egalitarians propose that the ideal of equality is primarily an ideal of social relationships and view the equality of social relationships as having priority over the distributive (...) arrangements. Yet contemporary workplaces are characterized by hierarchical employer-employee relationships. The essays push discussions of the relational egalitarian tradition in new directions, helping to show its promise and its limits. They address pressing concerns at a time of widening inequality and rapid changes in the nature of work. (shrink)
Despite interminable debate, ethical perspectives have sought to stem the abuse of corporate power by focusing on the split between utility-focused attention to shareholder value, including the ‘enlightened’ kind, and duty-focused imperatives in stakeholder theory. Through thought experiments, this chapter builds a case for a different approach. Ethics scholars including Brandt (1959) and Frankena (1963) highlight contrasting approaches to both utility and duty, separating formation of general rules from examination of individual acts. Act-based ethics points us toward the pragmatism of (...) James (1907/1955) and Dewey (1930) and ‘what works.’ In the context of boards that means connecting duty and consequences and encouraging a fullness of thought: board-level thoughtfulness. This approach has echoes of Werhane’s (2002, 2008) concept of moral imagination and Rorty’s (2006) more radical call to reject recipes and seek new solutions. (shrink)
Game theory involves deliberating about what to do in light of what other people are likely to do. One of the central frameworks of game theory is the prisoner’s dilemma, in which participants who make rational choices end up in suboptimal outcomes. Using the prisoner’s dilemma to model competition between firms sets the stage for a new and promising approach to business ethics: the market failures approach.
Abstract (German version follows): -/- This paper develops a new proposal for a coherentist business ethic in which ethically justified and empirically supported proposed solutions to economic problems are developed through a coherentist process of adjustments between the three levels of (1) conception of problem and its solution, (2) positive economic theory, and (3) ethical theories. Using an example, it illustrates how in this framework, Homann's business ethics gains in validity and relevance but loses its claim to universality. // -/- (...) Diese Arbeit entwickelt eine kohärentistische Wirtschaftsethik, in der ethisch begründete und empirisch gestützte Lösungsvorschläge für ökonomische Probleme durch einen kohärentistischen Anpassungsprozess zwischen den drei Ebenen (1) Auffassung von Problem und Lösungsansatz, (2) positive ökonomische Theorie, sowie (3) ethischen Theorien erarbeitet werden. Anhand eines Beispiels wird illustriert, wie Homanns Wirtschaftsethik in diesem Rahmen an Validität und Relevanz gewinnt, jedoch ihren Universalitätsanspruch verliert. (shrink)
Despite the increased attention that has been paid in recent years to the significance of animal interests within moral and political philosophy, there has been virtually no discussion of the significance of animal interests within business ethics. This is rather troubling, since a great deal of the treatment of animals that will seem especially problematic to many people occurs in the context of business, broadly construed. In this chapter, I aim to extend the growing concern that our normative theories should (...) be animal-friendly to business ethics. I consider whether several popular theoretical approaches in business ethics are consistent with taking animal interests to bear on the decisions that business managers are obligated to make. I do not argue for the claim that we should reject any theory in business ethics that cannot count animal interests as providing reasons that are relevant to the moral status of managerial conduct (though I think that this is true). Instead, I proceed on the assumption that many will find this claim plausible, and argue that those who do have reason to doubt that many of the prominent theoretical approaches defended in the business ethics literature are acceptable. My main aim, then, is to show that those who believe that the correct theory in business ethics must be animal-friendly, at least in the limited sense of counting animal interests as relevant to the moral status of managerial conduct in a plausible way, will need to look beyond the main competing theories that occupy present discussions. (shrink)
Few would deny that some central questions in business ethics are normative. But there has been, and remains, much skepticism about the value of traditional philosophical approaches to answering these questions. I have three central aims in this chapter. The first is to defend traditional philosophical approaches to business ethics against the criticism that they are insufficiently practical. The second is to defend the view that the appropriate methodology for pursuing work in business ethics is largely continuous with the appropriate (...) methodology in moral and political philosophy more broadly. And the third is to offer a brief characterization of how we should think about the substance of business ethics, in light of my arguments about its proper aims and methodology. (shrink)
