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Stiff competition in the business arena has made business firms develop new strategies in order to ensure that their profit maximization objectives are achieved. Some of these strategies are harmless and ethical, while others remain a threat to the individuals and the society as a whole. For example, when a business acquires new technology in order to produce high quality goods to outweigh those of its competitors, this would be beneficial to society. On the other hand, if a business employs deceitful advertising techniques to encourage consumption of its products, this would be unethical and detrimental to the community. Thus, the issue of vice marketing arises.
It is normal for governments and other regulatory bodies to protect the rights and interests of members of the society. The government, for instance, will protect an individual’s right to life against violation by terrorists. It, thus, offers security to the citizens. Similarly, it will protect the right to access good health through provision of quality healthcare services. In certain cases, the actions of the government are inclined towards controlling the actions and decisions of an individual. For example, most governments have banned sale of alcoholic products to person below the age of eighteen years. In this way, the government acts like a father who protects his child from making irrational decisions or being involved in behaviors that would cause him harm. This process is called paternalism.
Definition of Vice Marketing and Paternalism
Vice Marketing may refer to the process of encouraging the consumption of those goods and services that are considered harmful to the well-being of individuals, for example, cigarettes, alcohol, bhang, pornographic materials, and fast foods with excessive fat contents. Vice marketing can be done by producers and/or their agents. It usually aims at encouraging the consumption of such products through provision of false or inadequate information in relation to their use. Vice marketing often targets a certain group of people, more frequently children and teenagers.
Paternalism, on the other hand, refers to a system in which one party, usually with authority over another party, undertakes to supply the needs or to regulate the conduct of the other party. The controlling party usually influences the actions and/or decisions of the controlled party in respect to certain issues which affect the controlled party’s welfare. Paternalism refers to laws designed to protect citizens for their own good; for example, laws that prohibit excessive use of alcohol and other hard drugs. Paternalism was defined by Kleinig as a means of obstructing an individual’s freedom to do something for his or her own benefit (Kleinig 17).
According to Guy Standing, paternalism usually results into a conflict of interests of the government and interest and values of the individual. Citizens often want to be granted the freedom to make their own choices and live life as they want and feel it, whereas the government’s interests rely on promotion and protection of welfare of all members of the society (Standing 42). The government will discourage use of alcohol or cocaine because it considers it harmful to the individual’s life and at the same time it may expose other citizens to danger. From the government’s view, drunkards often suffer from impaired judgement and may act irrationally and harm other people. Similarly, paternalism can be used by the government to protect children whose emotional and cognitive capacities are less developed and hence, they may not be able to make decisions accordingly.
In a normal societal setting, it is assumed that the government will exercise paternalism for the own good of the citizens. Paternalism usually interferes with the liberty of the individual. Paternalism entails any action, decision, rule or policy taken by a third party, usually the government or authoritative body, which dictates what is best for another person without considering the beliefs, rights or values of that particular person.
Interestingly, citizens habitually protest against government’s paternalism arguing that they should be given freedom to chose. Most people often feel that they are deprived of their freedom of choice. Paternalism is formulated and implemented so as to protect the welfare of the individuals and the society at large, despite the fact that most people often oppose it.
Policies for Implementation to Address Vice Marketing and Paternalism Problem
In my view, guardians and parents should educate, train and guide their children on responsible behaviors. Children should be discouraged form behaviors that may expose them to harm, such as for example, smoking bhang, drinking alcohol and drug injection. They should be taught on how to make coherent decisions based on reason rather than doing what their peers do. They should be taught on how to critically analyze situations before taking any action. They should also be encouraged to seek help and advice from adults, parents, school teachers and other relevant authorities whenever they encounter any problems or when they are indifferent about what actions or decisions to make.
Human rights activists should advocate for the formulation and implementation of policies that protect the consumers. Consumer Organization should fight for the wellbeing of the consumers through monitoring and evaluation of the products being offered for sale in the market. They should push the government to adopt and put into operation policies that encourage production and sale of high quality goods and services.
