Distributive Justice, Catholic Social Teaching, and the Moral Responsibility of Marketers
Journal of Public Policy & Marketing
This commentary uses as its platform an essay by Karpatkin (1999) titled "Toward a Fair and Just Marketplace for All Consumers: The Responsibilities of Marketing Professionals." This article supports Karpatkin's position that, too often, large corporations are willing to exploit weak and vulnerable consumers as the means to unsavory financial gain. Vulnerable groups include the poor, children, and the disadvantaged elderly. Essentially, Karpatkin raises questions about the lack of distributive justice for these consumer segments in the marketplace. In answer to this, the author presents a religion-inspired business ethics. Using a body of writing sometimes called Catholic Social Teaching (CST), the author describes and discusses a set offour guiding ethical principles. At the foundation of CST is the principle of human dignity. Building on this base, the author explores three additional principles: stewardship, preferential option for the vulnerable, and worker dignity. Together, these principles provide a "blended" moral theory that outlines a rationale for giving economically or socially disadvantaged consumer segments distinct and special moral treatment in the marketplace.