Steinberg on Heath on Non-Ideal Markets

The Inapplicability of the Market-Failures Approach in a Non-Ideal World by Etye Steinberg

A COMMENTARY ON Joseph Heath (2014), Morality, Competition, and the Firm: The Market Failures Approach to Business Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Joseph Heath (2014) argues that the contribution of competitive markets to Pareto-efficiency generates moral constraints that apply to business managers. Heath argues that ethical behavior on the part of management consists in avoiding profit-seeking strategies which, under conditions of perfect competition, would decrease Pareto-efficiency. I argue that because (1) such conditions do not obtain; and (2) the most efficient result – under imperfect conditions – is not achieved by satisfying the largest possible set of the remaining conditions; it is (3) impossible to draw any substantive ethical guidelines from Heath’s approach.

To download the full PDF, click here: Steinberg on Heath

Etye Steinberg is a PhD candidate in Philosophy at the University of Toronto. He holds a BA in Philosophy, Economics, and Political Science (PEP), and an MA in Philosophy, both from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he has also been a lecturer.

v5n4: Kline on Schleper on Exploitation and Just Prices

Exploitation and Just Price Theory by William Kline

A COMMENTARY ON Schleper, M., C. Blome, and D. Wuttke, D. (2015), “The Dark Side of Buyer Power: Supplier Exploitation and the Role of Ethical Climates,” J Bus Ethics 140(1): 97-114.

Schleper, Blome, and Wuttke attempt to use just price theory to define exploitation. According to the authors, a competitive market equilibrium defines a just price. When certain asymmetries in bargaining power exist, trading at any lower price constitutes unethical exploitation. I argue that a competitive market equilibrium does not provide a price that could be considered just by their own standards, and thus fails to ground a theory of exploitation.

To download the full PDF, click here: Kline on Schleper

William Kline, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Business Administration at University of Illinois, Springfield. His personal website is here.

v5 n3 Smith on Singer on Justice Failure

Jeffery SmithWhy Justice Matters for Business Ethics by Jeffery Smith

A COMMENTARY ON Abraham Singer (2016), “Justice Failure: Efficiency and Equality in Business Ethics,” J Bus Ethics OnlineFirst,

In a recent critique of the so-called “market failures approach” (MFA) to business ethics Abraham Singer maintains that business firms have ethical responsibilities to voluntarily restrain their profit-seeking activities in accordance with the demands of justice. While I ultimately share Singer’s intuition that the MFA has overlooked the importance of justice in business ethics, I argue that he has not presented a fully adequate case to explain why justice-related responsibilities should be assigned to business firms. I conclude by offering a brief – and supportive – alternative to his position.

To download the full PDF, click here: Smith on Singer

v5 n2 Welch and Ly on the Justice of Corporate Governance

“Rawls on the Justice of Corporate Governance” by Theodora Welch and Minh Ly

A COMMENTARY ON Abraham Singer (2015), “There Is No Rawlsian Theory of Corporate Governance,” Bus Ethics Q 25(1): 65–92

Abraham Singer argues that Rawlsian theories of justice cannot apply to corporate governance and business ethics. On Singer’s view, Rawls regards business corporations as voluntary associations outside of the basic structure, which is the only site where justice applies. In this comment, we show the importance of Rawlsian theory to central questions of corporate governance. The corporation should be considered part of the basic structure, because it is part of society’s system of productive social cooperation. Rawls’ proposal for a property-owning democracy also raises crucial corporate governance issues concerning the proper owners of the firm, and the separation of ownership and control.

To download the full PDF, click here: Welch & Ly on Singer

v5 n1 Zakhem on Storsletten & Jakobsen on Kierkegaard and Leadership

abe_zakhem“Kierkegaard and Leadership Theory, a Radical Reappraisal” by Abe J. Zakhem

A COMMENTARY ON Vivi Storsletten and Ove Jakobsen (2015), “Development of Leadership Theory in the Perspective of Kierkegaard’s Philosophy,” J Bus Ethics 128(2): 337–349,

Storsletten and Jakobsen (2015) try to integrate the instrumental, responsible, and spiritual positions in leadership studies with Kierkegaard’s aesthetic, ethical, and religious modes of existence. Their combination of leadership theory and Kierkegaardian thought, however, seems deeply problematic. In particular, the instrumental-aesthetic and responsible-ethical connections appear weak or at least significantly underdeveloped, and the spiritual-religious connection seems logically inconsistent.

To download the full PDF, click here: Zakhem on Storsletten & Jakobsen

v4 n10 Silver on Heath on the Market Failures Approach

david_silver“Competition, Value Creation
 and the Self-Understanding
 of Business?” by David Silver

A COMMENTARY ON Joseph Heath (2014), Morality, Competition, and the Firm: The Market Failures Approach to Business Ethics (New York: Oxford)

In defense of his Market Failures Approach to business ethics Joseph Heath relies on an understanding of business as essentially oriented towards competition and profit maximization. In these remarks I defend an alternative understanding of business that is centered on the creation of valuable goods and services. It is preferable because it: (a) creates less pressure to take advantage of vulnerable stakeholders, (b) can readily recognize “beyond compliance” norms that do not relate to efficiency, (c) provides a more meaningful framework for people who work in and with corporations, (d) may mitigate negative moral impacts outside the market, and (e) better captures the range of what actually counts as business activity.

To download the full PDF, click here: Silver on Heath

v4 n9 Brennan and Jaworski Respond to Taylor on ‘Markets Without WHAT Limits?’

Jason Brennan and Peter Jaworski“I’ll Pay You Ten Bucks Not to Murder Me” by Jason Brennan and Peter Jaworski

A RESPONSE TO James Stacey Taylor (2016), “What Limits Should Markets be Without?”Bus Ethics J Rev 4(7): 41–46.

Abstract: James Stacey Taylor offers three interpretations of our thesis, and argues that only one of them goes through. His point is to clarify our view rather than critique our position. In this brief response, we argue that, upon further clarification, we could endorse at least one of the other interpretations, though as Taylor notes, we don’t need to for our book’s thesis to go through.

To download the full PDF, click here: Brennan and Jaworski Respond to Taylor.