Introduction:Allhuman beings have natural rights and have the moral obligation to respect therights of others.
Nowadays, we live in a world dominated by companies whosemain purpose is to maximise their profits even if they have to cross some moralboundaries. Unfortunately, in the past few years there have been several suchcases. People are being exploited all around the world daily and most people pretendnot to realise that, just because it benefits them. What is worrying is thatgovernments worldwide too, turn a blind eye on many such cases. One reason forthat could be that their primary objective is to remain popular and stay inpower. That could mean implementing policies that are favourable among theirvoters, even if the cost to the rest of the world is much greater. Anotherreason could be the fact that people are risk-averse, which is a conceptdeveloped in 1964.
This means that people, when faced with two alternativestend to choose the one with the lower risk even if it has a less beneficialoutcome. However, when applied to the context of immoral behaviour, it shouldnot influence government’s decision making as human rights are at stake. It isan undeniable fact that there is a lot the government can do to improve thecurrent situation. The reality however is that instead of trying to solve theproblem, they tend to enlarge it despite the immorality of the situation. Suchexamples include markets based on captive employees such as the prison labourindustry in the US and the garment industry in Bangladesh. Therefore, the mainpurpose of this essay is to show the morality issues in these markets andanalyse the effects of different government policies. A literature review willbe used to answer this question.
The literature consisted of academic articlesmainly on prison labour, the garment industry in Bangladesh and child labour. Inthe first part some important models and definitions that are related to thetopic will be analysed. Then, in the second part, immorality issues created bythe prison labour industry in the US will be analysed and some generalgovernment policies will be proposed which could improve the current situation.In the third part, the immorality of the garment industry in Bangladesh will bediscussed and ways in which government intervention could help solve thecurrent problems will be given. On the forth part, the hypothesis of the essay andthe limitations of the research performed will be stated. Finally in theconclusion a general summary will be given with the limitations of the researchof the essay. Part1:Nowadays,there are many views on moral philosophy that politicians adopt and whichinfluence greatly normative policy judgement. Some of them that are reallypopular at the moment include utilitarianism, Rawls’s maximin principle and thecapability approach.
Firstly, utilitarianism is the idea that the best societymaximizes the sum of utility. This view can be very damaging for thefinancially challenged as it is normally the case that their suffering would beoutweighed by gains in the rest of the society. Secondly, Rawls’s maximinprinciple says that justice requires maximizing the benefits to the mostdisadvantaged group in society. As Rawls argued in his book, “A Theory ofJustice” in 1971, the most disadvantaged people should be the first prioritybecause if we didn’t know what our position in society would be, just like it’sthe case before we are born, we would want to maximise the position of theworst-off, just in case we are in that position. Finally the capability approach is arelatively new approach to the design of policies with respect to individualand social well-being.
It was pioneered by the economist and philosopherAmartya Sen (1980) and was further analysed by the philosopher Martha Nussbaum(1988) and many other scholars. The main principle of this approach is itsfocus on what people are able to do. It aims on giving people valuable opportunities,called capabilities, in order to allow them to have the lives they desire. It is heavily based on the liberal political philosophyas it values a lot individual freedom. What is good about this approach is thatit encourages individuals to work hard to achieve their goals which in turn canbenefit society as a whole. Thisapproach contradicts welfarist theories because they are based on utility andtend to exclude non-utility information which can be really important forminority groups.
Such information can include peoples physical needs due to adisability, as well as social and moral issues like wage equality between menand women for the same work. It can alsobe said that it is a better version of Rawls’s maximin principle as in somecases; a small increase in a disadvantaged person’s utility can cost a largeloss in the utility of the society. Therefore, for the rest of the essay thecapability approach will be used to assess cases of immoral behaviour as it isan approach that is gaining popularity rapidly and because it maximises utilitywhile at the same time morally respecting the most disadvantaged groups insociety.Itcan be argued that captive employees are one of the most disadvantaged groupsin society at the moment. Captive, according to a dictionary.
com is a personwho is enslaved or dominated. For example, prisoners in the US and factoryworkers in Bangladesh are dominated, exploited and even treated like slaves notonly by large corporations, but even by their own government. Therefore, eventhough they are not literally enslaved, they definitely fall under the categoryof captive employeesAlso,a question that needs to be answered before analysing cases of immoralbehaviour is how do we agree on what is morally acceptable? Given that, accordingto oxford dictionaries, morality is synonymous with “goodness” and “rightness”,it is impossible to objectively define what is morally acceptable as everyonecan have a different view on morality.
For example, for someone it might bemorally acceptable to eat meat while for another person it might be completelyunacceptable due to the fact that animals have to be killed for that to happen.For this essay, immoral behaviour will be considered to be any behaviour whichviolates the human rights of individuals as well as behaviour that underminesdemocracy.Part2:Itis a disappointing fact that some governments, such as the US government,encourage markets based on captive employees. For instance prison labour isworth well over one billion dollars in the US. It could even be argued that itis a morally illegitimate industry for several reasons, meaning that thegovernment violates its own laws and therefore immediate action is needed.First of all, inmates are being paid well below the legal minimum wage for jobsthey perform in prison which goes against the democratic principle of equalityamong people. According to data from theBureau of Prisons which runs a programme known as Federal Prison Industries,inmates are paid roughly $0.90 an hour and can go as low as $0.
