The Transplanting of Teeth, Thomas Rowlandson, 1787 (buy it here)
I'm one of the few people that work in business schools who (i) think that MBA students should learn something about ethics; (ii) does not feel compelled to slip it through the back door in any of my classes. I lament the fact that lecturers feel qualified to talk about ethics purely because they believe it is "under emphasised", regardless of their lack of expertise or specialisation. I talk about ethics a lot, but mostly in terms of drawing a boundary between what is and is not suitable discussion for my economics class. I would love to hire experts to teach it properly.
That said, in one class we do stray very close to that line as I instigate a discussion on kidney markets. Having spent time learning how markets function, and how managers can use them, I want to talk about limits to markets and pick extreme cases that challenge people's prior beliefs. Of course, whether we should have markets or not in kidneys is irrelevant - the objective is to think through alternative institutional mechanisms.
With both of these points in mind, I've just finished Michael Sandel's Justice. Although I don't buy his treatment of libertarianism, it is a good "pop" overview of moral philosophy, and something I feel comfortable recommending to students that do want to think more about ethical problems. He does talk about kidney markets, and I learnr the following:
English caricaturist Thomas Rolandson shows a scene in a dentist's office in which a surgeon extracts teeth from a chimney sweep while wealthy women wait for their implants. Kant considered this practice a violation of human dignity. A person "is not entitled to sell a limb, not even one of his teeth"* To do so is to treat oneself as an object, a mere means, an instrument of profit
I know that libertarians can be accused (somewhat fairly) of trying to force opponents to make simplistic distinctions, but can anyone see where you can draw a line in this argument? It doesn't take much of an understanding of John Locke to respond "what else is your body, if not an instrument of profit?"
Anyway, just think about all that food the chimney sweep can afford now that he's sold his teeth...*Immanuel Kant "Duties towards the body in respect of sexual impulse" (1784-85), translated by Louise Infield and published in Lectures on Ethics (1981), p.165