The Market Failures Approach (MFA) is one of the leading theories in contemporary business ethics. It generates a list of ethical obligations for the managers of private firms that states that they should not create or exploit market failures because doing so reduces the efficiency of the economy. Recently the MFA has been criticised by Abraham Singer on the basis that it unjustifiably does not assign private managers obligations based on egalitarian values. Singer proposes an extension to the MFA, the (...) Justice Failures Approach (JFA), in which managers have duties to alleviate political, social, and distributive inequalities in addition to having obligations to not exploit market failures. In this paper I describe the MFA and JFA and situate them relative to each other. I then highlight a threefold distinction between different types of obligations that can be given to private managers in order to argue that a hybrid theory of business ethics, which I call the MFA +, can be generated by arguing that managers have obligations based on efficiency and duties based on equality to the extent that these latter obligations do not lead to efficiency losses. This argument suggests a novel theoretical option in business ethics, elucidates the issues that are at stake between the MFA and the JFA, and clarifies the costs and benefits of each theory. (shrink)
In Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk About It), Elizabeth Anderson argues that most people in the United States and other liberal societies spend their working lives under the kind of autocratic rule we would normally associate with communist dictatorships. They are forced to work in oppressive environments, deprived of many freedoms, and given practically no say over working conditions. Even in their nonworking lives workers are frequently subjected to employer scrutiny and sanction. And (...) the legal framework and economic realities surrounding employment are such that exit is viable for only a small minority. Anderson’s work has generated great interest and, along with it, several criticisms that take exception to her observations, economic assumptions, and conclusions. This paper delineates the various economic claims made against Private Government so as to facilitate further inquiry of these issues. (shrink)
Jaakko Nevasto has offered a number of thoughtful criticisms of our attempt to show that Adorno’s work can fruitfully be brought to bear on topics in business ethics. After welcoming his constructive clarifications, we attempt to defuse Nevasto’s main objections and defend our application of Adorno, focusing in particular on the topics of moral epistemology, needs, and the possibility of genuine activity – and thus good work – within capitalist society.
This paper explores the notion that business calls for an adversarial ethic, akin to that of sport. On this view, because of their competitive structure, both sport and business call for behaviours that are contrary to ‘ordinary morality’, and yet are ultimately justified because of the goods they facilitate. I develop three objections to this analogy. Firstly, there is an important qualitative difference between harms risked voluntarily and harms risked involuntarily. Secondly, the goods achieved by adversarial relationships in sport go (...) beyond the function of sport, i.e. to entertain audiences. Thirdly, the most plausible account of the athlete’s motivational development starts with their love of the sport, which can explain a commitment to the sporting ethics in a way that is not paralleled in business. I close by drawing attention to the ways in which an Aristotelian conception of business ethics may be able to accommodate these objections. (shrink)
In this article, I aim to clarify some key issues in the ongoing debate about the relationship between Rawlsian political philosophy and business ethics. First, I discuss precisely what we ought to be asking when we consider whether corporations are part of the “basic structure of society.” I suggest that the relevant questions have been mischaracterized in much of the existing debate, and that some key distinctions have been overlooked. I then argue that although Rawlsian theory’s potential implications for business (...) ethics are more extensive than some have suggested, the nature of the concern that we ought to have about the effects of corporate behavior on individuals’ economic and social conditions should lead us to reject the view that corporations are bound by principles of justice only if, and insofar as, they are part of the basic structure. (shrink)
All parties involved in researching, developing, manufacturing, and distributing COVID-19 vaccines need guidance on their ethical obligations. We focus on pharmaceutical companies' obligations because their capacities to research, develop, manufacture, and distribute vaccines make them uniquely placed for stemming the pandemic. We argue that an ethical approach to COVID-19 vaccine production and distribution should satisfy four uncontroversial principles: optimising vaccine production, including development, testing, and manufacturing; fair distribution; sustainability; and accountability. All parties' obligations should be coordinated and mutually consistent. For (...) instance, companies should not be obligated to provide host countries with additional booster shots at the expense of fulfilling bilateral contracts with countries in which there are surges. Finally, any satisfactory approach should include mechanisms for assurance that all parties are honouring their obligations. This assurance enables countries, pharmaceutical companies, global organisations, and others to verify compliance with the chosen approach and protect ethically compliant stakeholders from being unfairly exploited by unethical behaviour of others. (shrink)
In response to commentators, we argue that whether waiving patent rights will meaningfully improve access to COVID-19 vaccines for low income and middle-income countries (LMICs), particularly in the short term, is an empirical matter. We also reject preferentially allocating vaccines to countries that hosted trials because doing so unethically favours those with research infrastructure, rather than those facing the worst burdens from COVID-19.
