Unocal in Burma

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Unocal in Burma
In this day and age it is not uncommon for American businesses to set their sights overseas. In such situations, ethics are always needed to ensure decisions are made in a morally responsible way. When corporations negotiate with underdeveloped countries, ethical guidelines are too often overlooked or blurred. When these are ignored, negative consequences almost always manifest. We can see this clearly in the example of this oil company and their dealings in Burma. Some people might argue that ethical guidelines for Americans do not apply to all other societies. In some regards, this is true. For example, women in the American military are now allowed to engage in combat, whereas many other countries might feel this level of equality is inappropriate and unwarranted. Velasquez (2012) defines the theory of ethical relativism as meaning that ethical standards are entirely dependent on the society in which they are applied and none of them are absolutely true across the board (p. 33). This theory does not seem perfectly accurate to me, because I feel that there are certain standards that apply, or should apply, on a global level. The theory of ethical relativism more or less seems like a means of avoiding responsibility and an outlet for placing profits over principles. For instance, slavery, torture, arbitrary detention, and restrictions of speech, association and assembly are violations of human rights across the globe. Unocal was fully aware that they would face violations of human rights and made the decision to proceed anyway. They rationalized this decision by claiming that “engagement” rather than “isolation” was a better strategy to achieving political change in foreign countries. They claimed that their intentions were to strengthen the economy in Burma in order to provide better conditions for its people. In actuality, their actions only strengthened the militarized government and widened the gap for Burmese human rights. Unocal’s...
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