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Erschienen in: Journal of Business Ethics 1/2021

19.10.2019 | Original Paper

Sweatshops, Harm, and Interference: A Contractualist Approach

verfasst von: Huseyin S. Kuyumcuoglu

Erschienen in: Journal of Business Ethics | Ausgabe 1/2021

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Abstract

Activists and progressive governments sometimes interfere in the working conditions of sweatshops. Their methods may include boycotts of the products produced in these facilities, bans on the import of these products or tariffs imposed by the home country, and enforcing the host country’s laws that aim at regulating sweatshops. Some argue that such interference in sweatshop conditions is morally wrong since it may actually harm workers. The reason is that the enterprise that runs the sweatshop may choose to lay off some workers as the result of effective interference in order to maintain their profit at the desired level. If successful, this argument would prohibit any interference in sweatshop conditions on moral grounds. In this article, I argue in dissent and build a contractualist argument in favor of the moral permissibility of interference in sweatshops. I base my argument on an ex ante interpretation of T.M. Scanlon’s contractualism.
Fußnoten
1
Arnold and Bowie (2003, p. 239).
 
2
Powell and Zwolinski (2012).
 
3
The original argument is made by Zwolinski in Zwolinski (2007). Kates refers to it in Kates (2015).
 
4
This argument is developed in Zwolinski (2007), Zwolinski (2012), (Powell and Zwolinski 2012), (Powell 2014).
 
5
Zwolinski (2007, p. 694).
 
6
Arnold and Bowie (2003).
 
7
This argument can be found both in Coakley and Kates (2013), and Kates (2015).
 
8
Kates (2015, p. 200).
 
9
Kates (2015, p. 202).
 
10
Kates gives two reasons for this in Kates (2015). The first reason is that there is a high turnover rate in the low skill jobs in these regions. If someone loses their job as a result of the rise in the minimum wage, she will enjoy a higher wage when she gets hired somewhere else. Kates argues that this will bring the workers higher overall annual income. The second reason is the spillover effect of the minimum wage increase on the informal sector. According to the literature that Kates benefits from, the increase in the minimum wage increases the payments in the informal sector as well, resulting, again, in an overall income raise for the workers.
 
11
Kates (2015, p. 205.).
 
12
Kates (2015, p. 205).
 
13
Scanlon (1998, p. 235).
 
14
Scanlon (1998, p. 189).
 
15
For a detailed account of one criticism of ex post version of contractualism see Ashford (2003). For a direct theoretical answer to Ashford’s criticism see Kumar (2015).
 
16
Frick (2015, p. 187).
 
17
Here it is important to notice that we are not considering which decision is more “beneficial” or “rational” for the person whose standpoint we take into account. The criterion of reasonableness is the distinguishing element of the Scanlonian contractualism.
 
18
Scanlon (1998, p. 209).
 
19
Morgan-Knapp (2015).
 
20
Scanlon discusses the difference between rational and reasonable rejection to a principle in Scanlon (1998, p. 194).
 
21
I would like to thank an anonymous reviewer for bringing out this point. It is possible that some consequentialist approach can incorporate this idea. In any case, though, the burden would fall on those who defend the consequentialist approach to provide the details of their theory that includes the mentioned idea.
 
22
Morgan-Knapp (2015).
 
23
Cheap labor elsewhere itself might not be a sufficient reason for an MNE to relocate, though a significant amount of change in the cost of labor would make it more compelling for the MNE to consider relocation. For more details on possible reasons for the relocation of firms cf. Moran (2002).
 
24
This argument is discussed in Kates (2015, p. 203ff).
 
25
Sometimes it may also be the workers who have been working in the same firm for longer time who bear more risk of losing their jobs. The reason would be firms trying to avoid paying higher severance pay should they lay off such workers. In any case, the argument I am building here would have similar implications, this time for these workers.
 
26
Or how many of them bear more risk of losing their jobs, for that matter.
 
27
I would like to thank an anonymous reviewer for bringing out this crucial issue.
 
28
See footnote 10.
 
29
Here I am leaning on Parfit’s argument that one’s well-being is related to aligning one’s preferences with what is objectively good. Cf. Parfit (1984, pp. 492-501).
 
30
It is important to notice here that the comparison between the complaints of sweatshop workers, and those of MNE managers or consumers is not used to settle the moral value of offering sweatshop jobs. This comparison morally evaluates the rightness or wrongness of interference. The moral wrongness of offering sweatshop jobs is already presupposed in the entirety of this article. I would like to thank Rob Whelan for giving me a slightly different version of this argument in a verbal exchange.
 
Literatur
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Zurück zum Zitat Coakley, M., & Kates, M. (2013). The ethical and economic case for sweatshop regulation. Journal of Business Ethics, 117(3), 553–558. CrossRef Coakley, M., & Kates, M. (2013). The ethical and economic case for sweatshop regulation. Journal of Business Ethics, 117(3), 553–558. CrossRef
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Zurück zum Zitat Moran, T. H. (2002). Beyond sweatshops: Foreign direct investment and globalization in developing countries. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press. Moran, T. H. (2002). Beyond sweatshops: Foreign direct investment and globalization in developing countries. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
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Zurück zum Zitat Powell, B., & Zwolinski, M. (2012). The ethical and economic case against sweatshop labor: A critical assessment. Journal of Business Ethics, 107(4), 449–472. CrossRef Powell, B., & Zwolinski, M. (2012). The ethical and economic case against sweatshop labor: A critical assessment. Journal of Business Ethics, 107(4), 449–472. CrossRef
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Metadaten
Titel
Sweatshops, Harm, and Interference: A Contractualist Approach
verfasst von
Huseyin S. Kuyumcuoglu
Publikationsdatum
19.10.2019
Verlag
Springer Netherlands
Erschienen in
Journal of Business Ethics / Ausgabe 1/2021
Print ISSN: 0167-4544
Elektronische ISSN: 1573-0697
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-019-04302-9

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