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Business Ethics: Concepts & Cases: Chapter 3
The Business System


Economic Systems

3.1 Free Markets and Rights: John Locke

Criticisms of Lockean Defense of Free Markets

  1. Locke's assertion of natural rights is unjustifiable: it's just an unproven assertion that people have rights to life, liberty and property that take precedence over all else
  2. Locke's assertion of the priority of negative (life, liberty, and property) rights over positive (happiness & welfare) rights is also just an unproven assertion
  3. Lockean (life, liberty, and property) rights conflict with -- and may sometimes be overridden by -- demands of distributive justice
  4. Individualistic assumptions are false and in conflict with the demands of caring

3.2  The Utility of Free Markets: Adam Smith

Criticisms of Adam Smith

The Keynesian Criticism (skim)

The Utility of Survival of the Fittest: Social Darwinism

3.3 Free Trade and Utility: David Ricardo {skim}

Criticisms of Ricardo

Marxist Criticisms


The Real Purpose of Government

Immiseration of Workers


3.4  Conclusion: The Mixed Economy, The New Property, and the End of Marxism

Property Systems and New Technologies

The End of Marxism?

Case for Discussion

GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and AIDS in Africa (ABC News CD-ROM)

Case Outline

Questions for Discussion

  1. What would Locke, Smith, Ricardo, or Marx probably say about the events in this case?
  2. Explain what view of property -- Locke's or Marx's -- lies behind the positions of the drug companies GlaxoSmithKline, Britol-Myers Squibb and of the Indian companies such as Cipla.  Which of the two groups do you think holds the correct view of property in this case?
  3. Evaluate the position of Cipla or of GlaxoSmithKline in terms of utilitarianism, rights, justice, and caring? Which of these two positions do you think is right from an ethical point of view?
  4. What other issues do you believe this case raises or what else to you think it shows?

Accolade versus Sega

Questions for Discussion

  1. Analyze this case from the perspective of any of the theories of private property described in this chapter (Lockean, utilitarian, or Marxist).  Which of these theories do you most agree with you and which do you think is most appropriate in this case?
  2. Do you agree that Accolade had "really stolen" Sega's property?  Why or why not?
  3. Did Accolade go too far in trying to discover the underlying source code of Sega's programs?  Does a company have a right to reverse engineer any product it wants?
  4. What other issues do you believe this case raises or what else to you think it shows?

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