Aristotle states that everything worth doing is worth doing well. The economist James Buchanan claims that this is not the principle of economics, which states rather that it is not worth it to do everything well. Aristotle founded his ethics on the principle of
or excellence, literally bestness. The human being should aim at excellence in all actions. Economics, however, is founded on the principle of efficiency. Everything worth doing should be done efficiently. It is not efficient to do too well, and there are actions and things that should not be done or made too well. Therefore, not everything worth doing is worth doing well. It is worth making mass products, but it is not worth making them in such a way that they are as good as possible. It would be rather beside the point to make mass products so well. They would be too expensive and not mass products anymore. The economist has to adopt his actions to economic demand, not to conceptions of intrinsic excellence. It is also, economically speaking, not good to produce goods that are excellent but do not succeed in the market.
Ethics and economics are inimical brothers since their normative content seems to be contradictory. In ethics, the task of the human,
to ergon tu anthropu
as Aristotle says, is to realize the best. In economics, the task is to realize the efficient; in technology, to realize the effective. If we look closer, however, ethical and economic theory are not as contradictory as first appears. Doing the best for mass demand means not producing the best but producing the best suited to the needs of the market, i.e. consumer demand. On the other hand, it is also a postulate of ethics to consider the circumstances that might distinguish the best in a given situation from the best as a whole. It might under given circumstances, for instance, be the best to realize a solution that is considered to be only second best if circumstances are improved. It is worth realizing mass production well, although the result of the action will not be the best possible product but a mass product.