Philosophy 334 Summer Essays
Business cultures exists with a primary goal of profit. This compromises the ethical conduct of a business since all other things, including morals and ethics, often take the back seat in order to make way for maximization of profits.
We will return to this case as a comparison later, as it has bearing on the similar case of XYZ Hose Co. in which a design for hoses to distribute anhydrous ammonia to fertilize farmer’s fields. These cases represent a micro and macro view of liability in which a forprofit company caused problems in the life of citizens. Legally, there are three classifications for this, innocent, guilty of negligence, or guilty not of negligence but liability for the infraction.
The facts of the case are that there were industry standards for the hoses that were established because the compound being distributed by the hoses was hazardous and could lead to health problems or even death if a person was not fully protected from them. The reason for XYZ Hose Co. changed their design was that they could make it for cheaper. Moreso, because the hoses wore out after several years, they could continue to make a profit when customers needed to buy additional hoses.
The fact of the matter is, they knew that after a few years the hose would wear out, that’s why they labeled it. They also knew that this wearing out of the hose could lead to injuries if not followed. After injuries occurred, the courts weighed on the side of the consumers, protecting them for the cut-throat profit practices of XYZ Hose Co.
The company however, while putting in trade journals that users of the hose will get a full refund if they choose to send it in, still seem to be denying accountability by not warning consumers that the product is potentially lethal, even though they know it to be so and could easily put that into the advertisement. This is what you get when profit is your central focus. It is easy to put everything aside, including ethics.
A classic case of unethical and immoral conduct in the business world is the case of Enron which at the turn of the century was one of the most blatant examples of business impropriety. Enron, the authors point out was guilty of ” deception, dishonesty, fraud, disregarding one’s professional responsibilities, and unfairly injuring others for one’s own gain. (Shaw et alt, 4). True issue of Enron and other businesses like it are ethical questions. Enron’s first mistake was not that of breaking any laws, but in choosing to defy ethic rules that if they had been addressed early on and corrected, Enron’s stock might never have reached the heights that it did, but the company would likely exist still today.
In the real world ” many of the moral issues that arise in business are complex and difficult to answer.” They are institutional ethics that can involve multiple parties with diverse interests and goals. It involves not just businesses outward interactions but also questions of consumer outreach and internal management of how employees are treated, screened, rewarded and incentivized. (Shaw et alt, 4).
As Harris mentions in the opening chapter of his textbook, engineering carries with it a full weight of ethical responsibility. In the case of XYZ Hose Co., they made a bad decision driven by profit and people were harmed as a result. (Harris , 2009)They denied wrongdoing and a court ruled otherwise. Even after that, they refused to admit that their product was harmful, but instead discontinued it and offered it at a discount price. The ethical way to operate would have been to never put out a sub-par product on the line to begin with. The mature way to respond to the product harming people would have been to discontinue the product and offer a settlement to the family and people of those harmed. They needed a court to do this. Their error is more deeply seeded than this particular situation, but stems from prior misjudgments in how they should operate, in a way that puts profit above all else.
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Shaw, William H., Barry, Vincent, Sansbury, Georgo, “ Moral Issues in Bussiness” 2009Cengage Learning Australi Pty Limited
Engineering Ethics: Concepts and Cases 4th (fourth) Edition by Charles E. Harris Jr., Michael S. Pritchard, Michael J. Rabi (2008)
2. Assuming that the story told by Mike Daisey in the first This American Life episode was accurate, what obligations do American engineers working for Apple and consumers have to the Chinese workers? Be sure to explain the reasoning for your view by using material from several chapters of the textbook. Do engineers have an obligation to the workers that will produce their designs? Why or why not? Do engineers have an obligation to the end user of their designs?
Mike Daisey Essay
Engineers are pieces of a much large puzzle in terms of where there work fits into the larger scheme. They are essential pieces of the puzzle, but their lotus of control has limiting factors. But workers for multinational companies in the United States have an obligation to their “ colleagues” abroad to assure that they are being treated fairly and have their human rights protected within their jobs.
In the This American Life episode in which Mike Daisey talks about working conditions in China, we can ask the question of where engineering fits into the grander scheme of things. Engineers, working in The United States, designed the products that are currently being produced in China.
Mike Daisey details what in the United States would be considered human rights violations that are happening to this day in China on the manufacturing end of Apple’s products. Engineers have one beginning responsibility that their designs not be harmful to the consumer. I think in the case of Apple, their designs can be considered very functional and useable devices. The engineers on the design time do not have much control over the implementation of their designs when they lead to manufacturing.
However, imagine this scenario. Imagine an engineer working to design weapons that were being used in genocide. This is obviously is an extreme example but it is one that is worth exploring.
Though the engineers working on the weapons could make the claim that they were neither producing the weapons, nor using them, their knowledge and expertise are being used in an unjust attack on civilians. The moral thing to do in that situation would be to cease designing weapons or make demands that they not be used to that end.
Apple products are cutting edge simply because it has some of the most talented engineers in the world on it’s design team. Currently it is journalists like Mike Daisey who are demanding that Apple do a better job of assuring its worker’s rights. There is certainly a potential though for more to be done and for that to happen from within the company. Workers in the United States could do more to have contact and awareness of the plight of their colleagues in other countries and could bring up the issue within the chain of command of Apple which might be more effective than coming from the outside and pressuring Apple to make changes in order to maintain a good company image.
