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New Wine in Old Flasks: the Just Price and Price-Controls in Jewish Law

Makovi, Michael (2016): New Wine in Old Flasks: the Just Price and Price-Controls in Jewish Law.

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The halakhah (Jewish law) includes legislation aiming at what might be called “social justice.” These halakhot (pl.) include the laws of ona'ah and hafka'at she'arim / hayyei nefesh – roughly analogous to the famous Medieval “just price” laws – as well as legal restrictions on middlemen and speculators. In the light of modern economics, these Jewish laws, like all attempts at price-fixing, are shown to be self-defeating; the means conflict with the ends sought. The conflict between religion and science is not limited to cosmology and biology, but may include economics as well. It is proposed that the halakhah be modified in such a way as to preserve – as much as possible – the integrity of both the halakhah and economic science alike; when an ethical system makes certain scientific presuppositions, it is sometimes possible to preserve the ethical system by disentangling it from its non-essential scientific presuppositions.

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