Business Ethics

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Using appropriate examples, discuss the importance and pertinence of Rawls’ concept of justice in the business context.

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John Rawls (1921-2002) was a political philosopher and author of A Theory of Justice (1971). His ideas won widespread acceptance, and he used to be a regular dinner guest at the White House during the presidency of Bill Clinton. His theories have implications for contemporary business practices.

His view of the world was shaped by setbacks he faced in his youth. He saw shocking poverty. His brothers died from an illness he unintentionally transmitted to them. He experienced the horrors of combat during World War II.

He wrote that American society was patently unfair. There was too much inequality in life expectancy and income distribution. He rejected rags-to-riches stories popularized by Horatio Alger as statistically negligent.

A key problem in reforming society was that those who benefited from injustice had no reason to accept reforms. In order to fully grasp the significance of inequality, it was necessary to have what he called a veil of ignorance. Then it would be obvious that Switzerland or Denmark were better societies to be born in.

These two European societies have progressive taxation and robust welfare systems. In addition, Rawls would favor an increase in the minimum wage and limits on executive compensation. He acknowledged that inequality would continue to exist, but he wanted to lessen the gap. Providing more people with more opportunities would enable them to have more prosperous and healthy lives.

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