Practice of Dumping Essay

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A Utilitarianism Analysis of the Practice of Dumping


Coined by Mother Jones magazine, the term “dumping” is used to describe the practice of selling products in other countries, typically developing nations, after they have been banned for sale in the United States. Although still widely practiced, dumping has been criticized as an immoral business practices that inevitably causes harm to others, usually for profit or to avoid the financial losses that would be caused by being forced to withdraw products from the marketplace. To determine the validity of these criticisms, this paper provides a review of Case 1.1, “Made in the U.S.A. – Dumped in Brazil, Africa, Iraq” from a utilitarianism perspective, followed by a summary of the research and important findings concerning these issues in the conclusion.

Review and Analysis

The history of dumping unsafe or otherwise banned products in other countries by U.S. companies is lengthy and damning at first glance. For example, Shaw cites numerous examples of U.S. companies selling infant wear in other countries that had been shown to be carcinogenic, painkillers that caused fatal blood disorders, and baby pacifiers that caused choking deaths. The motive for these practices is usually profit or the avoidance of financial losses from being forced to withdraw these unsafe products from the U.S. market, but there are other factors involved that make an analysis of the practice more complex. In a spirit of “if it’s not good enough for us, it’s still good enough for third worlders,” Shaw cites the example of the Dalkon Shield manufactured by A. H. Robbins that was shown to cause pelvic inflammation, blood poisoning and tubal pregnancies and perforated uterine walls in women.

After these findings were released to the American public, A. H. Robbins sales in its domestic U.S. market suffered and the company turned to the Office of Population in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in which the company sold thousands of these devices at a discount price for distribution in 42 countries that needed population control (Shaw). The moral argument in support of this approach was said to be humanitarian due to the inordinately high death rates during childbirth in these countries. As Shaw notes, “The agencies involved say their motives are humanitarian.
Because the death rate is relatively high in third-world countries, almost any birth-control device is safer than pregnancy” (p. 31).

In this context, though, the concept of “safe” depends on who is being asked. Indeed, Joachim (2007) points out that in some countries that received the Dalkon Shield, “Women were reported to have suffered from anemia and infections, pelvic inflammatory diseases, unintended sterilization, and tubal pregnancies, and even to have died” (p. 138). It is reasonable to posit that the Dalkon Shield may have prevented some deaths during childbearing, but it is also clear that there was a corresponding trade-off in the safety of the women who were duped into using these devices, all to profit an American corporation that knew about these risks. In this regard, Joachim adds that, “Dumping made apparent the double standards of international family planners, who regarded Southern women as objects or [targets] rather than as individuals with rights and needs” (p. 139).

More damning still, not only did the executives at A. H. Robbins know their product was unsafe, they colluded with USAID to ensure their financial losses were minimized to the maximum extent possible. As Joachim (2007) emphasizes, “These contraceptives had not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for distribution in the United States or had been withdrawn after they had been found to be unsafe. However, they continued to be sold in the developing world” (p. 139). Moreover, despite being proven unsafe, the unsanitary manner in which these contraceptive devices were distributed by AID was also highly questionable. In this regard, Joachin (2007) adds that:

While Dalkon Shield IUDs had been sold in the United States in individual, sterilized packages with a disposable inserter for each device, USAID distributed them in developing countries in bulk packages, unsterilized, with only ten inserters per hundred shields, and only one set of instructions for each pack of 1,000 shields. (p. 139)

While it is clear that A. H. Robbins….....

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Hoffman, W. M. & Kamm, J. B. (1999). Emerging global business ethics. Westport, CT:  Quorum Books.

Joachim, J. M. (2007). Agenda setting, the UN, and NGOs: Gender violence and reproductive rights. Washington, DC:  Georgetown University Press.

Mtaschke, X. & Schottner, A. (2013, July). Antidumping as strategic trade policy under asymmetric information. Southern Economic Journal, 80(1), 81-85.

Silverman, M. & Lydekcer, M. (1999). Bad medicine: The prescription drug Industry in the third world. Stanford, CA:  Stanford University.

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