Grade 9-12

Is Efficiency Ethical?

Time: 60 min,
Updated: September 1 2023,
Author: Stephen Day


Students will be able to:

  • Describe how efficiency and ethics relate.
  • Explain how conflicting ethical visions can make economic analysis difficult.
  • Integrate ethical thinking into marginal analysis.



In this lesson from the Ethics, Economics, and Social Issues curriculum, students role-play to understand both the power and limits of economic analysis, focusing on the “how” of economic and ethical reasoning.

Students begin the lesson by playing the role of a doctor who is trying to choose who gets scarce medicine and having to make decisions about efficiency.

Students will learn how both positive and normative statements can be used to make decisions. Next, they analyze the effects a casino could have on jobs and other outcomes for a city.

Lastly, they analyze the effects of ethical considerations on their own purchasing decisions. The lesson helps students understand both the power and the limits of economic analysis.