Why Something Won’t Sell, Even at Fire-Sale Prices

Deuteronomy 28:68 states “ye shall sell yourselves unto your enemies for bondmen and for bondwomen, and no man shall buy you.”  Oh dear, even at a price of zero, supply would exceed demand.  (Josephus noted that there were so many slaves on the market when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 C.E. that many couldn’t be sold even at fire-sale prices.) 

Why not buy a slave at no cost?   The answer, presumably, is that potential buyers already owned so many low-priced slaves that they believed that another slave’s marginal product would fall short of his or her upkeep.  The variable cost of maintaining the slave must have exceeded his/her output.  Is there a contemporary analogy to teaching assistants?

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  1. Bob says:

    If someone gives you a car for free, can you afford it ?

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    • Joe J says:

      Or a second car, or a 3rd or a 10th.
      Knowing you can’t sell them, but you will owe taxes on them, insurance, registration.

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    • James says:

      A better analogy might be to my “free” horse, who has probably cost me upwards of $10K in hay, shoes, vet bills, and other expenses. I won’t say she’s not worth it, but free she wasn’t :-)

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      • TC says:

        Presumably your free horse would have some value as meat, glue, &c. Of course if too many folks tried to monetise their free horses that way those prices would collapse.

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      • James says:

        Well, you could say that the free slaves would have the same value.

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  2. Jerimiah Goodnight says:

    I would think that sometimes becomes true, the time and effort to teach/train the assistant may not meet or exceed the saved time/effort/services they provide. Especially when they may only do it for one semester or part of a semester.

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  3. Steve Cebalt says:

    The teaching assistant analogy is apt. Likewise, interns. I pay mine (I don’t have to). And at minimum wage they are marginally productive for my very small businres. Raise the minimum wage, though, and the interns would put me in the red because they are needful and require close supervision. So if minumum wage increases, I’d have to stop hiring interns, and their pay would drop to zero.

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    • Silverfox1948 says:

      Another solution to an increased minimum wage (since you pay and don’t have to), would be to pay zero.

      Most politicians have never run a business, or even held a private sector job. Hence, they think the purpose of a business is to employ people.

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  4. Michael Clemmons says:

    I had a friend that won a cruise that was valued at $6000.00 and I told her that she would owe taxes on it as “winnings” and she would have to pay about $3000.00 at the end of the year. She did not believe me and went on the trip and sure enough at tax time she was telling me that I was correct she owed for the trip $2700.00

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  5. Kush says:

    Cost should not be measured purely by what someone pays to obtain ownership/ enjoy benefits of a particular item. That is merely cost of acquiring something. Maintenance costs, carrying costs, etc exist for everything, even if the right to ownership comes “free-of-cost”.

    So if anything costs nothing to buy but is expensive to maintain as compared to its benefit providing effects, at zero cost price, supply should exceed demand. There is an Indian saying (roughly translated) “You don’t buy an elephant if someone sells it to you for free.” I think the same logic would apply here.

    As far as practical examples go, even something like essential commodities, say wheat, will have a conversion cost and the nutritive value one can derive from unlimited amount of “free” wheat may not justify the conversion costs incurred if one cannot afford the conversion costs.

    Even getting a free Rolex has a cost – the threat that someone may harm you in trying to steal it, or the favours you would owe someone who gives you the free Rolex, or if you simply win a free Rolex in a contest (or lucky draw etc) you’d still have to pay Income Taxes on it (so there is no inflow of money, just a Rolex, but you have to pay Tax). Besides, once you wear a Rolex, people expect you to maintain the status of someone that wears a Rolex and that would then involve additional expenses. Just imagine someone in tattered clothes with a Rolex on his wrist.

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    • Stephen says:

      It always seems harsh when i read about Americans paying tax on prizes; in the UK all prizes and winnings of any type (even money) is tax free.

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  6. Jun says:

    Productivity be damned! I’m getting the sexy T.A!!! ^_^

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  7. Ani says:

    Sailboats are the example that comes to my mind. It generates the saying that the two happiest days in a man’s life are the day that he buys his boat and the day that he gets rid of his boat. You often see boats listed for free.

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  8. Zach S says:

    Ctrl + F… “Detroit”… nothing… really?

    http://www.businessinsider.com/detroit-houses-for-1-dollar-2012-2?op=1

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