16 when employedby private companies that use prison labour (Bozelko, 2017). Even though thelegal minimum wage is $7.25, it is not illegal. That’s because the ThirteenthAmendment to the constitution prohibits slavery and indentured servitude”except as a punishment for crime” (Benns, 2015). Immediate reform is neededthere, as the main and morally acceptable purpose of the prison should be torehabilitate the inmates. By exploiting them, it is more likely that once theycomplete their sentence they will go back to their old habits and end up againin the prison. What is worrying is the probability that the government’s mainaim is to increase the size of the prison labour industry.
Evidence shows thatinstead of trying to rehabilitate inmates and give them back a normal life, itis doing the exact opposite which is completely immoral. Prison labour inCalifornia alone, generated around $232 million dollars in 2017 and even thoughit was because of unfair treatment and exploitation of inmates, the governmentand most people pretend not to realise the severity of the situation justbecause it is beneficial to them. Furthermore, according to statistics from theglobal research organization, it is believed that more than 50% of 623,000inmates in country or municipal jails are innocent of the crimes they areconvicted, 97% of 125,000 federal inmates have committed non-violent crimes and16% of the country’s inmates suffer from mental illness! In addition, the USholds 25% of the world’s prisoners even though it only has 5% of the world’spopulation! It is therefore evident thatthe government is abusing its power to effectively increase slavery (prisonlabour) which is completely undemocratic and thus immoral on many levels. Thus,reform is needed immediately not only in the prison system but also in thejudicial system. Fortunatelythere are many solutions that can help improve the current situation. Firstly, wagespaid to inmates for prison labour should be increased to at least the legal minimumwage. Even though this would mean that prison labour would be a much lessprofitable industry, it would reduce criminality and prison population.
Accordingto the National Institute of Justice (2014) about 68% of prisoners released in2005 in the US were arrested within 3 years for a new crime. For them it seemsmorally acceptable to commit a crime as they were exploited while they workedin prison and were treated like slaves. In fact, increasing wages for prisonwork would allow them to survive with the money they saved from the prisonuntil they find employment without needing to commit a crime to survive. Another reason why increasing wages toinmates would be beneficial is the fact that poverty impedes cognitive function(Mani, Mullainathan, Shafir & Zhao, 2013). Poverty here is defined as thegap between one’s needs and the resources available to fulfil them. What iteffectively means is that the poor behave in less capable ways, which in turncan deepen poverty and worsen their situation.
Therefore, by increasing wages,not only will it be more morally acceptably as they will be paid as normalpeople and not slaves, but also it will give them the capability to have a morenormal life after their sentence. They will be capable to make better andmorally acceptable choices in their life instead of going back to their oldimmoral habits and potentially end up in prison. Secondly, prison labour shouldbe redefined as legal employment instead of slavery. This would not only promote equality, but itwould also help inmates find employment once they complete their sentence.Currently, most of prison labour is not considered legal employment which meansthat prisoners don’t gain work experience, and unemployment benefits thuslowering their chance of success in society (Bozelko, 2017). Finally,employment opportunities in the public sector could be offered to prisonersafter their release. It is true that people who have a criminal record havedifficulties finding a job.
It would thus be morally appropriate that they areoffered a job by the government, especially since so many of them got acriminal record for a crime they didn’t commit, as mentioned in the previousparagraph. Furthermore, according to statistics, from a sample of 740 peoplewho were released from prison, it was found that eight months after prison only45% of the respondents had found legal employment even though 65% of them hademployment before prison (Debus, Visher & Yahner, 2008). It should also benoted that 74% of them were actively searching for a job during those 8 monthsand that the unemployment rate in the US during the experiment was between6.2%- 7.6% according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Thisshows that even though they are trying to have a normal life, society does nottreat them equally which is completely immoral. Government intervention in thatcase would help them tremendously as it has been proven that former prisonerswho find a secure job, ideally by two months after their release aresubstantially more likely to avoid recidivism (Debus, Visher & Yahner,2008).
Part3:Asfor the garment industry in Bangladesh, there are many cases of immoralbehaviour not only from the part of the government, but also by many majorcompanies. Factory workers in this industry can be characterised as captiveemployees as they have limited or no freedom to stop working in the factoriesof global brands like H and Gap, even though their working conditions areunacceptable and their wages are really low. They are forced to work in suchfactories to survive and feed their families as the Bangladesh governmentprovides insufficient unemployment benefits. It can also be characterised as anillegitimate market due to the fact that working conditions and safetyregulations are below the global standard described by the Human Rights Actwhich is illegal (Woodman, n.d.).
There have been many incidents where workershave been injured or even died because of that. For example, the collapse ofthe Rama Plaza building in April of 2013, who caused the death of 1,100 people,was just one of many such incidents (Abrams & Sattar, 2017). Despite the global attention that this eventgot, assaults, verbal abuse and forced overtime reports are still reported. Thatmeans that government intervention is needed to stop this immoral behaviour.
