AIG – Who Insures the Insurers?


Following the financial crisis of 2008, the financial industry suffered backlash from the public following a historic and infamous series of events that threatened America’s economy.  From media pundits to organized efforts such as the “Occupy: Wall Street” movement, there has been a continual protest against the ‘injustice’ and corruption of greed that supposedly plagues large financial institutions.  However, many Americans rely on financial services for retirement savings, investment opportunities, the ability to get a mortgage and more.  Despite the complexity of many financial systems, which may be simply understood by the general public, the causes of the crisis held blame with those behind-the-scenes, and an ethical analysis can bring these actors and their decisions to light and provide a clear picture of what was done wrong and why.  Looking into AIG, a major player in the financial crisis, a history of ethically questionable management can be seen, with blatantly unethical choices leading underlying collapse of the financial system in 2008.

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Rath’s Wrath

Pharmaceutical Imperialism:

The AIDS virus is the single most devastating disease the modern world has known. It is easily transferrable, terminal, and unfortunately a cure has not been discovered. The disease is typically concentrated in the heavily populated areas of underdeveloped nations, making the installation of necessary preventative programs difficult. The governments of these countries are easily swayed, and cultural prejudices against Western medicine can prove to be formidable hindrances. Naturally, these regions are vulnerable and thus are susceptible to sketchy medical practices. It is sad that many of these regions aren’t satisfactorily combating the disease, but maddening when pharmaceutical suppliers knowingly implement treatments that aren’t effective for their own profit. Essentially these players are making money through supplying the sickliest populations in the world with ineffective medicine. This is called pharmaceutical imperialism: a term that unfortunately has become the norm.

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Whole Foods Market: Serving a Higher Purpose


In conducting my research, I found several definitions of utilitarianism. For this paper, I will use the following definition: “utilitarianism states we ought to make the world as good as we can by making the lives of people as good as we can” (Bykvist, 1). Given this broad definition, we must define what is “good.” If the results of one’s actions create more benefits than alternative actions would, he or she is making the world and the lives of people good. Utilitarianism weighs the outcomes of each possible action in any given situation and it holds the view that “the goal of both personal ethics and public policy is to bring about a preponderance of benefit over harm to all who are affected by human actions” (Darity, 2008). Throughout my paper I will use a utilitarian lens to look at Whole Foods Markets (Whole Foods). More specifically I will examine: how does organic food agriculture and consumption create good in the world and in the lives of people? If organic food is determined to be utilitarian through my findings, in addition to selling natural and organic food, how does Whole Foods work to make the world as good as it can by making the lives of people as good as it can? Continue reading

Tesla – A Rarity

imagesWhat is sustainability? What is a sustainable industry or business? In today’s society the definition of sustainable must be quite encompassing; Starik and Rands offer a modern definition. “Ecological sustainability is the ability of one or more entities either individually or collectively, to exist and flourish (either unchanged or in evolved forms) for lengthy time frames, in such a manner that the existing and flourishing of other collectivities of entities is permitted at related levels and in related systems” (Russo, 318). This paper will focus on something called sustainable entrepreneurship, which is well defined by J. Gregory Dees, a business professor at Duke University. “It combines the passion of a social mission with an image of business-like discipline, innovation, and determination commonly associated with, for instance, the high-tech pioneers of Silicon Valley” (Dees, 1). This definition fits quite well for Tesla Motors, Inc. and their plan to address a social problem, specifically our planet’s dependence on fossil fuels. Many governmental and philanthropic sectors have not fulfilled society’s expectations, so it seems that the best way for social change is through industry, specifically social entrepreneurs. As an auto company that created a business model previously unseen, Tesla is a great example of a company led by the ideals of social entrepreneurship.

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The Life of Joe Camel: A Look Into the Ethical Concerns of Tobacco Advertising to Children and Adolescents

The tobacco industry is one of the most prominent industries in the United States economy yet at the same time it is one of the most controversial. It is without question that tobacco is detrimental to a person’s health.  Former United States General Antonia Novello is quoted saying, “it is safe to say that smoking represents the most extensively document cause of disease ever investigated in the history of biomedical research.” [1] The issue at hand, however, is not that it is harmful to person’s health, but rather the degree to which a known harmful substance can be advertised, more specifically, advertised to children and adolescents. In 1988 R.J. Reynolds, American’s second largest tobacco company behind Philip Morris, created a cartoon character mascot to help promote their Camel cigarette brand.[2] Joe Camel, as he was commonly known as, was a cool and suave anthropomorphic camel that endorsed smoking Camel cigarettes. Though this marketing campaign came under scrutiny after a 1991 report by the Journal of the America Medical Association was published citing that the Joe Camel campaign was directly targeted at children and adolescents and that it increased the rates of youth smoking.  Eventually, after years of controversy and outside pressure, R.J. Reynolds decided to pull the Joe Camel campaign in July of 1997. The question at hand, however, is: was R.J. Reynolds’ Joe Camel marketing campaign unethical? A closer look at ethical advertising principles as well as documents released from various lawsuits resulting from the Joe Camel campaign reveal that R.J. Reynolds did in fact run an unethical marketing campaign.

