Essays on Ethical Theory and Its Application: Case of Auto Companies in China Case Study

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The paper "Ethical Theory and Its Application: Case of Auto Companies in China" is a great example of a business case study. Ethics is a branch of philosophy that is concerned with principles that allow us to make decisions about what is right and wrong. This case study will take a look at five ethical principles and concepts namely: Utilitarianism, Kantian deontology, Justice (3a Rawls and 3b Nozick), Rights, and Normative ethical relativism. An explanation and discussion of the theories will be given. These theories will then be used to highlight ethical issues in a case study of the Auto companies in China.

The ethical question in this case study will be “ Was it wrong for the car companies to help China expand its auto  industry? ” Finally, a brief discussion about business ethics in theory  and practice will be done. Utilitarianism Utilitarianism is the ethical theory of the greatest happiness. In this theory, happiness is defined as an increase in pleasure and a decrease in pain. Basically the theory is based on the Principle of Utility. This principle states that a person should always choose that action which produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people affected by the alternatives open to him.

It, therefore, stipulates that a person should perform only those actions which conform to the Principle of Utility (Carey, 2013). The moral implication (rightness or wrongness) of an action is thus determined not by the action itself but by consequences of the action. Because of this, utilitarianism is sometimes called the theory of consequential ethics. There are various different views that dictate what makes a consequence of action good or bad.

The classical view states that happiness dictates the consequence of an action. The effect of happiness on people, therefore, makes a consequence good or bad. Hence, a consequence is good if it increases the happiness of the majority and is bad if it reduces happiness. In summary, utilitarianism defines the acceptable course of action as that which produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people affected by it. It is therefore based on the interests of the majority. The theory is however criticized for ignoring justice and being too demanding. In the case study, there are several ethical issues that relate to utilitarianism.

These include the happiness of the car buyers, the happiness of the environmentalists, the happiness of the government, and the general happiness of the Chinese people. According to utilitarianism, the happiness of the majority of the people in China determines whether the consequences of foreign automakers' expansion into China are good or bad. If most Chinese are happy they can buy the car they now want then the consequence of their action is good.

The resulting environmental implications of this expansion are therefore in-determinant. Similarly, if the majority of Chinese people think that environmental degradation outweighs the need to own a car, the actions of the automakers become morally wrong. Kantian Deontology Unlike Utilitarianism which bases the morality of an action on the consequences produced by the action, Deontology bases the morality of an action on the action itself. Therefore, the consequences of such an action are indeterminate. It argues that it is our obligation or duty to perform an action if it has the relevant features. Many different versions of deontology exist.

One of them is Kant deontology.


Velasquez, M. (2012). Business Ethics: Concepts & Cases. 264-265.

Carey, L.E. (2013). Business Ethics Managing Values and Corporate Responsibility. Pearson: Frenchs Forrest, Sydney.

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