Mill vs. Kant on Ethics and Free Markets
Philosophy provides a framework for politics and economics. When approaching the subject of free markets, the viewpoints of Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill were divergent. Their philosophical viewpoints flow out of the ethics of deontology and utilitarianism.
The ethics of utilitarianism is built upon the framework of maximizing benefits to all members of society (Shaw 41). John Stuart Mill, a proponent of utilitarianism, propounded the moral corollary that “society ought not to interfere with people’s liberty when their actions affect only themselves (Shaw 19). Therefore, utilitarianism translates to free market economics at its most liberal sense. The free market, run by private individuals, would decide whom to hire, what wages to give, what to produce and what the price of products would be (Kates). John Stuart Mill would have advocated that the linkages of free markets not be tampered with. Mill’s framework would imply that and the wages of the employees in the country where work is outsourced be unchanged.
Immanuel Kant represented the deontological school of ethics. Kant’s deontology would advocate that there are certain absolute rights and wrongs, which cannot be weighed in the utilitarian scale of maximized benefit. Kant would advocate social and economic equity across borders, and would therefore pitch for the wages in the outsourced country to reflect those of the home country. Kant would ascribe differential wages as exploitation.
While Mill and Kant hold opposing views on the issue of wages in the country where work of the company is outsourced. The CEO would be well served to follow the dictates of the market economy. After all, work has been outsourced purely to leverage the difference in economic conditions. So long as the wages being paid in the outsourced country reflect the standard of living in the outsourced country, it would be prudent not to raise the wages and disrupt the country’s economy, besides making the company’s goods lose out in competitiveness in the global marketplace.
Kates, Steven. (2011). Free Market Economics. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing. Print.
Shaw, William H. (2014). Business Ethics. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning. Print.
White, Mark D. (2011). “Returning Dignity to Economics.” TheMontrealreview.com. Web.