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Write a short note on the relationship between maxims and rights. Use examples to support your answer.
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Business and Its Environment
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Kant's system is expressed in terms of maxims which individuals have a moral duty to respect. That duty establishes moral rights. Those moral rights are intrinsic, since they are derived from the categorical imperative and not from other considerations such as consequences.
To illustrate the relationship between maxims, rights, and duties, we can consider the maxim, A firm must sell its product to anyone who wants it, regardless of the price they are willing to pay. This maxim violates the categorical imperative of treating individuals as autonomous ends, since the owners of the firm would be treated as means when forced to sell the product regardless of whether they wanted to do so.
The maxim, A firm must sell its product to anyone who is willing to pay the price set by the firm, satisfies the categorical imperative because it treats everyone as autonomous and as ends. Hence, it is a moral rule. This rule then has implications for rights and duties. First, it establishes property rights as moral rights. Second, it establishes the right of the firm to set the price for its product. Third, it does not allow the firm to distinguish, or discriminate, among buyers based on any considerations other than their willingness to pay the
price set by the firm. This establishes a right not to be discriminated against and a corresponding duty not to discriminate on irrelevant considerations in making sales.
Rights consistent with Kant's system include the freedoms of speech and conscience, since otherwise a person would not be autonomous. Rights also include political equality and the right to vote. Kantian rights require the opportunity to exercise individual autonomy, which includes the right not to be discriminated against on dimensions irrelevant to those opportunities.
The categorical imperative draws a line between a right to opportunity without discrimination and the claim that individuals should be provided with the means to pursue opportunity and hence that others have a duty to provide those means. That claim may treat the recipients as ends and respect their autonomy and freedom, but it does not so treat those who have the duty, since it uses them solely as means for serving others. Consequently, economic rights, such as rights
to food or housing, are not consistent with Kant's ethics system. From this perspective, claims about economic rights are statements about political goals rather than moral rights.
There are thus few rather than many rights that follow from Kant's system. For example, Kant's system allows the voluntary provision of economic goods to individuals but does not compel anyone to provide those goods. In contrast, Rawls's system of justice requires the fair equality of opportunity, which requires that individuals have the means to pursue opportunities.
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