In "The Responsibilities of Corporations and Their Owners" [
http://homepages.bw.edu/~dkrueger/BUS329/readings/Simon.html ], the
authors claim that corporate responsibility includes the idea "that
all men have the 'moral minimum' obligation not to impose social
injury," This is a rather thickly written essay, but one of its major
points is explaining the difference between a requirement to actively
do something good ("affirmative duties") and the requirement to not do
anything bad ("negative injunction").
A quick example would be that of a robbery,
A "negative injunction" is the requirement that one person not steal
An "affirmative duty" is the obligation of a bystander to take an
action which stops the robbery.
In the case of the above essay, the authors make the claim that the
"moral minimum" of a business is only to obey the "negative
injunction" against causing social harm. A business may also take
affirmative action to prevent social harm, but this action would not
be included in the moral minimum.
According to this essay, "The negative injunction to avoid and correct
social injury threads its way through all morality. We call it a
'moral minimum,' implying that however one may choose to limit the
conception of social responsibility, one cannot exclude this negative
injunction. Although reasons may exist why certain persons or
institutions cannot or should not be required pursue moral or social
good in all situations, there are many fewer reasons why one should be
excused from the injunction against injuring others."
The dividing line between an "affirmative duty" and a "negative
injunction" is not always obvious. There is certainly overlap between
the requirement to take a positive action and the requirement to not
take a negative action. (When does *not* doing something good become
the same as doing something bad?) The exact dividing line is open to
Given that, and the limited information you've provided, I'll say that
the answer is "maybe."
My reasoning is that a plant closing may be either an "affirmative
duty" or a "negative injunction." consider the following:
A plant closing would affect 2 groups of people.
1) Thousands of small stock holders who would lose their retirement
savings if the plant did not close.
2) Thousands of workers if the plant did close.
Is it a "negative injunction" to not close the plant because it would
affect the livelihood of the workers? Or is it a "negative injunction"
to not provide extra funding to the plant because it would affect the
livelihood of the stock holders? Both are things that must be
considered when debating how a moral minimum would affect this
I hope this has answered your question. Feel free to ask for
clarification if needed.
Google Search: "moral minimum"
Clarification of Answer by
14 Sep 2003 16:09 PDT
Most of my answer is based on my interpretation of the essay at
bw.edu. At the bottom of my answer is a link to a Google search which
provides other interpretations of the "moral minimum." I highly
recommend that you examine these other definitions if you intend to
use any of this as homework. The reason I chose to cite this essay for
you was because I felt it summarized most of the point better than the
others which I saw. This does not mean that the essay is the only
opinion, and I advise you to look at the others.
If you intend to use this essay (which appears to come from a business
course at bw.edu), I you should certainly cite it as your source in
any paper that you write, and print it out in case your teacher wants
to see it. In addition, if you use parts of my interpretation in your
own essay, you may want to consider citing Google Answers as the
source (keeping in mind that I am not a business or ethics expert,
just a fancy librarian). If your teacher finds that you've quoted from
any of this without giving citations, he/she would have the right to
accuse you of plagiarism. Citing the source is always the best and
most honest way to go.
Good luck in your research!