This paper draws a distinction between ‘right MacIntyreans’ who are relatively optimistic that MacIntyre’s vision of ethics can be realised in capitalist society, and ‘left MacIntyreans’ who are sceptical about this possibility, and aims to show that the ‘left MacIntyrean’ position is a promising perspective available to business ethicists. It does so by arguing for a distinction between ‘community-focused’ practices and ‘excellence-focused’ practices. The latter concept fulfils the promise of practices to provide us with an understanding of the best work (...) for humankind and highlights the affinities between MacIntyre’s concept of a practice and Marx’s conception of good work as free, creative activity. The paper concludes with a suggestion that we reflect on the best forms of work so that we can strive to ensure the very best activities, those most consonant with our flourishing, one day become available to all. (shrink)
Whether an action is morally right depends upon the alternative acts available to the agent. Actualists hold that what an agent would actually do determines her moral obligations. Possibilists hold that what an agent could possibly do determines her moral obligations. Both views face compelling criticisms. Despite the fact that actualist and possibilist assumptions are at the heart of seminal arguments in business ethics, there has been no explicit discussion of actualism and possibilism in the business ethics literature. This paper (...) has two primary goals. First, it aims to rectify this omission by bringing to light the importance of the actualism/possibilism debate for business ethics through questions about the ethics of sweatshops. Second, it aims to make some progress in the sweatshop debate by examining and defending an alternative view, hybridism, and describing the moral and practical implications of hybridism for the sweatshop debate. (shrink)
Joseph Heath states that our paper “misinterpret[s]” and so misrepresents his account. The present Commentary corrects the record. Our paper (Cohen and Peterson 2019) outlined Heath’s account on his own terms; it explained that Heath distances himself from consequentialism. But then we argued that Heath is mistaken and so offered a repaired version of the market failures approach. Our central concern, in the original paper and in this short Commentary, is showing that the economic argument for markets is at the (...) same time ethical, and then being more precise about the ethical consideration that does the work. (shrink)
In this essay we will try to highlight the interweaving of language and morality and also the principle of legitimacy that derives from it. In her famous essay Modern Moral Philosophy (written in 1958 and which later became the modern manifesto of a neo-Aristotelian type of ethics), Elizabeth Anscombe highlights the need for a philosophy of psychology as well as the abandonment of a specific language in moral philosophy. Taking a position against the consequentialist conception of morality, she implicitly stands (...) opposed to the principle that conse- quences define legitimacy; it is precisely when the binomial language-morality fails that the principle of legitimacy loses its substance; a political authority can lose its moral legitimacy if she/he betrays the common good. Starting from a specific language adopted, a morality is derived from it. In fact, depending on what is considered to be a good or an evil, a specific moral action follows. In this perspective, responsibility and awareness of which goods need to be shared in common play a central role, and an ontological foundation is discovered. (shrink)
The view of business ethics that Christopher McMahon calls the “implicit morality of the market” and Joseph Heath calls the “market failures approach” has received a significant amount of recent attention. The idea of this view is that we can derive an ethics for market participants by thinking about the “point” of market activity, and asking what the world would have to be like for this point to be realized. While this view has been much-discussed, it is still not well-understood. (...) This paper seeks to remedy this problem. I begin by showing, against some recent commentators, that McMahon’s view and Heath’s view are fundamentally the same. Second, I clarify the sense of “efficiency” at work in the market failures approach. Finally, I argue that, in its current form, this view has little relevance to the real world of business. I conclude by sketching two ways of modifying it to fit our world. (shrink)
This paper argues, through conceptual analysis, against an objection to the disapproval of banks for the 2007-8 crisis: the idea that they could not have acted otherwise (at least not rationally) and that no one should be blamed for a fact one could not have avoided. If true, it would threaten the justification of corporate social responsibility and the legal liability of managers. Identified as the ‘inevitability thesis’, this objection is illustrated by an analysis of the film Margin Call (2011) (...) and associated with other investigations on ethics and responsibility. The target thesis stems from a confusion between different notions of responsibility (for a task, for a decision, for causing an event and for repairing it) and leads to an incoherent form of fatalism. Finally, it is suggested that the invocation of ‘inevitability’ may be a way of rationalizing the decision, obscuring reasons to the contrary. (shrink)
