Exploitation and the Desirability of Unenforced Law

Business Ethics Quarterly:1-23 (forthcoming)
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Many business transactions and employment contracts are wrongfully exploitative despite being consensual and beneficial to both parties, compared with a nontransaction baseline. This form of exploitation can present governments with a dilemma. Legally permitting exploitation may send the message that the public condones it. In some economic conditions, coercively enforced antiexploitation law may harm the people it is intended to help. Under these conditions, a way out of the dilemma is to enact laws with provisions that lack coercive enforcement. Noncoercive law would convey the state’s condemnation of wrongful exploitation without risking the harmful effects of coercively enforced law. It would also give firms and their agents a way of explaining nonexploitative pricing decisions to investors, and it may help give precise content to the moral duty to set prices and wages fairly. Governments should thus consider noncoercive law a viable component of their responses to exploitation.

Author's Profile

Robert C. Hughes
Rutgers Business School–Newark and New Brunswick


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