Skip to main content Accessibility help

Wage Exploitation and the Nonworseness Claim: Allowing the Wrong, To Do More Good

  • David Faraci (a1)


Many believe that employment can be wrongfully exploitative, even if it is consensual and mutually beneficial. At the same time, it may seem third parties should not do anything to preclude or eliminate such arrangements, given these same considerations of consent and benefit. I argue that there are perfectly sensible, intuitive ethical positions that vindicate this “Reasonable View.” The view requires such defense because the literature often suggests that there is no theoretical space for it. I respond to arguments for the clearest symptom of this obscuration: the so-called nonworseness claim that a consensual, mutually beneficial transaction cannot be “morally worse” than its absence. In addition to making space for the Reasonable View, this serves my dialectical goal of encouraging distinct attention to first- and third-party obligations.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Wage Exploitation and the Nonworseness Claim: Allowing the Wrong, To Do More Good
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Wage Exploitation and the Nonworseness Claim: Allowing the Wrong, To Do More Good
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Wage Exploitation and the Nonworseness Claim: Allowing the Wrong, To Do More Good
      Available formats



Hide All
Alexander, Larry, and Moore, Michael. 2015. “Deontological Ethics.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Zalta, Edward N., Spring 2015.
Arneson, Richard J. 2013. “Exploitation and Outcome.” Politics, Philosophy & Economics 12 (4): 392412.
Arnold, Denis G. 2001. “Coercion and Moral Responsibility.” American Philosophical Quarterly 38 (1): 5367.
Arnold, Denis G. 2010. “Working Conditions: Safety and Sweatshops.” In The Oxford Handbook of Business Ethics, edited by Brenkert, George G. and Beauchamp, Tom L.. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 628–53.
Arnold, Denis G., and Bowie, Norman E.. 2003. “Sweatshops and Respect for Persons.” Business Ethics Quarterly 13 (2): 221–42.10.5840/beq200313215
Arnold, Denis G., and Hartman, Laura P.. 2005. “Beyond Sweatshops: Positive Deviancy and Global Labour Practices.” Business Ethics: A European Review 14 (3): 206–22.
Bailey, Adam D. 2010. “The Nonworseness Claim and the Moral Permissibility of Better-Than-Permissible Acts.” Philosophia 39 (2): 237–50.10.1007/s11406-010-9285-2
Barnes, Michael R. 2013. “Exploitation as a Path to Development: Sweatshop Labour, Micro-Unfairness, and the Non-Worseness Claim.” Ethics and Economics 10 (1): 2643.
Bowie, Norman E. 1999. Business Ethics: A Kantian Perspective. Hoboken, NJ: Blackwell.
Bradley, Ben. 2006. “Two Concepts of Intrinsic Value.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 9 (2): 111–30.
Brown, Campbell. 2011. “Consequentialize This.” Ethics 121 (4): 749–71.10.1086/660696
Coakley, Mathew, and Kates, Michael. 2013. “The Ethical and Economic Case for Sweatshop Regulation.” Journal of Business Ethics 117 (3): 553558.
Crane, Andrew, and Matten, Dirk. 2008. “Incorporating the Corporation in Citizenship: A Response to Néron and Norman.” Business Ethics Quarterly 18 (1): 2733.
Dawkins, Cedric E. 2012. “Labored Relations: Corporate Citizenship, Labor Unions, and Freedom of Association.” Business Ethics Quarterly 22 (3): 473500.
Dreier, James. 1993. “Structures of Normative Theories.” The Monist 76 (1): 22–40.
Ferguson, Benjamin. 2016. “The Paradox of Exploitation.” Erkenntnis 81 (5): 951–72.
Kates, Michael. 2015. “The Ethics of Sweatshops and the Limits of Choice.” Business Ethics Quarterly 25 (2): 191212.
Kristof, Nicholas D. 2009. “Where Sweatshops Are a Dream.” The New York Times, January 14, 2009.
Kristof, Nicholas D., and Sheryl, WuDunn. 2000. “Two Cheers for Sweatshops.” The New York Times, September 24, 2000.
Krugman, Paul. 1997. “In Praise of Cheap Labor.” Slate, March 21, 1997.
Louise, Jennie. 2004. “Relativity of Value and the Consequentialist Umbrella.” Philosophical Quarterly 54 (217): 518–36.10.1111/j.0031-8094.2004.00370.x
Maitland, Ian. 1996. “The Great Non-Debate Over International Sweatshops.” In Ethical Theory and Business (6th edition), edited by Beauchamp, Tom L. and Bowie, Norman E., 593605. British Academy of Management Annual Conference Proceedings. Prentice Hall, Cardiff, Wales.