The notion that business organizations are akin to Aristotelian political communities has been a central feature of research into virtue ethics in business. In this article, I begin by outlining this “community thesis” and go on to argue that psychological research into the “just world fallacy” presents it with a significant challenge. The just world fallacy undermines our ability to implement an Aristotelian conception of justice, to each as he or she is due, and imperils the relational equality required for (...) shared participation in communities. In the final section, I offer a description of what Aristotelian community might look like within organizations, and some suggestions about how it may be possible to resist the challenge posed by the just world fallacy. (shrink)
In the business ethics literature, many argue that managerial decision making ought to be improved by more robust ethical concerns. Some see the virtue of “practical wisdom” as the key for improved managerial decision making. However, because of the epistemic limitations confronting decision makers in the face of irreducible market complexity, there is a risk that practical wisdom, employed in the context of day‐to‐day managerial decision making, becomes an impractical concept. Nevertheless, if the attempt to incorporate virtue ethics (and its (...) related concepts) into business practices is laudable, if indeed a virtuous life is worth pursuing and practical wisdom plays an essential role toward that end, it is important to attempt to salvage practical wisdom and uncover its appropriate usage. Thus, this article pursues two major ends. First, upon surveying some of the prominent and standard usages of the term, it articulates concerns, rooted in epistemic limitations, about the way that practical wisdom appears in business ethics literature. Second, it offers a new way forward for understanding “practical wisdom.” By contextualizing day‐to‐day, rule‐based managerial decision making within the ethical value of the market order, practical wisdom reappears as the higher‐order capacity to pursue vocations, as morally worthwhile projects, in business. (shrink)
In the wake of high profile and recent events of blatant privacy violations, which also raise issues of democratic accountability as well as, at least potentially, undermining the legitimacy of current local and international governance arrangements, a rethinking of the justification of the right to privacy is proposed. In this paper, the case of the violation of the privacy of a bullied autistic youngster and the consequent prosecution of 3 Google executives will be discussed first. We will then analyse the (...) arguments made by both academic experts and pundits who agree with Google’s claim that if the first sentence had been left unchallenged, it would have opened the floodgates to several other jurisdictions that would as a consequence have used it as a pretext to increase control on the internet, jeopardising in such a way free speech, which has been seen so far as an inalienable right which should not be censored. Finally, by going beyond the sentences and their immediate contexts, we will propose a theoretical justification of our analysis. Our main claim is that the value of the right to privacy is based on the argument that its violation would undermine citizens’ capacity to participate effectively in democratic politics. (shrink)
Joseph Heath defends competitive markets and conceptualizes business ethics with reference to Pareto efficiency, which he takes to be the “implicit morality of the market.” His justification for markets is that they generate Pareto efficient outcomes, meaning that markets optimally satisfy consumer preferences. And, for Heath, business ethics is the set of normative constraints—regulation and beyond-compliance norms—needed to preserve that outcome. The present paper accepts Heath’s claim that the economic justification for markets is ethical, in that satisfying consumer preferences is (...) a good. But, contra Heath, the ethical consideration at work is a consequentialist one; and acknowledging this consequentialism exposes limitations of Heath’s “market failures” approach to business ethics. We suggest two limitations, and we expect many will accept our argument that Heath’s conception of business ethics is too narrow. The present paper outlines two broader implications. First, acknowledging that the justification for markets is ethical eliminates the apparent—and false—conflict between purportedly amoral economic activity on one hand and ethical considerations on the other; instead, business ethics is a matter of weighing the consequentialist ethical benefit of economic activity and markets against other moral arguments/other ethical considerations. Second, Heath restricts business ethics to the constraints needed to protect the market’s ability to efficiently satisfy consumer preferences, constraints he calls “efficiency imperatives”; this restriction supports the widespread tendency to think that all social problems are economic; and, a business ethics so-conceived diminishes the perceived importance of noneconomic values—this attitude is dangerous. (shrink)
