Kantian Business Ethics
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Kantian Business Ethics

Critical Perspectives

Edited by Denis G. Arnold and Jared D. Harris

In this original collection of essays, a group of distinguished scholars critically examine the ethical dimensions of business using the Kantian themed business ethics of Norman E. Bowie as a jumping off point. The authors engage Bowie’s influential body of scholarship as well as contemporary themes in business, including topics such as: the normative foundations of capitalism; the applicability of Kantian ethics, virtue ethics, and pragmatism in normative business ethics; meaningful work; managerial ethics; the ethics of high leverage finance capitalism; business ethics and corporate social responsibility; and responsibility for the natural environment. The contributors to this volume include both scholars sympathetic to Bowie’s Kantian business ethics and scholars critical of that perspective.
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Chapter 6: Bowie’s Kantian Capitalism, High-Leverage Finance Capitalism, and the Great Recession

Richard P. Nielsen


6. Bowie’s Kantian capitalism, highleverage finance capitalism and the Great Recession Richard P. Nielsen In Bowie’s (1999, p.1) Business Ethics: A Kantian Perspective, the question is asked, ‘How would a business firm in a capitalist economy be structured and managed according to the principles of Kant’s ethics?’ For the purposes of this chapter, Bowie’s question is modified to ask, ‘Were the key financial practices of high-leverage finance capitalism that helped cause the Great Recession of 2007–2010 consistent with Bowie’s Kantian capitalism ethics principles?’ First, the key practices of high-leverage finance capitalism that helped cause the Great Recession are analyzed (Nielsen 2010, 2011). Second, the key principles of Bowie’s (1999) Kantian capitalism are considered in the context of specific ethical issues that are structurally related to high-leverage finance capitalism. 1. TYPES OF CAPITALISM There are at least six types of capitalism: (1) small family-owned business capitalism; (2) large family-owned business capitalism; (3) managerial capitalism; (4) state-owned enterprise capitalism; (5) social democratic capitalism; and (6) finance capitalism (Schumpeter 1947; Chandler 1977; Beaud 2000; Baskin and Miranti 1997; Ferguson 2008; Nielsen 2010, 2011; Appleby 2010). In small family-owned capitalism, control is exercised by the family that owns and manages the business. In large family-owned capitalism, the family still owns controlling shares of the company and family members occupy key managerial positions. In managerial capitalism, beginning in the early twentieth century in the US, family members withdrew from the business and sold most of the family shares. Families sold their ownership...

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