[Avodah] economics 101

Lisa Liel lisa at starways.net
Wed Jan 9 10:52:54 PST 2013

On 1/9/2013 9:08 AM, Eli Turkel wrote:
> In Baba Mezia 40 the gemara states that one cannot make a profit of 
> more than 1/6

> Ritva adds that a talmid chacham should charge the maximum 1/6...

> Arukh Hashulchan (CM 231b)  complains that on the contrary in his 
> country lower the prices below the 1/6 profit level which causes 
> poverty and this makes no sense...

> I am at a loss to explain these opinions. As one learns in economics ...

Chazal were not economists. Neither were the Rishonim. (Neither are most
of the so-called economists today.) They made rules like this based on
empirical data from the towns where they lived. If the Ritva gives a
reason, then clearly, if charging the maximum would *not* permit him to
make his own living, he wouldn't insist on the 1/6.

Sometimes I wonder whether it's safe for a talmid chacham to say anything.
People will enshrine it as virtual mikra and apply it from then on,
wholly divorced from the actual situation.


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