Moreover, activists can come up with watchdog organizations that fight for the right of the children and teens. Such organizations should also offer guidance and counseling services to the target population, for example, to teenagers who are more targeted with pornographic films and school going children who might be exposed to alcohol.
On the other hand, the Government should formulate and implement policies that discourage use, sale, and open advertising of harmful products such as alcohol, cocaine, and heroin (Nys, Denier & Vandevelde 237). It should put into practice stringent rules and tough conditions for businesses that sell the goods, such as alcohol, that are considered harmful and destructive to the society. To fully protect its citizens, the government should illegalize and totally ban trade of certain harmful products, such as pornographic films. Those who refute such requirements should be heavily punished. It can also adopt strategies that would generally not provide favorable environment for production of harmful products; for instance, it can levy high taxes on cigarettes and alcoholic products.
Last but not least, the government, in collaboration with other consumers’ health watch organizations, should formulate policies that allow efficient regulation and control of the marketing and advertising industry. All advertising agencies and producers should be mandated to provide truthful information concerning their products and the possible effects of consuming such goods and services as well as labeling their goods and services with warning messages.
In contrast to the above proposals offering consumer and citizen protection, the government should not exercise over-protection of its citizens to the extent of violating some of their fundamental rights and freedoms. At times, it is important to leave individuals to make their own decisions with regard to issues affecting their own lives.
In my view, individuals are the best judges of their own interests and so they should be left to freely decide on what is best for them. Just as John Stuart Mill argues, an individual is the only person who best understands his or her feelings. Thus, suppressing and repressing of the needs by the government or other people in authority implies denial of this fundamental freedom and right of choice. Those who oppose paternalism, like John Stuart Mill, argue that political power and civil interests are two different things that can neither be interlinked nor indentified. They further say that individuals know their rights better than the government or state and that “moral equality of persons demands respect for others’ liberty”, and that “paternalism disrupts the development of an independent character”. Mill argues that paternalism should be exercised only if an individual’s actions interfere with the well being of others (Standing 106).
Additionally, freedom is essential for the development for each person’s individuality. Freedom allows an individual to attain the truth over certain issues as well as allows them to develop more inspiring and heartening lifestyles. Therefore, it is the most fundamental social value. Persons should be left to make choices of their lives, provided that such decisions do not interfere with the wellbeing of other members of the society. Paternalism encourages interference with a person’s style of living. More often, people will not be treated equally whenever paternalism is exercised.
On the other hand, children’s interests have to be protected since they do have the capability to make rational decisions. Their minds are still developing and, thus, not mature enough to decide on what is best for their own good. In such a case, it is imperative for the parents and government to exercise paternalism in protection of their interests. They may not have the capacity to effectively decide between what is right and what is wrong or to distinguish between true information and false information as provided in the advertisements. This, therefore, calls for parental or governmental intervention into their actions.
Similarly, the teens and the youth may fail to be the best judges of their own interest due to their high disposal to peers’ influences. They may get involved in destructive behavior due to the peers’ pressure. It is, therefore, important for the relevant authorities to exercise paternalism on them for their own sake. Due to their ignorance, ease and overindulgence, teens and children are prone to making wrong choices. Their behaviors must hence be controlled and regulated. In such a case, paternalism is warranted due to shortsightedness and narrow viewing that increases the possibility of indulging into careless, destructive behaviors.
The freedom of a person to make choices may thus be restricted in situation where an individual’s actions may be dangerous to him/her and to others. If the consequences of an individual’s actions are hazardous and treacherous to the welfare of other members of the society or interferes with the interests of the society at large, paternalism should be exercised.
Just as Ben-Porath states, because people are social beings, the choices made by one member of the community directly or indirectly affect others (Ben-Porath 193). For example, when a swimmer drowns because of ignoring a warning by the pool attendant, his or her death at the pool will indirectly affect the family. Also when a child dies of hallucinations after drinking a certain brand of alcohol he saw advertised in the television, this will affect the community indirectly. The society should, thus, discourage vice marketing. Furthermore, there are situations when the state should merely provide information without necessarily controlling the mind of the citizens.
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