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What's Wrong with Exploitation?
Unformatted Document Text:  sell pernicious things, or free ride when they ought to pull their own weight. The one who is taken unfair advantage of is always short-changed in some way. Viewed in this light, the wrongfulness of failing to benefit others as fairness requires will seem more serious. Cheating is not the same as stealing, but in the abstract one does not seem worse than the other as a form of wrongful gain. Exploitation, however, is a distinctive type of cheating. Most cheaters inflict losses upon their victims in relation to the status quo ante, but exploitative cheaters never do. Indeed, in most cases exploiters benefit their victims in a mutually advantageous way. The latter therefore gain by being dealt with unfairly. They are the victims of a beneficial kind of cheating. This is always the case in Class 2 exploitative transactions. When exploitative cheating is beneficial to its victims policymakers confront a dilemma. If they prohibit the transaction they may worsen the plight of the disadvantaged party [35]. By contrast, if the authorities permit the transaction they make it possible for advantaged agents to gain at the expense of the vulnerable. Of course, if the policymakers are allies of the exploiters they will face no dilemma at all. But if their aim is to improve the lot of the least advantaged they will face a conundrum. If they require the terms of trade to be fair, for example by setting maximum or minimum prices, the would-be exploiter may decide the exchange is not advantageous, in which case the vulnerable party will fail to gain any benefits at all. One alternative is to eliminate the insufficiency that makes the victim vulnerable to exploitation. If the exploiter has inflicted the vulnerability, for example by threatening the victim, this coercion must be blocked. But often exploiters have not created the vulnerabilities of which they take unfair advantage; they are not extortionists [36]. Instead, many who gain at the expense of others are simply opportunists who exploit 21

Authors: Mayer, Robert.
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sell pernicious things, or free ride when they ought to pull their own weight. The one
who is taken unfair advantage of is always short-changed in some way. Viewed in this
light, the wrongfulness of failing to benefit others as fairness requires will seem more
serious. Cheating is not the same as stealing, but in the abstract one does not seem
worse than the other as a form of wrongful gain.
Exploitation, however, is a distinctive type of cheating. Most cheaters inflict
losses upon their victims in relation to the status quo ante, but exploitative cheaters
never do. Indeed, in most cases exploiters benefit their victims in a mutually
advantageous way. The latter therefore gain by being dealt with unfairly. They are the
victims of a beneficial kind of cheating. This is always the case in Class 2 exploitative
transactions.
When exploitative cheating is beneficial to its victims policymakers confront a
dilemma. If they prohibit the transaction they may worsen the plight of the
disadvantaged party [35]. By contrast, if the authorities permit the transaction they make
it possible for advantaged agents to gain at the expense of the vulnerable. Of course, if
the policymakers are allies of the exploiters they will face no dilemma at all. But if their
aim is to improve the lot of the least advantaged they will face a conundrum. If they
require the terms of trade to be fair, for example by setting maximum or minimum
prices, the would-be exploiter may decide the exchange is not advantageous, in which
case the vulnerable party will fail to gain any benefits at all.
One alternative is to eliminate the insufficiency that makes the victim vulnerable
to exploitation. If the exploiter has inflicted the vulnerability, for example by threatening
the victim, this coercion must be blocked. But often exploiters have not created the
vulnerabilities of which they take unfair advantage; they are not extortionists [36].
Instead, many who gain at the expense of others are simply opportunists who exploit
21


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