One industry facing this ethical dilemma is armaments. On one hand, the development, production and sale of armaments are an extremely profitable business, serving national strategic, economic, and defensive purposes (Havemann 1998, pp.241-242). On the other hand, it carries unintended consequences - promoting war and violence - whose effects cannot be easily avoided short of halting business activity altogether (Havemann 1998, pp.242-243; Gowri 2004, p.33). Thus, while it is sufficient for most enterprises to act ethically by ensuring that their actions comply with the minimum standards of avoiding harmful practices and exercising good conduct, such criteria seems inadequate in evaluating the ethical responsibility of businesses involved in armaments production, which produces foreseeable, but unintended harm regardless of good business practices (Mahoney 1990, p.545; Gowri 2004, p.33). For the UK, these issues are magnified in scope and intensity because apart from having one of the largest armaments industries in the world, with its leading company BAE Systems, the growing interconnectedness of economies, cultures, and governments worldwide implies a global societal impact.
Given the benefits and harm associated with armaments production, can its development, construction and sale be a fully justified business activity As this essay will argue, these activities, although not inherently good acts are morally indifferent business practices. Hence, using the principle of double effect and Gowri's (2004, pp.40-41) concept of moral externalities, the development, production and sale of armaments can be considered a fully justified business activity. Nonetheless, it is the responsibility of businesses to ensure that they manufacture armaments only within legitimately accepted circumstances.
The Business of Armaments AND Britain
Occupying a sizeable share of the British manufacturing sector, the armaments industry's importance for the country is undeniable. As Havemann (1998, p.242) notes, for a medium-sized economy that is highly dependent on trade such as the United Kingdom, armaments constitutes a significant part of the economy, with major players like BAE Systems, ranking 4th globally in the world in 2004 (Dunne and Surry 2006, p. 421) and UK arms production amounting to $19.2 billion in total sales in 2000, alone (Stockholm International Peace and Research Institute [SIPRI] 2003).
Economically speaking, these statistics translate to several macroeconomic and microeconomic benefits to the United Kingdom (Havemann 1998, p. 242). First, given its large share within manufacturing, the armaments industry has been reported to provide a significant amount of jobs, with 155,000 workers directly employed in arms producing activities and 150,000 indirectly working within the arms production supply chain (SIPRI 2003). Armaments production also helps boost the country's export performance, with companies like BAE Systems exporting 80% of its total sales, British arms exports generated $6.7 in 2000 (SIPRI 2003), significantly contributing to the UK's annual trade balance. Furthermore, with supply chain links in related industries such as information technology, systems integration, aerospace, and metallurgy, as well as the oil and gas sectors, it is clear that arms producing ac