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Lacking Leadership

“It’s the greatest environmental disaster with no end in sight! Eleven workers dead. Millions of gallons of oil gushing for months to come. Jobs vanishing. Creatures dying. A pristine environment destroyed for generations. A mega-corporation that has lied and continues to lie, and a government that refuses to protect the people.” – activist group ‘Seize BP’ (June 5, 2010)

Deemed by president Obama as an ‘environmental 9/11,’ the immediate economic, political, and cultural effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil spill have been devastating. The full, lasting effects on the gulf’s environment, however, are less calculable and will likely remain so for many years to come. On the other hand, what was made very clear was general unpreparedness of not just BP, but also, more importantly, of the federal government. Given the unparalleled magnitude of the spill and the wide range of affected parties, it is clear that the Obama administration failed in its duty to properly respond to the accident in the most effective manner. As the primary executive of the United States, the president has the responsibility, as outlined in the Oil Pollution Act and National Response Framework, to assert himself  in disaster situations such as the one presented by the Deepwater Horizon spill. Though providing cleanup assistance, the administration deferred the majority of the response efforts to private parties when it should have taken a more active and forceful role from the start. Clearly failing to understand the true complexity of the issue, the Obama administration’s most significant response efforts came late in the process with its most noteworthy one, a drilling moratorium, coming more than a month after the explosion. Ultimately, taking a consequentialist perspective, Obama’s decision to enforce a six-month offshore drilling moratorium can arguably be considered unethical as its associated economic and opportunity costs outweigh the benefits achieved, especially considering the US financial and economic situation at the time.     Continue reading

Whole Foods and the Organic Food Industry


In the past, people did not generally analyze the consequences of the food they ate, but recently, more and more people have been considering the potentially positive or negative effects of food. The ways in which food is grown, produced, and manufactured has been looked into more than ever and there is more emphasis on the “organic” types of food because they are seen as healthier. Whole Foods is a company that tries to be ethically sound in the production and sale of food. They sell organic foods but also carry main staple items that are found in regular grocery stores, so that people can one-stop shop there. Whole Foods is in the business of promoting “less processed, healthier, more sustainable food” (Koehn, Miller, 2007). The business has been steadily growing in the recent years, which shows society’s newfound emphasis on being healthy and eating food that is more “ethical.”

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Wal-Mart’s Path of Destruction


Utilitarian minds make their decisions based on which perceived outcome brings the most good[1] . That bears the question to how one can choose between two separate decisions that both have positive and negative benefits. An extreme and very common example of a utilitarian situation is if a person would be willing to take the life of one person in order to save 100 others that would perish if he did not follow through with the killing. A much more real example involves the retail giant Wal-Mart and their growth and effect on the American economy. Are lower wages more important to the consumers than a declining small business sector and sub-par working conditions for the Wal-Mart employees? Between the years of 2000 and 2005 Wal-Mart added over 1,100 stores and in 2004 their net sales were up to $276 billion[2] . An even more amazing stat is that in 2002, 82 percent of United States households purchased something from a Wal-Mart[3] . So what seems to be the problem if a majority of the population buys these goods that save them money for other and possibly more important expenses? The problem is that Wal-Mart comes into small towns and shuts down local businesses while at the same time treating their employees poorly and keeping their wages at miniscule rates. Workers fear standing up to the national giant for they squash any unions that attempt to come together and have shown they’re not against firing employees who disagree with the Wal-Mart way[4]. Wal-Mart’s destruction of local economies and poor working conditions for their employees greatly outweighs the good they do through offering low-priced consumer goods to the public. Their consistent attempts to stop unionization and keep benefits at a minimum for their workers is an injustice to the employees that are a necessity for Wal-Mart’s short and long term success. Continue reading

