Merchants of Death

My idea for Paper 2 comes from a blog post that I read on about the top 25 largest defense companies in the world in terms of revenue. When I was reading the post and getting an idea of just how big these companies really are, I realized that there are some very serious ethical implications associated with producing and selling weapons capable of killing. I recently interned in a sales department this past summer and one of the most important lessons that I learned was to know, love and truly believe in the product you’re selling. Imagine if that product happened to be a nuclear submarine capable of launching 12 nuclear missiles from the middle of the ocean or drones that spy on unsuspecting people for weeks then obliterate them with bombs that seem to come out of nowhere. There simply has to be some kind of internal ethical struggle when someone realizes their profession directly contributes to the death of people they don’t even know. I do not mean to condemn the defense industry or the people who make a living in it. I think that the industry is vital to the safety of the United States, and frankly, I think some of the things they produce are pretty freaking cool. In fact, the defense industry is responsible for countless innovations that help people and facilitate globalization. But, just because the industry is necessary does not mean that every company within that industry conducts themselves ethically. Based on the idea that the defense industry as a whole is not inherently unethical, my essay will focus on the United Technologies Corporation and their subsidiaries in order to better understand how the company deals with the obvious ethical dilemma of selling weapons.  I chose United Technologies mainly because it is headquartered in my home town along with its subsidiary Sikorsky Aircraft. United Technologies has a large number of very successful subsidiaries like Carrier, Clipper Wind Power, Otis Elevators, UTC Fire and Security, UTC Power, Pratt & Whitney, and UTC Aeorspace systems, among others so needless to say they operate in a wide range of industries. For the purposes of this essay, I will only focus on the subsidiaries that have military contracts with the Federal government to produce things like missile guidance systems, attack helicopters, aircraft engines and more. My goal is to better understand how United Technologies employees juggle the ethical implications of producing something that has the potential for so much harm. How do they harness that potential and make sure it is used for good? Can it be used for good?


3 responses to “Merchants of Death

  1. This brings up a good point, but I feel like its probably more governments, and regulators that deal with the moral side of selling weapons. I don’t know for sure, but I would assume that weapons manufacturers never (at least on paper) associate themselves with anything even mildly unethical. Not to say that they’re business is ethical, but simply that it might be hard to study the ethics within the company, when the ethical issues are more with the industry than any one individual in it.

  2. This make me wonder if there can be a line drawn between ethical and moral, or are the two words completely the same? In my head, morality is personal and ethical is societal. This seems more like a moral issue and this might very well be the same as an ethical issue. I do agree with kshrivast that it would be hard to analyze how ethical a particular company is because the ethical issues are more with the industry.

  3. UTC is interesting because of all the divisions. Does it somehow “spread the blame” that they have so many, um, non-lethal weapons?

    Guns is big business.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s