The Ford Pinto Case from a Utilitarian and Deontological Perspective
Bedrijfsethiek Opdracht 2
The Ford Pinto Case
From a Utilitarian perspective
In utilitarianism, the merit or demerit of an action is entirely determined by the effect it has on everyone affected by the action. An action is deemed morally right if it leads to the greatest possible happiness for the greatest number of people. The motivation behind a choice is never considered in utilitarian theory. For reasons of verifiability, it only ever looks at the consequences of what you’ve done.
For that reason, it is an ethical theory that greatly appeals to businesses. Trying to determine how much something is going to cost (the negative effects) versus the benefits (the positive effects), drives companies to find projects that will lead to the greatest monetary gain, and happiness for their shareholders. Corporations, you will often hear, exist to make money and thereby make their shareholders happy. And you make money by producing products profitably, and gaining market share. Utilitarianism would say that a business is morally right if it considers all the consequences- both good and bad- equally, before making a decision on whether to adopt a course of action.
However, it can be difficult to determine what the scope of the consequences should be when making a cost-benefit analysis. From who the affected parties are, to how to measure the consequences. Ford chose to confine their analysis to themselves (and by extension their shareholders) and the consumers of their product. I find no problem with this. But their analysis is termed entirely in money. The question then is, can everything be priced? Ford thought so, and placed a price on the human lives lost as a consequence of their unsafe car. They deemed the total cost of making the cars safer to be greater than that of the lives potentially lost were they to forego the safety precaution. They neglected to take into account the...