In a society which operates using free trade, it is possible that not all industries will be treated equally. For example, the world trade organization strong promotes trade, but has had an uneven impact across industries, often due to consumer demand and the types of products are covered in the negotiation (Subramanian & Wei, 2007). While this does raise some issues, I do not believe that the occurrence of this phenomenon is unethical. The whole purpose of free trade is to allow for consumers to drive the market. As such consumers will favor some products of other products. It is possible that industries could be unfairly targeted. This can occur when one competing industry sets out to destroy the reputation of another industry to reduce its competition. In this situation, I believe that the action of the industry would be unethical. However, if all industries are given an equal opportunity and the customer choses one over another than this is not unethical.
Where a conflict can arise, which could lead to problems with ethics, is that of consuming unhealthy products. Previous research has shown that it may be unethical to allow individuals to consume unhealthy products, if these risks are hidden from them (Barnhill, King, Kass, & Faden, 2014). However, today if individuals are informed of the risks and still partake in these products, then the choice is theirs and they must live with the consequences of their actions. One industry where individuals continue to purchase the products despite health warnings, is that of the tobacco. Previous research has shown that consumption of tobacco can lead to the development of lung cancer, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, as well as heart disease and stroke. However despite these risks the profits of the tobacco industry continue to climb (Weiss, 2015).
Despite the evidence of health risks, which are often clearly communicated, the tobacco industry is still a thriving industry. It is for this reason that I advocate for the industry. As long as tobacco suppliers continue to let people know about the health risks they are not responsible for the consequences that occur because of consuming their products. This mentality is a direct result of a capitalist society. In capitalism, industries are owned privately. This means that they are run for profit. Because of this the government of ten has little impact in setting prices. However, the government can set regulations for industries, such as it being illegal to sell tobacco to minors. Under capitalism the main idea is that industries are run in a way to maximize profit but customers are free to choose where they spend their resources. Therefore, if individuals choose to spend their money on unhealthy products, despite knowing the risks, in the capitalist system they are allowed to do that.
With respect to corporate decision making in capitalism, the main goal is to increase profits. As such corporate decisions are often solely based on maximizing profit, with little regard for the health and safety of either the workers or the consumers. This is why it is important to have stringent government regulations in place to help ensure consumer and worker safety. Because of the nature of the capitalist system I do not believe that it is possible for companies to truly cater to both it’s best interest and the best interest of the consumer. With respect to the tobacco industry, because of the risk of development of health problems, in order to cater to the best interest of the consumer no tobacco products should be sold. Since profits continue to climb, along with the number of deaths associated with tobacco use, this indicates that the industry is only catering to it’s best interest.
For example, recently there has been an increase in the use of e cigarettes. When the use of cigarettes started to decline, the industry began searching for other alternatives. One of these alternatives is that of e cigarettes. While some users of e cigarettes do not use tobacco the vast majority of these types of e cigarettes contain tobacco. These have been marketed worldwide, despite lack of scientific evidence proving their safety over traditional cigarettes. Despite this lack of evidence, they are often portrayed as a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes (Goniewicz, Lingas, & Hajek, 2013). This is yet another example of the industry putting it’s interests first over the interests of it’s consumers.
While I believe it is impossible to fully cater to the best interest of the consumer and the best interest of the tobacco industry, it may be possible to compromise. An example of this is not selling tobacco directly to children. But even in this type of compromise, there is no way to guarantee that children do not have access to tobacco. Recent research has shown that the rates of children who smoke, and of children how are exposed to second hand smoke are still relatively high (Homa et al., 2015). Overall, there are advantages and disadvantages to living in a capitalist society. While consumers have more choice, there is also the possibility that industries may be misleading them by withholding information. Because of this it important that consumers do their due diligence before consuming or purchasing any product. But even with these potential disadvantages I still believe that capitalism, and the right to choose what we consume, are superior to other systems. As long as consumers are aware of the risks to their health there is no reason that they should be denied access to a product, if they still which to use/consume it.