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It's Legal but It Ain't Right

Harmful Social Consequences of Legal Industries

Nikos Passas and Neva Goodwin

Publication Year: 2004

Many U.S. corporations and the goods they produce negatively impact our society without breaking any laws. We are all too familiar with the tobacco industry's effect on public health and health care costs for smokers and nonsmokers, as well as the role of profit in the pharmaceutical industry's research priorities. It's Legal but It Ain't Right tackles these issues, plus the ethical ambiguities of legalized gambling, the firearms trade, the fast food industry, the pesticide industry, private security companies, and more. Aiming to identify industries and goods that undermine our societal values and to hold them accountable for their actions, this collection makes a valuable contribution to the ongoing discussion of ethics in our time. This accessible exploration of corporate legitimacy and crime will be important reading for advocates, journalists, students, and anyone interested in the dichotomy between law and legitimacy. Nikos Passas is Professor in the College of Criminal Justice at Northeastern University. Neva Goodwin is Co-director of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Evolving Values for a Capitalist World


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1. Introduction: A Crime by Any Other Name

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pp. 1-27

Billions of U.S. dollars and enormous intellectual and human capital are spent annually fighting the “crime problem,” which is essentially constructed as a “street crime problem.” Students of white-collar crime and several nonprofit organizations have tried to call attention to “crimes in the suites,” but these efforts have had limited impact on actual public...

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2. The Cigarette Industry

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pp. 28-42

The American cigarette industry has for the past fifty years consisted almost exclusively of the same companies: Philip Morris, R. J. Reynolds, Williamson), Lorillard, and Liggett. These cigarette companies are the tobacco industry in the United States because their products account for nearly 95 percent of retail tobacco sales.1 The industry yields approximately...

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3. Externalities of the Arms Trade

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pp. 43-73

During the 1990s, global arms trade and military transfers became less a function of foreign policy than a government-sponsored commercial race to occupy lucrative market niches abroad. Scant consideration was given to the detrimental effects that such virtually unrestrained competition might engender in areas affected by chronic political instability, gross...

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4. Firearms: Another Peculiar American Institution

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pp. 74-100

The United States is the last great civilian firearms market in the world. A 1994 survey by the Police Foundation, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, estimated about 192 million guns, a third of them handguns, owned by civilians.1 These firearms are not uniformly distributed: only about one-quarter of the adults in the United States own any firearm, and...

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5. Leashing the “Dogs of War”

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pp. 101-114

“Mercenaries” are social pariahs to most of civilized society. Many critics would prefer to outlaw soldiers who may display only temporary and purchasable loyalty, act inhumanely against civilian populations, introduce more efficient methods of killing, and limit hopes for peaceful resolution. As such, these critics argue, private security undermines the nation-state...

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6. The Costs of Legalized Gambling: An Economic Approach

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pp. 115-137

The United States entered the twenty-first century in a positive economic mood, notwithstanding the significant market correction that followed. Along with a record bull market and economic optimism, state legislatures and Native American tribal governments propelled a gambling boom during the 1980s and 1990s. This boom has been built largely on two myths....

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7. The Licit and Illicit Trade in Antiquities

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pp. 138-177

The international market in antiquities is both big business and booming business. While the fortunes of the art market fluctuate with the global economy in general and the stock market, in particular, the consistent pattern over the past twenty-five years has been one of considerable growth in the numbers of objects offered for sale both privately and...

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8. The High Price of Cheap Food

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pp. 178-193

Advertising and the mass media portray the U.S. food supply as an almost magical system delivering the safest and cheapest food in the world, thanks to space-age technology and the world’s most efficient agribusiness industry. The evening television news acts as a promotional film for the U.S.food industry, with both the news anchors and advertisements dramatizing...

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9. Accountability in the Pesticide Industry

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pp. 194-229

Many people perceive the power of agrochemical interests as a major obstacle to the development of sustainable agricultural alternatives. Promoters of sustainable agriculture face a series of obstacles from agrochemical concerns. Pesticide use is expanding in spite of widespread awareness of its dangers. Agrochemical companies’ influence on national development...

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10. Titans of the Enron Economy: The Ten Habits of Highly Defective Corporations

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pp. 230-252

The pivotal lessons from the Enron debacle do not stem from any criminal wrongdoing. Most of the maneuvers leading to Enron’s meltdown not only are legal but are widely practiced. Many of the problems dramatically revealed by the Enron scandal are woven tightly into the fabric of American business. This part of the story is widely understood: the cold betrayal...

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11. Profiting through Influence: The Pharmaceuticals and Lobbying Industries

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pp. 253-276

The issues and policy concerns related to the highly profitable and influential pharmaceutical industry are complex and interconnected. Even those who attend to it every day, like India’s health minister, may not perceive the full network of laws, research priorities, diplomacy, public relations, and cash flow that holds together the worldwide business...

List of Contributors

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pp. 277-279

E-ISBN-13: 9780472026197
E-ISBN-10: 0472026194
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472068692
Print-ISBN-10: 0472068695

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 3 tables
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: Evolving Values for a Capitalist World
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OCLC Number: 650311794
MUSE Marc Record: Download for It's Legal but It Ain't Right

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Business ethics.
  • Business ethics -- United States.
  • Corporations -- Corrupt practices -- Case studies.
  • Corporations -- Corrupt practices -- United States -- Case studies.
  • Capitalism -- Moral and ethical aspects.
  • Globalization -- Moral and ethical aspects.
  • Social responsibility of business.
  • Lobbying -- Moral and ethical aspects.
  • Business and politics.
  • Political corruption.
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