Feminist Ethics of Care: Susan G. Komen for the Cure

logo paper

History of Breast Cancer’s Cultural Reception and the Birth of Komen

  The largest breast cancer organization in the United States emerged as part of a national phenomenon of health activism in the United States in the 1980s (Klawiter). Prior to the 1980s, public discourse about the disease was accompanied by notions of shame and disfigurement. One patient who underwent treatment in 1979 noted, “In 1979 people just wanted you to have surgery and they didn’t want to talk about it…you were in and out of the hospital and that was that! There was no social workers, no support groups…” (Klawiter 858). The emergence of health activism changed the identities of those affected from victims to survivors, “…The health activist groups that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s, while diverse in their agendas, shared a sense of the importance of disease identity categories that suggested live, active, and empowered individuals, “(King 106). Continue reading

Always Low Prices, Always Low Wages

Around the world, even in the twenty-first century, countries are still facing violations of labor ethics, and sadly enough, we are seeing it still today in the United States.  The same country that is suppose to have high ideals and provide its citizens the ‘American dream”.  The United States unemployment rate is 7.3 percent[1], and even of those employed, 20 percent are living below the poverty line.[2]  How is this possible?  Under the federal law the United States provides a minimum wage of $7.25 [3]yet this wage has not been changed for numerous years, therefore it doesn’t account for inflation over the past years.  This has caused many people to be unable to support themselves, let alone a family.  The largest employer in the US is Wal-Mart providing 2.2 million jobs to our citizens, and is one of the wealthiest companies in the world; yet even a company like Wal-Mart is paying most of their employees a minimum wage salary.  These wages cause hundreds of thousands of Wal-Mart employees to be unable to provide for their families, forcing them to turn to public assistance. In this paper I will discuss the labor issues Wal-Mart employees are facing, and their impact on the millions of their employees. Continue reading

McDonald’s Global Rationalization

McDonald’s Global Rationalization

golden arches

As my parents loaded my brother and me into the car our shrills of excitement grew louder and louder as we drove down the road that would inevitably lead us to the beautiful golden arches of McDonald’s. The red and yellow signage made me smile a 1,000-watt smile and the play place was like reaching nirvana. This fast-food restaurant was the realization of all my childhood dreams and wishes: tasty food, a toy with every meal, free refills of bubbly soda, and a place to take my shoes off and run and play. Those golden arches were a sign of happiness, relief and comfort when I was a child, it meant it was time to eat and play and have fun. Continue reading

A Merger of Corruption

This is a story about greed and corruption, about blind ambition and selfishness.  The merger between Bank of America and Merrill Lynch during the financial crisis is historically significant, and represents the unethical behavior of many executives on Wall Street.  John Thain, former CEO of Merrill Lynch, and Ken Lewis, former CEO of Bank of America, were so focused on their own pursuit of greater compensation and power that they ignored the warning signs and understated the severity of the financial situation.

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Actions Have Consequences


             The composition of the agricultural industry has changed tremendously over time.  New technology and corporations have impacted and changed the traditional culture of agriculture.  Farming with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has increased in popularity in the United States. Monsanto has revolutionized the agricultural industry through its genetically engineered seeds (Ferrell, Fraedrich, Ferrell, 304). Monsanto is a highly scrutinized corporation due to its infamous reputation for accusing farmers of patent infringement and its manipulation of dairy products through biotechnology processes. Continue reading

Cyclical, Renewable, Waste-Free.

I found a Ted talk that relates  closely to my paper 2 topic, Tesla and business sustainability and social consciousness. Ray Anderson starts his talk by talking about how during the first industrial revolution it was all about extraction, using raw materials from the earth. It was Linear:Take, Make, Waste. This is at 5:45 in the video. He then goes on to say how the new industrial revolution should be. “In the new industrial revolution extractive must be replaced by renewable; linear by cyclical; fossil fuel energy by renewable energy, sunlight; wasteful by waste-free and abusive by benign; and labor productivity by resource productivity.” Continue reading

The Gap (Inc.) in Utilitarian Thinking

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Child labor seems to be an ever-existing problem. We hear of it in the news constantly and while the issue has been slowly decreasing, there is no sign of its eradication in the near future. One industry that seems to have the majority of issues is the textile and retail industries with massive amounts of outsourced production in third world countries. One such company is Gap, Inc. (Gap), which has been a popular source of casual and business clothing throughout the world, which, in addition to the Gap also includes branches like Old Navy and Banana Republic.   In 2007, Gap was accused of using child labor in their Indian factories and while it seemed clear that is was a misunderstanding and was strictly being addressed, it was not the first time Gap had been faced with children working on their clothing overseas.  Fortunately, we see that Gap realized their past mistakes in dealing with child labor and had put in place a new management style addressing such issues. The following review will provide a look into the story behind Gap’s influences and decisions, as well as analyze the ethical dilemmas that required redress. Continue reading