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How to Ensure Equity in Commercial Exploitation of Outer Space Resources

Autor:   •  January 2, 2018  •  3,039 Words (13 Pages)  •  210 Views

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On the other hand, Kant’s theory does not have specific moral duties but determines the morality of actions based on good will, which is dictated by reason (Burnor & Raley, 2011). The good will is motivated by moral duty, but not by anything else. It does not choose something for the sake of gaining pleasure, knowledge, satisfaction and etc. The only motivation that counts for the good will is the rightness of an action (Kant, 1785). For example, there are three students helping an old lady across the street.

- Peter liked to help others in his life, so he helps the old lady across the street because it makes him feel good.

- Amy also helps the old lady but it does not matter if she feels good or not. There is no difference between whether she enjoys it. She helps her only because the old lady needs to be helped and she is the one who can do it.

- John helps the old lady because he has heard she is rich, so helping her may gain some return for him.

If we use Kant’s theory to analyse these tree situations, only Amy’s action is morally sound because her actions are triggered by the reason and duty, not anything else.

Comparing the two theories, I think Ross’s ethics is more suitable for our discussions in this paper. Kant’s theory explains that morality is dictated by reasons, but it may cause ambiguity among people from different cultural backgrounds. Sometimes, certain things may be reasonable to people from Western countries, but unreasonable to people from Asian countries. For example, in the Western culture, it is quite reasonable to point out people’s mistakes in public because such actions are beneficial for them to make improvements. However, in many Asian countries, criticising others in public may not seem reasonable because that may cause the people to lose face. In certain contexts, saving face may be more important than correcting the mistakes. The example illustrates that if we define moral duties based on reasons, sometimes it can be subjective and ambiguous. Given the fact that the moral guideline of commercial exploitation of outer space resources should be applicable to people around the world, Ross’s seven fundamental duties are more suitable because they tend to cause less ambiguity and confusion for people from different cultural backgrounds.

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This section will define and compare ethical and unethical behaviours of four groups of duty bearers based on Ross’s ethics.

- The commercial companies that are going to exploit resources in space

Commercial companies are the most direct participants in exploitation of outer space resources. They have the power to set the prices, determine the quantity of supply, control essential information and enjoy many other privileges over other parties. It is especially true when space resource exploitation is a new industry and has high barrier to enter. I believe ethical behaviours for those companies are to:

- Make information transparent and remain honest

- Practice price discrimination to make resources affordable to all

- Invest in R&D to continuously lower cost of operations

Making the information transparent is essential to ensure integrity in business. It reflects Ross’s duty of fidelity. Only when the customers and regulators have access to the key information (e.g. potential reserve of resources, financial performance of the companies, the effects of resources consumption and etc.), the customers can make right buying decision and regulator can come up with policies that promote positive development in the industry. Price discrimination is another important way to ensure equity of distribution of resources. The “third degree price discrimination” will allow the companies to charge different prices on different income groups (Adachi & Matsushima, 2011). Bus concession cards provide such example. Adults are charged different prices from students or senior citizens, who have no or lower incomes. Price discrimination reflects Ross’s duty of beneficence because with discounted prices for the needy people, the space resources become affordable to them, so such resources will improve their lives. The last point of continuous investment in R&D is also important to promote equity. It can be expected that the cost of outer space resources will be high at the beginning because of companies’ initial infrastructure investment and lack of experience, but the companies should continuously refine the process and seek economies of scale to lower the cost of production so the resources will be affordable to more people. It also reflects Ross’s duty of self-improvement.

On the other hand, there will also be some behaviours deemed unethical under Ross’s ethics, such as:

- Purely profit driven and artificially inflate prices

- Concentrate the profit earned on a few top executives

Instead of trying to lower the price and make resources affordable, the companies may abuse their aforementioned powers to purposely inflate the prices at the expense of customers. Such behaviours will violate Ross’ duty of non-maleficence because it hurt consumers’ interest and deteriorate equity. Furthermore, if companies’ profits are concentrated in the hands of a few top executives instead of sharing with wider range of stakeholders, it is also detrimental to equity because the outer space resources are supposed to belong to everyone on earth. No one should benefit himself to an extrme extent by using common resources without trying to contribute back. That violates Ross’ duty of gratitude.

- Governments of such companies

Although governments of the commercial companies are not expected to operate the business on a daily basis, they still play an important part to ensure equity. Their ethical behaviours can be defined to:

- Play an active role in monitoring commercial companies and set appropriate tax regulations

- Remain non-corruptible

- Subsidize lower income users of resources

With structured and active monitoring process for the commercial companies, government will be reactive to the market change and keep the companies in check, so the chances of the companies abusing their power will be greatly reduced. Meanwhile, setting the appropriate


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