Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 11, Issue 7, pp 515–521 | Cite as

Can we afford international human rights?

  • George G. Brenkert


In a recent important book,The Ethics of International Business, Tom Donaldson argues that multinational corporations (as well as individuals and nationstates) must, at a minimum, respect international human rights. For a purported right to be such a fundamental right it must satisfy three conditions. Donaldson calls the third condition the “fairness-affordability” condition. The affordability part of this condition holds that moral agents must be capable of paying for the burdens and responsibilities that a proposed human right would impose. If this is impossible, then the purported right is not an international human right.

I argue that Donaldson's affordability condition is subject to four objections which reveal its untenability as one of the conditions upon which identification of international human rights must rest. I offer another way of treating problems of affordability and capability when it comes to such rights that all moral agents must respect.


Economic Growth International Business Moral Agent Multinational Corporation Important Book 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • George G. Brenkert
    • 1
  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentUniversity of Tennessee-KnoxvilleKnoxvilleUSA

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