The U.S. Military-Industrial Complex is Circumstantially Unethical

Journal of Business Ethics 95 (2):153 - 165 (2010)
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Business ethicists should examine not only business practices but whether a particular type of business is even prima facie ethical. To illustrate how this might be done I here examine the contemporary U.S. defense industry. In the past the U.S. military has engaged in missions that arguably satisfied the just war self-defense rationale, thereby implying that its suppliers of equipment and services were ethical as well. Some recent U.S. military missions, however, arguably fail the self-defense rationale. At issue, then, is whether a business supporting these latter missions may not be circumstantially unethical. No it is not, say defense industry advocates, for two principal reasons. For one, this business benefits society at large in numerous ways. And, for another, the organizer of these military missions is a superpower which by its very nature is not subject to the ethical constraints of the self-defense rationale. I dispute both reasons, argue against the second, and conclude that the U.S. military-industrial complex (MIC) is circumstantially unethical

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Edmund Byrne
Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis


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