Difference between descriptive ethics and normative ethics

Describe in some detail the two ways in which we can evaluate the morality of an (entire) economic system. Illustrate with examples.

Capitalism is criticized for its sole emphasis on profits and economic value of goods and services. Unfettered capitalism is intrinsically instable as repeated cycles of economic depression and recession clearly show. Each time such a crisis occurs, it is the workforce that bears the brunt in the form of layoffs or reduced remuneration. Capitalism also abets the process of accumulation of power in the hands of a few business corporations. Such monopolization (for example in the media industry) is never good for people as it deprives them of real choices. Hence, the economics of capitalism is pitted against their political effects. Socialism is a more comprehensive political system that tries to balance social considerations with economic imperatives. But so far in the two centuries since its conceptualization it has not proved a sustainable and successful model. The human lure for power has interfered with the noble objectives of Socialist politics. But in recent years, socialism in the form of popular uprisings has given new hope. The resurgence of populist governments in Latin America or the mass public rebellions in the Middle East are very promising.

Several different forms of responsibility were identified in the course materials. One of them was legal responsibility. What were THREE (3) others that you consider important in your own ethical reasoning as it applies to business? Give examples, whenever appropriate, to illustrate your points.

Alongside legal responsibilities, businesses are expected to fulfill their social, economic and environmental responsibilities. It is for this all encompassing purview of business actions that the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) code of ethics was formulated. Conventionally, businesses were solely expected to operate on the profit motive alone. But such a focus has led to negative consequences in the form of environmental degradation, weakening of democratic institutions and reduced social and intellectual capital. Rather than treating people as mere ‘consumers’ of products and services, businesses will have to treat them with more respect. If the cut-throat competition in the business environment would not permit such a model of business, then it is the duty of people to organize and collectively act for their rights. Ideally, there would come a time in the future when business corporations operate on the basis of morally considered outcomes and not merely for quarterly financial results. The focus should shift from short-term profits to long term sustainability of our species and environment.

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