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Kantian Perspective on Water Privatisation Analytical Essay



In any situation, it is important to make a consideration for implementing the best ethical practices (Desjardins, 2006). This is according to various scholars who have made contributions to the study and discussed ethical issues.

However, these literatures have been too general as no ethical theory was discussed in depth and its relevant applicable situation defined. This essay will focus on the application of the Kantian ethics in water privatisation.

Kantian Perspective on Water Privatisation

The act of privatization cannot be considered ethical as it will deprive people of their fundamental right. Water privatisation has been the latest development in the international water industry. According to the extant literature, this is a response to the experience of the global water crisis. Schorr (2006) argues that water privatisation will encourage provision of water accessibility and efficiency to the poor.

This is the core reason why in the latest development certain states have been championing the idea of water privatisation. In ethical consideration, this argument conforms to the theory of utilitarianism. The theory suggests that action that brings maximum happiness to all concerned parties is considered to be morally right. Kantian theory discredits this idea as having no ethical justification.

It is a general knowledge that the reason why the governments are in control of water is to ensure accountability in its distribution. Accountability in the management of water will be bound to disappearance if water is privatised. Using Kantian ethics, these arguments tend to deviate from the norms of ethics in a business environment (Romano, 2012).

Water is very important because it implies the right to life, health, and food. If water is privatised then this right will be put at the benevolence of the private sector. This implies that these fundamental rights of human beings will be put in the hands that are not constrained by accountability.

From Kant’s perspective, this move does not put humanity into consideration. As Kant puts it, good behaviour is one that respects humanity. Based on this principle, the act of privatisation of water cannot be justified as being ethical.

Water is essential to life and should be made available to all. Cocq & McDonald (2010 p. 18) argue that privatisation of water means that the government will not be involved directly in any action and or decision made concerning water as a resource. This act may be beneficial to some business organizations, but at the same time, it intends to impact negatively on the consumers.

This behaviour can be justified when applying consequentialist theories of egoism and utilitarianism, which rely on the outcome (Wade, 2012). However, arguing from the Kantian perspective which implies that action is morally right if its principles can be applied to all rational beings in a consistent way, the behaviour loses its ethical justification.

In this case, there is the tendency to exploit in the selling of water, and the positions are to be reversed. This will make the organization selling water to transform into the consumer. This means that they cannot agree with such a position. Referring to Romano (2012 p. 511), by virtue of this action not being applied to all rational beings in a consistent manner, the act of privatisation of water becomes ethical.

In the foreseeable future, water can become a market commodity which contradicts the basic ethical principles according to Kantian ethics. Critics of the on-going water privatisation have raised concerns regarding this issue. In this case, a high demand will be created by those who are financially empowered (Islar, 2012 p. 321).

The threat is that water will be made unavailable to the poor if this privatisation is practiced for a significant period. This does not conform to the Kantian theory. In his theory, Kant provides that nothing is good in itself except the good. It is also relevant in this argument to take note of the concept of universal acceptability emphasised by Kant.

This concept implies that rational beings should act only according to the maxim by which it can at the same time become a universal law (Murthy, 2013). Putting the organizations that sell water or privatising water at the expense of poor consumers; it is obvious that it cannot allow the act to be acknowledged as a universal law.

It is evident that privatising water will not benefit most of the individuals who may not have the capacity to purchase this resource. According to Murthy (2013), he regards this as not morally right. He states that a morally right action should have the capacity to command unconditionally.

It should also be binding to every rational agent regardless of his/her goals and desires. In this case, it maximizes the profits of water companies making them successful. Draper (2008) argues that this behaviour can make some individuals in society to achieve the greatest amount of happiness. Thus, from the evaluation of utilitarianism, it is morally right.


From the literature review, it is clear the act of privatisation of water has no adequate ethical and moral support. Kant holds that ethics is defined by the action itself if it has a sense of good will together with the inherent character of the action. Privatisation should be accompanied by goodwill and make sure that the poor do not suffer because of their actions.

Reference list

Cocq, K, & McDonald, D 2010, ‘Minding the Undertow: Assessing Water “Privatization” in Cuba’, Antipode, 42, 1, pp. 6-45, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost.

Desjardins, JR 2006, Business, ethics, and the environment: imagining a sustainable future, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.

Draper, SE 2008, ‘Limits to Water Privatization’, Journal Of Water Resources Planning & Management, 134, 6, pp. 493-503, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost.

Hughes, RA 2010, ‘Pro-justice ethics, water scarcity, human rights’, Journal of Law & Religion, vol. 25 no. 2, pp. 515-540.

Islar, M 2012, ‘Struggles for recognition: privatisation of water use rights of Turkish rivers’, Local Environment, 17, 3, pp. 317-329, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost.

Murthy, SL 2013, ‘The Human Right(s) to Water and Sanitation: History, Meaning, and the Controversy Over-Privatization’, Berkeley Journal Of International Law, 31, 1, pp. 89-149, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost.

Romano, ST 2012, ‘From Protest to Proposal: The Contentious Politics of the Nicaraguan Anti-Water Privatisation Social Movement’, Bulletin Of Latin American Research, 31, 4, pp. 499-514, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost.

Schorr, DB 2006, ‘The First Water-Privatization Debate: Colorado Water Corporations in the Gilded Age’, Ecology Law Quarterly, 33, 2, pp. 313-361, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost.

Wade, JS 2012, ‘The Future of Urban Water Services in Latin America’, Bulletin Of Latin American Research, 31, 2, pp. 207-221, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost.

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"Kantian Perspective on Water Privatisation." IvyPanda, 29 Dec. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/applying-kantian-ethics-to-water-privatisation-2/.

1. IvyPanda. "Kantian Perspective on Water Privatisation." December 29, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/applying-kantian-ethics-to-water-privatisation-2/.


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IvyPanda. 2019. "Kantian Perspective on Water Privatisation." December 29, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/applying-kantian-ethics-to-water-privatisation-2/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Kantian Perspective on Water Privatisation'. 29 December.

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