'Ethics is the primary.' - 'The Myth of Efficiency' - Murray N. Rothbard

Posted by ProjectC 
'I conclude that we cannot decide on public policy, tort law, rights, or liabilities on the basis of efficiencies or minimizing of costs. But if not costs or efficiency, then what? The answer is that only ethical principles can serve as criteria for our decisions. Efficiency can never serve as the basis for ethics; on the contrary, ethics must be the guide and touchstone for any consideration of efficiency. Ethics is the primary. In the field of law and public policy, as Rizzo wittily indicates, the primary ethical consideration is the concept that “dare not speak its name”—the concept of justice.

One group of people will inevitably balk at our conclusion; I speak, of course, of the economists. For in this area economists have been long engaged in what George Stigler, in another context, has called “intellectual imperialism.” Economists will have to get used to the idea that not all of life can be encompassed by our own discipline. A painful lesson no doubt, but compensated by the knowledge that it may be good for our souls to realize our own limits—and, just perhaps, to learn about ethics and about justice.'

- Murray N. Rothbard, The Myth of Efficiency (Economic Controversies, page 253)