However,since the 1990s the garment industry has been the main source of Bangladesh’seconomic growth. It accounts for 70% of the country’s exports. Since the worldis heavily influenced by profit, it is evident why the Bangladesh governmenthas not prevented such immoral practices for so long. Once again, according tothe capability approach Bangladesh workers which are a very disadvantaged groupdeserve to have capabilities to make the best out of their life in order toreach an acceptable morality standard with a total high social utility. Due tothe fact that Bangladesh is amongst the most corrupt countries in the world,major governments from all around the world should intervene to help with thesituation (Business Anti-Corruption Portal, 2015).
Fortunately,there are some government policies that can decrease or even eliminate theimmoral behaviour of these large companies. Firstly, a wage increase isnecessary to increase the capabilities of the workers and the morality of theindustry. According to statistics from the “War on Want” organization, themajority of workers are paid just above the legal minimum wage, approximately$25 even though the necessary living wage to provide a family with shelter,food and education (basic human rights) was calculated to be approximately $45.Such a policy would receive a lot of criticism from major corporations andwould probably cause an increase in the price of products but it is animportant step towards reaching global equality.
Secondly, the governmentshould force factories to improve the working conditions by applying bettersafety regulations. This would help make the industry morally legitimate asHuman rights would now be respected. Also, regular inspections should beperformed by independent law enforcement agencies on factories to make surethat the regulations are being respected.
Since today, Bangladesh has not beenable to enforce many of its regulations such as the Labour Law which statesthat the minimum legal age of employment is 14. In fact, 15% of children inBangladesh aged between 6-14 years old work 64 hours per week and don’t attendschool (Safi, 2016). Many companies would argue that this is not immoralbehaviour as they give children the opportunity to gain work experience andhelp their families survive.
But, the truth is that children are gettingexploited by being under-paid and suffer terrible working conditions (Dupond,2010). Unfortunately, the primary reason why companies prefer children in theirfactories instead of adult workers is because they are cheaper workforce. Researchersfound that many children were exploited without knowing it as they were paid$0.18 per hour even though the legal minimum wage is $0.
36. If child labour didn’t exist, unemploymentamongst adult workers would be less, wages higher and therefore, they would beable to provide for their families without needing to send their children towork and deprive them of their right to education (Rea, 2008, p. 15). Furthermore,the Bangladesh government should improve its judicial system in order toprevent unfair dismissal of employees. Everyone has a right to a fair and equal treatment under the law, asstated in article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
There hadbeen several cases where employees where dismissed unfairly, received verylittle or even no compensation and were even imprisoned illegally such asJahangir Alam. Mr. Alam who was the president of a local trade union, wasdetained after a garment industry protest in December of 2016 with 14 others(Abrams & Sattar, 2017). This case violated human rights and undermineddemocracy as a whole. It is thereforeclear that the law enforcement of the country should be improved. Such a policywould be costly to the government but it would pay-off in time as immoralbehaviour would be punishable and thus eliminated.
However, these policiesmentioned above could have a different outcome which would possibly worsen thecurrent situation. For example major corporations might act completelyimmorally and abandon their factories in Bangladesh to move to anotherunderdeveloped country in order to avoid the increase in costs. This wouldincrease unemployment and destroy the economy of the country.
The outcomedepends on the whether the government can have faith on the morality of thesecompanies. However, it is not a highly possible outcome as it would grab theattention of people worldwide and ruin the reputation and image of thecompanies, leading to a huge reduction in sales. According to a recent researchdata, 60% of people stated that buying from morally responsible companies wasof great importance to them, while 76% said that companies should act morallyand have a positive social difference even as they make profit (Velshi, 2013).
Asmentioned in the introduction, risk aversion could play an important factor inthis decision as it might not be worth the risk of putting the population inpoverty just for the shake of morality and some relatively small improvementsin working conditions. Part4:Dueto the fact that policies like the ones proposed in this article have neverbeen done before in similar situations, it is impossible to be certain of theiroutcome. Even though there is no statistical evidence to support some of thearguments made in this article, there is also no evidence to disprove them.Further research will be needed to approximate the outcomes of such policies interms of utility, morality and monetary profit. However, by taking thecapability approach into account, it should be the case that society’s totalwelfare will increase even though total utility, according to theutilitarianism philosophy, might be lower.
Therefore, it can be said that the government policies, analysedpreviously, will have an overall positive welfare effect in society. Conclusion:Toconclude, it can be seen that both the governments and many major corporationsare to blame for the immorality of markets based on captive employees. Due tothe fact that these morality problems cannot solve themselves, governmentintervention is necessary. Increase in wages, improvements in the prison andjudicial system, job opportunities to inmates after their release, improvedworking conditions, better law enforcement agencies are just some simplegovernment policies that could help improve the current situation of theseimmoral markets.
Despite the fact that these policies could have more of anegative effect on the developed countries, it is an undeniable fact that theywould help tremendously prisoners, factory workers and children in Bangladeshwhich are some of the most disadvantaged groups in society at the moment.