The law of successor criminal liability is simple—corporate successors are liable for the crimes of their predecessors. Always. Any corporation that results from any merger, consolidation, spin-off, etc., is on the hook for all the crimes of all the corporations that went into the process. Such a coarse-grained, onetrack approach fails to recognize that not all reorganizations are cut from the same cloth. As a result, it skews corporate incentives against reorganizing in more socially beneficial ways. It also risks punishing (...) corporate successors unjustly. -/- This Article offers a more sophisticated approach to successor liability: successors should be liable for the crimes of their predecessors only when they inherit their predecessors’ compliance vulnerabilities. In the terms developed by this Article, these successors share a “criminal identity” with their predecessors. Such an approach would incentivize corporations to structure reorganizations in ways that improve compliance and minimize the likelihood of future offenses. At the same time, it would do a better job of ensuring that. (shrink)
Many believe that employment can be wrongfully exploitative, even if it is consensual and mutually beneficial. At the same time, it may seem third parties should not do anything to preclude or eliminate such arrangements, given these same considerations of consent and benefit. I argue that there are perfectly sensible, intuitive ethical positions that vindicate this ‘Reasonable View’. The view requires such defense because the literature often suggests that there is no theoretical space for it. I respond to arguments for (...) the clearest symptom of this obscuration: the so-called nonworseness claim that a consensual, mutually beneficial transaction cannot be ‘morally worse’ than its absence. In addition to making space for the Reasonable View, this serves my dialectical goal of encouraging distinct attention to first- and third-party obligations. (shrink)
One of the central controversies in normative business ethics is the question whether transactions and economic relationships can be wrongfully exploitative despite being mutually beneficial and consensual. This article argues that anyone who accepts a shareholder theory of business ethics should accept deontological constraints on mutually beneficial, consensual exploitation.
For the past half century, there has been a large controversy within academic business ethics, in legal scholarship, and in the larger public about the role that corporations should have in addressing social injustices. Do corporations have a moral obligation to conduct business in a way that reduces poverty, racial inequality, other unjust economic and social inequalities, and unjust threats to the environment? Or should for-profit corporations focus on making money and leave solutions of these social problems to governments, nonprofit (...) organizations, and private individuals? -/- There are related but distinct controversies about corporations’ moral duties of transactional and relational justice. One important question is whether financial agreements or employment contracts can be wrongfully exploitative despite being fully consensual and beneficial to all parties. This question is distinct from the question whether corporations have a duty to promote distributive justice. Transactional unfairness is arguably possible in society with a just economic system, and fair transactions are presumably possible in a society with an unjust distribution. There are also important questions about the extent of firms’ moral obligation to avoid pollution, to refrain from discrimination, to treat employees fairly, and to respect the democratic process. These moral obligations may require more than obeying the relevant law. (shrink)
Moriarty argues that the Market Failures Approach to business ethics is inapplicable to “real world” problems, because it treats “market failure” as a failure to achieve Pareto efficiency. Depending upon how it is applied, Pareto efficiency is either trivially easy to satisfy or else so demanding that no real-world market could ever satisfy it. In this Commentary, I argue that Moriarty overstates these difficulties. The regulatory structure governing markets is best understood as an attempt to maximize the number of Pareto-improving (...) exchanges that occur. There is no reason to think business self-regulation cannot be guided by the same normative-conceptual framework. (shrink)
While researchers in business ethics, moral philosophy, and jurisprudence have advanced the study of corporate agency, there have been very few attempts to bring together insights from these and other disciplines in the pages of the Journal of Business Ethics. By introducing to an audience of business ethics scholars the work of outstanding authors working outside the field, this interdisciplinary special issue addresses this lacuna. Its aim is to encourage the formulation of innovative arguments that reinvigorate the study of corporate (...) agency and stimulate further cross-fertilization of ideas between business ethics, law, philosophy, and other disciplines. (shrink)
Etye Steinberg has recently raised a problem for Joseph Heath’s Market Failures Approach. In this paper we consider a response by Heath. We argue that Heath’s response not only leaves the original problem intact, but also raises a second one, analogous to stakeholder theory’s so-called “identification problem.”.