Nicholas Kristoff, a journalist and author who has spent most of his career defending human rights was also featured on the same episode of This American Life. He seemed to take a balanced approach that we can still love these products and condemn the conditions under which they were created: “ think it’s useful to be reminded about how grim the conditions are. But again, I just think that if you try to think how you can fight poverty most effectively, and what has fought it within China, then I think sweatshops are a key part of that answer.”
I also think that engineers are part of the answer. A measured approach is one that would be most effective. It might not be effective for all the engineers of Apple to quit their jobs. That would hurt both Apple and the engineer’s individual livelihoods. But owing to the protections that workers in the United States have, they are in a better position to fight for the rights of workers in China than even the workers in China are.
In his book “ Half The Sky” Kristoff talks about what we can do to fight scourges like poverty and human trafficking and I believe this has a bearing on the current issue being discussed of just conditions for workers and what engineers can do to demand and bring those about. While the book explores some very difficult issues, it does not just rest in the problem but takes the reader to the solution. “ This is a story of transformation,” the authors write, “ It is change that is already taking place, and change that can accelerate if you’ll just open your heart and join in.” In this way, the book is also a call to action, asking readers to get involved to do what they can to help make the world a more just place for women who hold up “ half the sky.”
Worker in China likewise hold up the sky of American products. We need them for our products and we can either give them jobs in equitable working conditions, or we can create a neo slave labor force.
This American Life 454
Annan, K. (2001). We The Children. Unicef, 1, 1-101. Retrieved March, 22 2013 from http://www. unicef. org/specialsession/about/sgreport-pdf/sgreport_adapted_eng. pdf
Kristof, Nicholas D., and Sheryl WuDunn. Half the sky: turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. Print.
3. Do you believe that the environment as a whole or parts of the environment (e. g. animals or plants) can have rights? If so, why? If not, does this mean we have no moral obligation to the environment? If we do have a moral obligation to the environment, what justifies that obligation? Do you believe engineering codes of ethics should have a clear statement outlining an engineer’s obligation to the environment or would such a statement be unnecessary or outside the scope of engineering codes of ethics? Explain in detail your answers to these questions.
A code of ethics is important for an individual’s own life, but it is extremely important for those whose decisions will affect the life of others. Engineers do work which affect the way that people will go on to live their lives, the buildings they will live in and the bridges they will cross. Engineering has created the world as we have it today. It has made many marvels possible, but it has also led, often as an unintended corollary, to damage to the environment. As will be explained in this essay, Engineers have an obligation to the world in which they operate and they should have a code of ethics, which in addition to outlining ethics towards individuals should outline a code of ethics in how their work interacts with the environment.
The world as a whole is a macro environment that can be broken down into smaller environments or eco-systems. It was from the earth the mankind first emerged, and that is the reason the earth is often referred to as a mother. There was once a time in the history of humanity in which the world seemed so large, that it was bigger than anyone’s understanding to think of as a single environment as a whole. The 20th century brought about a lot of changes, many of them having to do with how we view our species and it’s role on the planet. During that time we saw the entire earth as it appeared from outer space. In the late half of the 20th century, many began to believe in a climate change that was being perpetuated by the acts of mankind.
One of the only ways to protect the environment is to give it legal rights that can be challenged when companies or individuals actions harm them. In 1989 one of the biggest oil spills in the history of the world occurred in the Prince William Sound Alaska. Now called the Exxon Valdez spill, it was estimated that up to 750, 000 barrels of crude oil were spilled in the sound. Until the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill. The effect was not just on the environment, but also on many local businesses as diverse as fisheries and tourism. Exxon was obligated to pay retributions to the tune of 3. 8 billion, and many felt that more should have been paid, up to 4. 5 billion more for an equitable retribution. The US Court in Alaska ordered Exxon to pay 5 Billions dollars in damages, but due to their access to top legal lobbying and representation, this amount was appealed for 14 years until the supreme court ruled that 507. 5 millions dollars, which only represented a half day of revenue for the company, to be repaid.
Exxon harmed communities, businesses and the environment. In my estimate, they did far to little to fix that. Exxon, instead of paying what the court ordered it to pay, which was actually far less than the actual toll their company put on the sound, they fought for years to pay the minimum retribution do to their fault. Engineers need to think of their jobs like doctors do when they take the Hippocratic oath. They promise never to harm anyone. Doctors take this oath because they have a reverence and deep respect for their position and know that if they do not do their job with ethics in mind, they could be compromised into harming patients. Engineers, like doctors can have profound effects on individual lives, communities and the environment. The cases of misconduct abound, and so I think that in order to pave the way for ethical engineers of the future, they need to take an oath much like doctors do so that they keep ethics and morality in the front burner with every project they undertake.
Instead of first asking the question: will it work this way, they should ask the question: will this harm anyone. The “ anyone” could be individual people, consumers, but also the environment. Engineers by nature are out of the box thinkers who are capable of coming up with dynamic solutions to difficult problems. Just because something will work one way does not necessarily mean that it will work the other way. But if the engineers are competent and capable, they will never run out of novel ways to complete projects that keeps in minds the moral obligations to others and the environment.
Category. ” Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Facts.” US Economy News Articles and Statistics. N. p., n. d. Web. 16 June 2013.