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The Ethics of Sweatshops and the Limits of Choice

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 June 2015

Michael Kates*
Affiliation:
Georgetown University

Abstract:

This article examines the “Choice Argument” for sweatshops, i.e., the claim that it is morally wrong or impermissible for third parties to interfere with the choice of sweatshop workers to work in sweatshops. The Choice Argument seeks, in other words, to shift the burden of proof onto those who wish to regulate sweatshop labor. It does so by forcing critics of sweatshops to specify the conditions under which it is morally permissible to interfere with sweatshop workers’ choice. My aim in this article is to meet that burden. Unlike other critics of sweatshop labor, however, my argument does not proceed from contested economic or moral assumptions. To the contrary, my strategy will be to demonstrate that even if we grant the truth of the economic and moral assumptions made by defenders of the Choice Argument, it nevertheless does not follow that it is morally wrong to interfere with the choice of sweatshop workers to work in sweatshops. The Choice Argument thus fails on its own terms.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Society for Business Ethics 2015 

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