This essay reviews Deirdre McCloskey’s trilogy in political economy: Bourgeois Virtues, Bourgeois Dignity, and Bourgeois Equality. In this trilogy McCloskey seeks to reestablish the ethical, historical, and political legitimacy of modern capitalism. Success of the project is offset by misapprehension of normativity and thus of how human economy is ethical.
In “The Responsibilities and Role of Business in Relation to Society,” Nien-hê Hsieh challenges Joseph Heath’s “market failure” or Paretian approach to business ethics by arguing for a “Back to Basics” approach. Here, I argue that two basics of Hsieh’s three-basics vision are flawed, because a. ordinary morality is in fact not sufficient for the adversarial realm of the market, and b. the ideal of a Pareto-optimal market economy with perfect competition does in fact provide an adequate basis for normative (...) rules against market failures. (shrink)
This paper offers the concept of “justice failure,” as a counterpart to the familiar idea of market failure, in order to better understand managers’ ethical obligations. This paper takes the “market failures approach” to business ethics as its point of departure. The success of the MFA, I argue, lies in its close proximity with economic theory, particularly in the idea that, within a larger scheme of social cooperation, markets ought to pursue efficiency and leave the pursuit of equality to the (...) welfare state. As a result, the core ethical responsibility of business actors is to avoid profiting off of market failure. After reviewing this approach I challenge its emphasis on efficiency. I argue that just as we note the suboptimal efficiency of actual markets, we should also take seriously the suboptimal equality of actual welfare states. Taking this idea seriously results in a whole other set of ethical responsibilities for businesses to take into account; in addition to market imperfections and regulatory lacunae, managers should also avoid profiting from, and exacerbating, structural inequalities and injustices. I offer an outline of the kinds of injustices and inequalities that would have bearing on business ethics, and the kinds of ethical responsibilities that this approach suggests that business actors should take into account. (shrink)
MacIntyre argues that management embodies emotivism, and thus is inherently amoral and manipulative. His claim that management is necessarily Weberian is, at best, outdated, and the notion that management aims to be neutral and value free is incorrect. However, new forms of management, and in particular the increased emphasis on leadership which emerged after MacIntyre’s critique was published, tend to support his central charge. Indeed, charismatic and transformational forms of leadership seem to embody emotivism to a greater degree than do (...) more Weberian, bureaucratic forms of management; hence, MacIntyre’s central contention about our emotivistic culture seems to be well founded. Having criticised the details but defended the essence of MacIntyre’s critique of management, this paper sketches a MacIntyrean approach to management and leadership by highlighting the affinities between MacIntyre’s political philosophy and Greenleaf’s concept of servant leadership. (shrink)
One common justification for the pursuit of profit by business firms within a market economy is that profit is not an end in itself but a means to more efficiently produce and allocate resources. Profit, in short, is a mechanism that serves the market’s purpose of producing Pareto superior outcomes for society. This discussion examines whether such a justification, if correct, requires business managers to remain attentive to how their firm’s operation impacts the market’s purpose. In particular, it is argued (...) that the value of efficiency, despite views to the contrary, cannot be fully separated from the planning and intentions of business managers as long as those managers direct their firms in an ethically responsible fashion. This position is inspired by, and serves as a supportive clarification of Joseph Heath’s so-called “market failures approach” to business ethics. (shrink)
Many firms keep pay secret. They do not make information about what their employees are paid available inside or outside of the firm, i.e. to other employees or to the public at large. Indeed, many firms discourage their employees from, or sanction them for, disclosing their pay. Against this, I argue that there are good moral reasons for firms to be transparent about pay. Pay transparency prevents injustice, promotes autonomy, and increases efficiency. After presenting the positive case for pay transparency, (...) I defend it against objections, including the most common reasons firms give for keeping pay secret. (shrink)
How can we understand the way the Weyland Corporation in the Alien Franchise devalues its employees? How can we explain our repulsion at such treatment. This article surveys several foundations for the the employee-employer relationship including stockholder theory, stockholder theory, and libertarian theories. The stockholder theory may be the operating view of the corporation, but is is morally questionable due to refusing to grant employees full moral status. The libertarian view is willing to grant employees full moral status, but in (...) attempting to morally justify poor treatment of employees, it relies on several unworkable assumptions highlighted by A. Hirschman's theory about exit, voice and loyalty. Stakeholder theory provides the foundation for understanding and condemning the poor treatment of employees in the Alien Franchise. (shrink)
