Ethics at Work pp 117-144 | Cite as

Topical Ethical Questions

  • Barbara Goodwin
Part of the Issues in Business Ethics book series (IBET, volume 16)


This chapter analyses specific ethical issues which were raised and discussed by participants during the interviews and are indicative of some of the concerns of employees in participating organisations. The first three sections concern democracy, equal opportunities and discrimination and the role of unions. The final, more extended, section is a case study of how privatisation has affected ethical standards in some public-sector, or formerly public-sector, organisations. Privatisation has been a major moral and ideological issue in the UK and many other countries for over twenty years, and the arguments continue about the desirability of selling publicly owned services and assets to commercial companies. The moral issues raised are fundamental, and will be discussed at some length.


Public Sector Equal Opportunity Union Member Moral Issue Water Company 
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    This section is based on my chapter, The ethical effects of privatisation, in R. Norman (ed.) (1999) Ethics and the Market, Ashgate, Aldershot, pp. 95–116. I am grateful to the Society for Applied Philosophy for permission to use the material.Google Scholar
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    Although some might argue that the demand for water is elastic and people will use more if it is cheap, I believe ‘relatively inelastic’ is a reasonable description. I must have a certain minimum amount of water to live, whatever it costs me, but there is also a ‘natural’ maximum which I will use if cost is not a consideration. I am unlikely to use significantly greater amounts if the company reduces the unit cost of water. Demand inelasticity is, evidently, a mixed blessing for the monopoly supplier, as the privatised water companies in Britain have discovered. They have deliberately diversified into other activities, and sell have sold their engineering skills overseas, because there is a limit to the profits to be acquired from supplying ‘captive’ customers, especially as prices are regulated by Ofwat.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara Goodwin
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University of East AngliaNorwichUK
  2. 2.Henley Management CollegeUK

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