The Moral Problem Of Fair Trade

1454 words - 6 pages

1. Summary
The present economy is not based on one country or even two; it is global and its “profits now” mentality threatens to destroy small scale producers who get in the way. Small farmers and producers have little hope of competing with corporate powerhouses and are left with little resources or prospects for their future. Many third world children have little choice but to work rather than attend school for an education and end up being exploited all in the name of revenue returns. Fair Trade was introduced to balance this inequality and help exploited producers break free of the vicious cycle of poverty. This paper tackles the moral problem of fair trade.

There exists a dilemma here, with respect to the role of corporate actors within our society; do they serve to increase profits only, or are they bound by a different morality? The role of business in society has to be understood in the context that a business is not an entity capable of action, no matter what the purpose of its formation was. A business, ultimately, is a group of resources, including people, and those people are not separate from society as a whole, indeed, they are society as a whole. The principles of both consequentialism and Kantian morality are applied to the problem of fair trade and it is determined that despite the enduring popularity of the "corporations are engines for profit" mentality, it is a view that is at odds with the prevailing ethics of our society. While the distributive justice principle at the heart of fair trade is in line with the values of the majority of our society there still exist many unanswered questions which belie its ability for aiding the underdog producer.

2. Moral Problem
The concept of fair trade arose in the West as a response to the discrepancy between what Western consumers were paying for certain goods and what the producers of those goods were being paid. An early commodity targeted in the fair trade movement was coffee, where a consumer in the West could pay over $2 for a cup of coffee, where the farmer might be paid a few pennies for the equivalent number of beans. For some, this was simply a matter of multiple stages in between farm to mug, combined with profit-taking at each stage. For others, it represented a major ethical dilemma according to the principle of distributive justice (Miller 2010). The moral dilemma is that corporate managers should only be concerned with enhancing the profit of their enterprise (Friedman 1970), and that this conflicts with the principle of distributive justice. This paper will take the position that fair trade is an appropriate application of distributive justice, where the reduction of information asymmetry diminishes the bargaining power of end marketers, resulting in more equitable pricing at the raw materials level. From an ethical point of view, this is the right thing to do.

3. Moral Arguments
The first component of the moral argument here is to determine what the role of...

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