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Business Law Chapter 4 Homework International sweatshop labor makes for a good

Page Count
4 pages
Word Count
916 words
Book Title
Applied Business Ethics: A Skills-Based Approach 1st Edition
Authors
Dean Bredeson
MODULE 4: Kant and Unique Human Dignity
Core Module Issues:
Does it make sense to try to find categorical imperatives?
Do human beings have a unique dignity, and if so, are business leaders
obligated to respect it?
Is utility a more useful idea for processing ethical dilemmas?
Module Teaching Notes
The last module (Module 3) looked at utility. But many thinkers, Kant perhaps foremost among
them, argue that the ends can't justify the means. An alternative approach is to say that decision
are ethical only if they are made for the right reasons in the first place.
Kant believed in categorical imperatives, or universal truths. I usually start this class by asking the
group whether categorical imperatives can be determined at all. Students will usually volunteer
some examples, and other students will agree with them or reject them.
One of Kant's fundamental beliefs was that human beings are fundamentally different from other
creatures, and that they have a unique dignity that must not be violated. I offer this as a specific
example of a (possible) universal truth and get the students' opening position.
International sweatshop labor makes for a good discussion topic here, and specifically, it is a good way to
separate the utilitarian and Kantian thinkers. Workers in many nations earn less than 25 cents an hour for
unskilled manufacturing positions. I will usually point out that, for many workers, pay is enough to purchase
food, very basic shelter, and almost nothing else. In fact, some workers are so desperate that they are not
even “subsistence workers” that is, their pay does not allow for them to purchase enough food to maintain
their body weight. This would seem to be an unsustainable game, but sometimes it is sustainable because
of the crushing weight of desperate workers willing to replace anyone who leaves.
Strict utilitarians will often conclude that low wages in the third world are acceptable. “Consumers get
cheaper products, companies earn larger profits, and low paid workers at least have employment and the
ability to earn some income.
Kantian thinkers will usually call for higher wages. When prompted, they will agree that subsistence wages
amount to a violation of the principle of unique human dignity. Even if all players are better off, “it just isn't
right”, they will tend to say.
After about 10 minutes, I'll shift the discussion to the scenarios presented in the textbook. Notes for the
discussion questions continue on the next page.
In the end, remember that this module is mostly about getting students to take a position that either
“maximized overall good” makes right, or that, even with maximized utility, some things are just
unacceptable.
Discussion Points for Scenario Questions
Questions 1 and 2 have been addressed above.
3. Rate the characters in the four hypothetical scenarios on the following scale:
A. DID ANYONE RATE LESLIE (BONE MARROW DONOR) MOST
ACCEPTABLE?
1. WHAT ARE THE STUDENT’S JUSTIFICATIONS FOR HIS/HER
ANSWER(S)?
2. IS IT BECAUSE OF THE POTENTIAL PERSONAL COST TO
LESLIE?
1. WHAT ARE THE STUDENT’S JUSTIFICATIONS FOR HIS/HER
ANSWER(S)?
2. WHO IS RATED LEAST ACCEPTABLE ON YOUR SCORECARD?
WHY?
4. Consider the CEO in the background information example who is considering creating
subsistence level jobs. Do American corporations have a moral duty to pay reasonable “living
wages” to workers outside the United States? In the United States, we have a legally required
minimum wage of $7.25. Do corporations have a duty to pay “living wages” above the minimum
wage to employees inside the United States?
A. IF YES HOW HIGH SHOULD THE WAGE GO?
[SPECIFIC ADDITIONAL DISCUSSION IDEA: A COUPLE WITH
CHILDREN EARNS FAR MORE THAN THE FEDERAL POVERTY
LEVEL, IF BOTH WORK FULL TIME. BUT, A SINGLE PARENT
WORKING FOR MINIMUM WAGE DOES NOT EARN ENOUGH TO
KEEP THE FAMILY ABOVE THE THRESHOLD FOR POVERTY THAT
WOULD REQUIRE A MINIMUM WAGE OF ABOUT $9.50. SHOULD
THE U.S. MINIMUM WAGE BE $9.50?]
B. IF NO, WHY NOT? [TRY TO GET A UTILITARIAN ARGUMENT OUT OF
5. Do you find yourself making decisions more often based on whether they seem like the right
thing to do, or because they will be likely to produce the best results? What percentage of the
time do you make decisions for each reason?
A. “RIGHT THING TO DO”. AND SO, WHAT IS YOUR FINAL ASSESSMENT
OF UNIQUE HUMAN DIGNITY? AGREE OR NOT?

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