Are Ethics and Efficiency Locked in Antithesis?

  • Yasha Rohwer
  • Randall WestgrenEmail author
Part of the The International Library of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Ethics book series (LEAF, volume 20)


We argue that ethics and efficiency are not locked in antitheses; that is, we argue that ethics and efficiency are not related in a fixed way. To do this we first argue that we have obligations to other human beings, animals and the environment. These obligations can be grounded in a number of moral theories that share a common normative outcome. We then explicate two conceptions of how ethics and efficiency may and actually do coexist in the food market. We argue that our moral obligations must be included in analyses of the behavior and performance of agri-food markets and that these duties do not lead to inefficiency, per se. At a minimum, they represent a set of constraints on production to which efficient producers adhere. We also note that there are markets for ethically produced foods, ranging from Fair Trade commodities to organic vegetables, wherein producers and consumers discover the prices of ethical attributes in efficient exchange. However, the existence of these markets for ethically produced products does not exhaust our moral obligations. If we have such duties, they must be institutionalized throughout the sector.


Fair Trade Ethical Production Moral Obligation Ethical Attribute Hedonic Price 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Agricultural & Applied EconomicsUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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