Malmqvist, Erik. 2013. “Taking Advantage of Injustice.” Social Theory and Practice 39 (4): 557–80.
Malmqvist, Erik. 2017. “Better to Exploit than to Neglect? International Clinical Research and the Non-Worseness Claim.” Journal of Applied Philosophy 34 (4): 474–88.
Mayer, Robert. 2007. “Sweatshops, Exploitation, and Moral Responsibility.” Journal of Social Philosophy 38 (4): 605–19.10.1111/j.1467-9833.2007.00401.x
Meyers, Chris. 2004. “Wrongful Beneficence: Exploitation and Third World Sweatshops.” Journal of Social Philosophy 35 (3): 319–33.10.1111/j.1467-9833.2004.00235.x
Meyers, Chris. 2007. “Moral Duty, Individual Responsibility, and Sweatshop Exploitation.” Journal of Social Philosophy 38 (4): 620–26.
Miller, John. 2003. “Why Economists Are Wrong About Sweatshops and the Antisweatshop Movement.” Challenge 46 (1): 93122.
Néron, Pierre-Yves, and Norman, Wayne. 2008. “Citizenship, Inc.: Do We Really Want Businesses to Be Good Corporate Citizens?Business Ethics Quarterly 18 (1): 126.
Pollin, Robert, Burns, Justine, and James, Heintz. 2004. “Global Apparel Production and Sweatshop Labour: Can Raising Retail Prices Finance Living Wages?Cambridge Journal of Economics 28 (2): 153–71.
Popper, Helen. 2006. “Bolivians See Dreams Fade in Argentina: Exploitation Widespread in Clothing Sweatshops.” The Washington Post, May 21, 2006.
Portmore, Douglas W. 2007. “Consequentializing Moral Theories.” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 88 (1): 3973.
Powell, Benjamin. 2014. Out of Poverty: Sweatshops in the Global Economy. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Powell, Benjamin, and Matt, Zwolinski. 2012. “The Ethical and Economic Case Against Sweatshop Labor: A Critical Assessment.” Journal of Business Ethics 107 (4): 449–72.
Preiss, Joshua. 2014. “Global Labor Justice and the Limits of Economic Analysis.” Business Ethics Quarterly 24 (1): 5583.10.5840/beq20141272
Radin, Tara J., and Martin, Calkins. 2006. “The Struggle Against Sweatshops: Moving Toward Responsible Global Business.” Journal of Business Ethics 66 (2): 261–72.
Sample, Ruth J. 2003. Exploitation, What It Is and Why It Is Wrong. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Scanlon, T. M. 1998. What We Owe to Each Other. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Scherer, Andreas Georg, and Guido, Palazzo. 2007. “Toward a Political Conception of Corporate Responsibility: Business and Society Seen from a Habermasian Perspective.” Academy of Management Review 32 (4): 10961120.
Scherer, Andreas Georg, Guido, Palazzo, and Baumann, Dorothée. 2006. “Global Rules and Private Actors: Toward a New Role of the Transnational Corporation in Global Governance.” Business Ethics Quarterly 16 (4): 505–32.
Slote, Michael. 1984. “Satisficing Consequentialism.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 58: 139163.10.1093/aristoteliansupp/58.1.139
Snyder, Jeremy C. 2008. “Needs Exploitation.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 11 (4): 389405.
Snyder, Jeremy C. 2010. “Exploitation and Sweatshop Labor: Perspectives and Issues.” Business Ethics Quarterly 20 (2): 187213.10.5840/beq201020215
Sollars, Gordon G., and Englander., Fred 2007. “Sweatshops: Kant and Consequences.” Business Ethics Quarterly 17 (1): 115–33.
Thomson, Judith Jarvis. 1985. “The Trolley Problem.” Yale Law Journal 94 (6): 1,395415.
Valdman, Mikhail. 2008. “Exploitation and Injustice.” Social Theory and Practice 34 (4): 551–72.
Valdman, Mikhail. 2009. “A Theory of Wrongful Exploitation.” Philosophers’ Imprint 9 (6): 114.
Wertheimer, Alan. 1999. Exploitation (revised edition). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Wertheimer, Alan. 2006. “Matt Zwolinski’s ‘Choosing Sweatshops’: A Commentary.” Unpublished manuscript presented at the Arizona Current Research Workshop, Tucson, AZ, January.
Young, Iris Marion. 2004. “Responsibility and Global Labor Justice.” Journal of Political Philosophy 12 (4): 365–88.
Zwolinski, Matt. 2007. “Sweatshops, Choice, and Exploitation.” Business Ethics Quarterly 17 (4): 689727.
Zwolinsky, Matt. 2008. “The Ethics of Price Gouging.” Business Ethics Quarterly 18 (3): 347–78.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Business Ethics Quarterly
  • ISSN: 1052-150X
  • EISSN: 2153-3326
  • URL: /core/journals/business-ethics-quarterly
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed