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Kant And Utiliarianism On Sweatshops Essay

1490 words - 6 pages

By definition a sweatshop is a “negatively connoted term for any working environment considered to be unacceptably difficult or dangerous. Sweatshop workers often work long hours for very low pay in horrible conditions, regardless of laws mandating overtime pay and or minimum wage”. Many corporations in the United States use sweatshop labor in countries over seas such as China to produce their products at a lower cost. As entailed in the letter from a man born in China, many citizens on these countries resort to factory labor to support themselves to escape other sources on income such as prostitution. Without these corporations usage of oversea sweatshops these employees would be forced to ...view middle of the document...

Philosopher Immanuel Kant believes in a “Categorical Imperative” that entails we should act in such a way that we can rationalize our actions into a universal law. Kant
provides a more specific explanation of this imperative and states; “Act so that you use humanity, as much as in your own person as in the person of every other, always at the same time and never merely as a means” (Audi, 17). Kantian ethics argues that each person should be treated as valuable and should never be used simply to satisfy the needs of others. Kant would not believe that the ability for sweatshop workers to avoid other “jobs” to receive income is a morally justifiably excuse for oversea factories to exploit workers. Forcing sweatshop employees to work long, exhausting, dangerous shifts for low wages is not treating them as valuable. “Treating people as ends clearly requires caring about their good. They matter as persons and we must at times and to some extent act for their sake, whether or not we benefit from it” (Audi, 17). If a company could raise sweatshop wages, therefore increasing the standard of living for these workers and only experience a 3% profit decrease, they should do it. U.S corporations that use sweatshops across seas are providing employment for poor citizens, however Kant would argue that these people are being used and “We are never to use people- including low-level, readily replaceable employees” (Audi, 17). Kant would see the positive implications sweatshops provide, but he would argue that these corporations need to demonstrate they truly care about the “good” of these “valuable” people.
Utilitarianism argues that one should “choose the act from among your options which is best from the twin points of view of increasing human happiness and reducing human suffering” (Audi, 12). The main idea behind this standpoint is to act in such a way that maximizes human pleasure, and provides the least suffering to others. The complete removal of sweatshop factories from foreign countries would have a harsh affect on the lives of citizens overseas. These once factory employed people would have to return to other harsher forms of “jobs” such as prostitution. From this angle a utilitarianism would argue that these sweatshops are in fact creating a stipend of human happiness in these countries and preventing them from certain forms of suffering. However, when it comes to the horrible working conditions and low wages of sweatshops, and U.S corporations unwillingness to change these factors in exchange of profit decreases as low as 3% a utilitarianism would not see view this to be ethical. Increasing the wage of these employees by even the slightest amount could greatly increase their standard of living. Perhaps increasing a father’s wage could allow for his kindergarten age children to cut back the hours they are forced to work in the same sweatshops. On the other hand, this increase would result in a slight decrease of profit for the corporation...

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