To Buy or Not to Buy? The Moral Relevance of the Individual Demand in Everyday Purchase Situations

Food Ethics 5 (1-2) (2020)
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The question of the moral relevance of the individual demand is fundamental to many purchase decisions of daily consumer life. Can a single purchase make a difference for the better or worse? Each individual consumer could argue that companies are unlikely to adjust their production due to one single item more or less being sold. He might therefore decide not to change his consumption behavior but instead to rely on the effort of others, a pattern commonly referred to as collective action problem. In this article, we study collective action problems with regard to everyday purchase situations. We base our discussion on Shelly Kagan’s famous article “Do I make a difference?” and critically discuss a central assumption of his model: the symmetric relationship between supply and demand. We find that Kagan’s solution to collective action problems is not true a priori but has to be evaluated in certain empirical surroundings. We therefore discuss the approach in the context of the European meat market and demonstrate that Kagan’s argument does not provide a universal solution to cases of meat purchasing. We conclude with an outlook regarding the role of consumer ethics.



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References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Complicity: Ethics and Law for a Collective Age.Christopher Kutz - 2000 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Do I Make a Difference?Shelly Kagan - 2011 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 39 (2):105-141.
Consequentialism and the Problem of Collective Harm: A Reply to Kagan.Julia Nefsky - 2011 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 39 (4):364-395.

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