Do the ethical and moral principles make sense in the modern economic system? Does economic system today allow for the ethical considerations? These are the questions that are somehow implicitly answered with a no, in the modern socio-political scenario. Adam Smith is given the mantle for inspiring such an economic system that is void of moral considerations. Amartya Sen describes that the ideas of Adam Smith are interpreted in a way that it seems like he argued for a selfish and self-interest driven economic system where in reality he never explicitly proposed such a system. His ideas were taken into contemplation from a perspective that because he made economics scientific, he has to be focused on making things hard headed because science does not listen to human morality or correspond with what people think instead it has its own way of flowing with nature (Sen, 47). The scientific knowledge in this way is the scientific and natural flow of a flood that does not care if a person comes in its way is poor or rich. Another implication that is associated with Adam Smith is that the immoral system can allow people to be so profit was driven that they would do whatever necessary to gain profit even when it hurts others. For example, the fraudulent behavior can be seen as a plus because that serves a person’s self-interest and in an immoral world, it is completely permissible but in reality that is never seen in the writings of Adam Smith (Sen, 49). He was, in reality, a professor of moral philosophy and believed in morality. Amartya Sen in his article argues that the modern economic system is completely attributed to Adam Smith who is regarded as the father of modern economics but the unethical practices that can be seen in the global economic system today are not because of the ideology that he proposed. These tendencies are an outcome of the invention and inclusion of the post-modernism into the society.
The practices of immorality are common in the modern political and economic system. States are focused on pursuing the national interests even when that pursuance creates troubles and problems for other nations. The same is on the economic front as the corporations and companies follow anything that they can to gain benefits out of the market system at the cost of people’s misery and sometimes live (Niebuhr, 73). The fact that the production zones are made in the regions of the world where there are human rights violations, and other such practices that are forbidden and illegalized in the west means that there is some benefit that they are after that cannot be found in the west (Kent). The low wage workers in China are one thing as the Chinese economic system allows for having a life on the costs that the people earn from making the product for the global companies installed there even though these companies could provide and help their own home countries by establishing the companies there on lower profits. The fact that the companies, in this case, can help their own countries but they will not because of the personal benefits are to some extent acceptable. The Fact, However, that the company executives allow for the installments in different countries to employ child labor as they are way too cheap and proficient in production (Lamarque).
The Ethical Considerations in Child Labor
The Child labor was considered as a normal and common practice up to 1900s, and the scholars like Karl Marx and Charles Dickens raised voice on the matter as the practices were harrowing for the children and the practices like this were deeply interrelated with the manipulation, underpaying and torture in case of minor mishaps. The cruelty of the practice became the reason for the focus of abandonment of such practice. However, the world has this practice alive until today. Many countries have laws against child labor but the laws are not implemented, and the practice of child labor still exists. The debate on the practice being ethical and unethical raised in the mid 20 century and the scope of it increased multi-fold on the turn of the century (Kolk and Van Tulder).
The child labor is unethical in all forms as the children who should be living there years in learning and educating themselves are put into adverse and traumatic conditions, and they are not given the rights or the equal opportunities as many other children who go to schools and learn to live on their own terms. Many people equate child labor with the child slavery as the children are exploited, used for the illicit purposes and made to work more and for less, as they are energetic and naïve. The children in the countries like Philippines, Cambodia, India, Vietnam and many others in the region are put in situations that are not favorable to them. There are many chances that they could lose life, limbs and be discarded from the workforce when they cannot work in the capacity that they are needed. In general, the child labor is unethical because of the cruelty of the practices and the inequality that it gives way to (Edmonds and Pavcnik).
Many proponents of the fact that the children in the poor countries work because of their poverty and the employer are giving them means to fulfill their dreams of earning and feeding their family, consider child labor a favor. They believe that by employing the children the American companies are actually giving them means to earn along with injecting into their country’s economy that eventually leads to their benefit in the shape of economic growth in such countries. The children that work have no other choice as they are living in such situations where they cannot in any way go to school and have a “normal life.” The facts of their lives are already so grave that they cannot make any progress without working and the companies that give them opportunities for employment are doing them a favor in this way and not pushing them to misery (“Should Child Labour Be Banned?”). However, these claims seem all seem logical but some things cannot be put in such absolute terms of logic, and the moral values should be imperative. The fact the children in these situations are in huge numbers is a big failure of the global economic and political system where the world leaders claim to bring equality to all the countries and all parts of the society. The main consideration in this issue is what the intentions of the companies that invest into these practices are. And there have never been any indications of such intentions as the companies that have been accused of or found to be a part of using the child labor never cited this as their argument. They always deny being involved in the practice that means that their focus is not on providing the children with employment, but they are involved in practices of child manipulation, underpay and cruelty.
Amartya Sen argues on the same terms that there is no way that Adam Smith could have implied that profit maximization is the only goal of the economic system and the businesses. The global production giants are in reality using the wrong model of what Adam Smith proposed and are making money off of others’ misery. Discarding the morality in favor of cut-throat competitions and cruel practices is not acceptable or justifiable by the economic system that was presented by Adam Smith (Sen).
Is it morally Right for the US companies to employ Children in the developing countries?
The model of the profit maximization that is seen to be what Adam Smith proposed but in reality is based on immoral principles of gaining benefits from others misery is not moral. The American Companies that have their production units in the countries like Cambodia, China, Burma and Vietnam and are allowing for the employment of Child labor are doing that only for their material gain hence there is no way that their practices can be deemed moral. The justifications for the things that these companies put the labor through are in no way right. The only way that this could be justified is by assuming the value of American life is more than that of people from any other nation that seems to be an assumption that is accepted by many Americans including some of the leaders. The duplicity in dealing with human rights within and out of the country by some of the American production giants and other facets of America administrative hierarchy is very distressing. The justifications of American companies using child labor cannot possibly be valid as America is one of the biggest supporters of the human rights in the world. The morality in the business cannot be discarded no matter what Adam Smith seems to say because in the social sciences there is always dealing with human beings and some cannot be considered better than the others. Equality regarding gender, race, religion, caste, and creed is not only applicable to American society, but these are also the rules for the world and should be considered to be so. There is not a single point in the essay by Amartya Sen that I disagree with all of the points presented in the essay correspond to my own ideology of need for a moral value system to run the world to eventually get to a peaceful reality.
Edmonds, Eric V., and Nina Pavcnik. “Child Labor in the Global Economy.” Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 19, no. 1, 2005, pp. 199–220.
Kent, George. Children in the International Political Economy. Springer, 1995.
Kolk, Ans, and Rob Van Tulder. “Ethics in International Business: Multinational Approaches to Child Labor.” Journal of World Business, vol. 39, no. 1, 2004, pp. 49–60.
Lamarque, Hannah. 10 Companies That Still Use Child Labor. https://www.careeraddict.com/10-companies-that-still-use-child-labor.
Niebuhr, Reinhold. Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics. Westminster John Knox Press, 2013.
Sen, Amartya. “Does Business Ethics Make Economic Sense?” The Ethics of Business in a Global Economy, Springer, 1993, pp. 53–66.
“Should Child Labour Be Banned?” Child Care, 26 Jan. 2012, https://careforchildrennow.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/should-child-labour-be-banned-1/.