The present paper argues that a right to work, defined as social and legal guarantees to fair conditions of employment, should be an essential part of a democratic state with market arrangements. This argument proceeds along the following lines. First, I reconstruct an account of rights that defends the “correlativity” thesis of rights and duties. The basic idea is that a social member’s legitimate demand to something of value, such as gainful employment, implies duties on the part of others to (...) respect and fulfill it. These duties include the following with regard to that demand: avoiding actions that cause the harm, protecting it against standard threats, and otherwise providing aid in case it is deprived. Second, I sketch an outline of what a right to work will entail in terms of the correlative duties just described. This means that respect and fulfillment of the demand will require both social members and the democratic state alike to guarantee fair conditions of employment: first, by forbearing from actions that deprive members of access to work; and second, by protecting members against threats of deprivation and aiding them when they are so deprived. Third, I answer some ethical and empirical objections to the idea of a right to work: that it violates the legal rights of owners and employers, fails to impart self-respect, lacks economic efficiency, and erodes human capital by undermining competitive incentives. Finally, I make some concluding observations that a democratic right to work so conceived is ethically and economically superior to alternative arrangements that neither respect nor fulfill these correlative duties to avoid harm, protect against threats, and provide aid in cases of deprivation. (shrink)
In a recent critique of the so-called “market failures approach” (MFA) to business ethics Abraham Singer maintains that business firms have ethical responsibilities to voluntarily restrain their profit-seeking activities in accordance with the demands of justice. While I ultimately share Singer’s intuition that the MFA has overlooked the importance of justice in business ethics, I argue that he has not presented a fully adequate case to explain why justice-related responsibilities should be assigned to business firms. I conclude by offering a (...) brief – and supportive – alternative to his position. (shrink)
Until Joseph Heath came along, philosophical business ethics was in a bad way. To the extent it’s still in a bad way, perhaps it’s because Heath has had insufficient influence. Before Heath, much of the debate in the field was between two major theories—stockholder and stakeholder theory. Both of these theories are either false, or vacuous and empty, depending on the interpretation. Heath has to some degree rescued the field by providing what is perhaps the only good general theory of (...) business ethics, which Heath calls the Market Failures Approach. (To be clear, there is some good casuistical work in business ethics, but the Market Failures Approach is perhaps the only good general theory of.. (shrink)
[Requested essay for George Washington Leadership Institute curriculum, Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, Mt. Vernon.] Honor is often equated with integrity, dignity, courage, and unimpeachable reputation. But what is the underlying essence of honor that explains those associations? This essay provides a framework for thinking about honor, and explores a theory of honor that understands it in terms of agonism---that is, as an ethic regulating our pursuit of prestige according to principles of fair and (...) respectful contest. We begin by distinguishing between honor-as-prestige and honor as an ethical system. We then canvass honor’s commitment to fair competition, noblesse oblige, integrity, independence, and martial valor. After forwarding the agonistic theory of honor, we conclude with some suggestions for leaders interested in fostering honor-mindedness in their organizations. (shrink)
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been traditionally framed within business ethics as a discourse attempting to identify certain moral responsibilities of corporations (as well as get these corporations to fulfill their responsibilities). This theory has often been normatively grounded in the idea that a corporation is (or ought to be treated as) a moral agent. I argue that it is a mistake to think of (or treat) corporations as moral agents, and that CSR’s impotency is a direct result of this (...) mistake. I then outline a distinction between business ethics and business politics, arguing that CSR might be better framed as a political goal – one which might be able to take better advantage of the resources of corporate governance and a renewed (albeit shifted) focus on agency theory. (shrink)
Jason Brennan and Peter Jaworski reject expressive objections to markets on the grounds that market symbolism is culturally contingent, and contingent cultural symbols are less important than the benefits markets offer. I grant and, but I deny that these points suffice as grounds to dismiss expressive critiques of markets. For many plausible expressive critiques of markets are not symbolic critiques at all. Rather, they are critiques grounded in the idea that some market transactions embody morally inappropriate normative stances toward the (...) goods or services on offer. (shrink)