[Avodah] economics 101

Zev Sero zev at sero.name
Wed Jan 9 21:39:28 PST 2013

On 9/01/2013 7:55 PM, Micha Berger wrote:

>> This has nothing to do with ona'ah.  You are confusing two completely
>> unrelated topics.
> I don't know why you say that, but in any case, it doesn't make onaah
> evaporate either. So brass-tacks, the profit is limited either way.

There is no ona'ah here in the first place.  Profits are not cheating.
They are a perfectly honest part of business, open and above-board.

> But I have no idea why you think there are two issurim about profits of
> 1/6 and they're unrelated.

What two issurim?  I have no idea how you associate this entire topic with

> What BM 40 is discussing is cases where a barrel might absorb enough
> (and depending how the barrels are lined), or dregs might constitute
> enough, etc... to constitute onaah. How much is considered a normal part
> of the deal.

No, it is not.  It has absolutely not the faintest connection to that.
You really need to read it more carefully.  The main topic of the gemara
is how much ullage one can expect in various foodstuffs.  If one stores
a kilo of wheat, or a litre of wine, how much should one expect to find
after a reasonable period?  It depends on what kind of food it is, and
what it's normal to store it in, and the climate, and all sorts of other
conditions.  There is no shiur of 1/6, it's whatever it is.  If the normal
rate of loss in a particular place, for a particular good, is 1/2, then
that is what it is, and if it's only 1/20, then that is what it is. Where
are you seeing anything to do with ona'ah?

Anyway, that's not the bit we're discussing here anyway.  The bit we're
discussing here is on 40b.  The gemara discusses Rav Yehuda's retail
practise, and notes that he made a profit of 2/3 of a zuz on a 6-zuz
barrel of wine, and asks why he didn't make more.  He could lawfully
have made a profit of 1.2 zuzin, so why did he charge so little?  Why
did he charge 1/6 of a zuz per kuza, when he could have charged 0.18?

Now RET would say perhaps the market price was 1/6, so he *couldn't*
charge .18, but Tosfos explains that "probably Rav Yehuda would have
found customers who would be willing to pay more", which sounds to me
like the suggestion I made earlier that people are willing to pay more
in order to support a talmid chacham.

In any event, as you see the topic in this little sugya-ette at the
top of 40b is also not ona'ah, nor is it any longer about ullage (though
it follows from that), but about Shmuel's limit on how much profit one
may make on food.  And the reason there is a limit is not yosher but
Ahavat Yisrael, "vachei achicha imach".

Zev Sero               A citizen may not be required to offer a 'good and
zev at sero.name          substantial reason' why he should be permitted to
                        exercise his rights. The right's existence is all
                        the reason he needs.
                            - Judge Benson E. Legg, Woollard v. Sheridan

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