[Avodah] economy101

Eli Turkel eliturkel at gmail.com
Sat Jan 12 09:50:00 PST 2013

Some comments on the gemara in Baba Mezia 40b

1) Shmuel says that one who profits from selling staple commodities should
not make more than 1/6 profit

Shmuel does not justify his 1/6 so I agree with Micha that this probably
comes from Onaah even though they are different halachot
note that Rabbenu Chananel adds and not less than 1/6 .
So according to him the price is fixed.

Western society has learned over the years that price fixing never works.
In Israel when bread products were price controlled it was found that
people used bread for many other things simply because bread was cheaper
than other alternatives because its price was fixed.

So I again come back to my original question that the takanah of Shmuel
goes against basic economic in a modern capatalistic society.

2) Rashi says that this applies to "Chaye Nefesh" ie not all foods just
basic ones. I once heard from R. Zilberstein that he felt this included
The gemara says that 1/6 includes the cost of the material and expenses
(Rabbenu Chanenl says "tirchah" means he could have doing other work while
giving customers a little to drink - didnt understand)

Drug companies charge a lot because they investigate many options 99% of
which don't work.
Accordingly this would not be an accepted expense since it is not directly
connected to the drug one buys. I would hope that all the testing done for
this drug can be included.

While it is true that drug companies make huge profits I assume that if one
tried to fix the cost of drugs it would put many out of business and set up
a huge bureauracy to determine what could be charged.
As a stated earlier  it simply is not realistic.

So a general question is that the are many economic takanot that no longer
make economic sense in a modern society. Would a Torah society still follow
these takanot?
I once saw an article from Haym Soloveitchik where he argued that there is
a difference between OC/YD and CM. While no observant Jew would argue that
one can drive a car on shabbat because life changes that the rabbis during
the ages did indeed change monetary laws (either directly or by
reinterpreting old ones) to make them fit the conditions of that society.

As a completely different example one is not allowed to export shmitta
products from EY so that there is more left for the local residents. In
todays society Israel food industry lives greatly off of the export market
see http://m-central.org/factsheets/FactSheetShmitta.htm
not allowing exports would probably destroy much agriculture in Israel

Eli Turkel
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