Chris MacDonald – Chilean Miners: What Is Rescue Worth?

You cannot accuse Professor MacDonald of not being timely.

This article is a very clever while straightforward analysis on what on the surface is a simple question but ethically has more arms than an octopus in circus sideshow.

Here is the ethical thought problem he poses –

So, a thought experiment: what if there were only one company qualified to do the rescue work, or only one company available locally? What should that company charge?

A few quick options:

1. They should charge whatever the market will bear, which would essentially amount to charging the most the Chilean government and/or the mining company involved are willing to pay.

2. They should charge nothing. They should be happy to be involved, and to charge anything would be to put a price on human lives, which is unacceptably exploitative.

3. They should charge just enough to cover their own costs — machinery, fuel, and maybe their own workers’ wages.

4. They should charge exactly the same to drill this hole as they would to drill any other hole of similar size, depth, and complexity. No more (that would be exploitative), and no less (that would be foolish).

Do you favour one of those four? On what grounds? Or can you suggest another principled answer?

Follow his columns, he writes regularly and if you follow the articles and pay a little attention, you will probably have the equivalent experience of an undergraduate class in business ethics!

James Pilant

2 thoughts on “Chris MacDonald – Chilean Miners: What Is Rescue Worth?

  1. James:

    Thanks for your kind comment.

    I think it’s worth noting that pricing is an issue given too little consideration in mainstream business ethics. When I look through the row of business ethics textbooks on my shelf, I see that almost none of them even has an index entry for the word “price” or “pricing.” There’s a very small literature on price gouging, and a small literature on pricing of pharmaceuticals, but other than that there’s very little, as far as I’ve ever seen.



  2. I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll keep it in mind. I’m in the middle of my online business ethics class and they just didn’t quite get the last assignment. Maybe I could use something along these lines instead.


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