A brief remark on just prices

I must emphasize, even more than normal, that I don’t have expertise in this area. I’m not a scholar of medieval history, so this will be restricted to a critique of what I was taught rather than how things are. That said, I wanted to spitball an idea about just prices.

When I was in first year university I did a course on Medieval History. One of the things we learnt about was the theory of the just price. As it was taught in this introductory course, we were told:

  1. Different goods have natural “just prices”, for example the just price of bread might be 1 copper coin per loaf.
  2. We were supposed to think this was silly and our lecturer said as much. How could bread have a “natural” just price, as if attached to it ethereally? The modern notion of supply and demand setting prices is much more sensible- surely.

Well I’m not sure, but it occurred to me a few years ago that maybe things aren’t so simple. Let’s suppose you live in a society where an awful lot of markets are monopolistic. There’s only one blacksmith for miles. There’s only one linen trader coming by for the year, and so on and so forth. Under these conditions, with thin markets each way you turn, the concept of “just price” maybe isn’t so silly.

A great example of the principle that things aren’t always as silly as they seem at first glance?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s