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?


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

Joe J

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.

Jerimiah Goodnight

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.


Actually, in Spain domesticated horses are abadoned by owners, and normally sold as food

Steve Cebalt

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.

Michael Clemmons

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


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.



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


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.

Zach S

Ctrl + F... "Detroit"... nothing... really?


Caleb b

Thank you!!


That's a strange mix of Bible passages and "C.E" terminology. That's a first!


Just look in any used car magazine an you will find Ferraris and Porches on sale dirt cheap - but who wants to pay £2000 for an oil change and £5000 for brakes (not to mention the insurances costs)?


Don't know what your idea of "dirt cheap" is, or whether prices differ in Britain, but the lowest asking price I see on eBay is about $50K for a Ferrari.


I participated in a consulting assignment in Mexico City ,for an Government Company ,some years ago.
As part of the contract,I had money to spend in a chauffered car,nice restaurants and hotels if needed.Only problem was that I had to pay ,with MY money,ten percent of all the bills.
( an restaurant like "ambassadeurs" at Paseo de la reforma,charges one thou dollars for a bottle of ordinary champagne!..more expensive than madrid or milan!..even at ten percent it was costly for me!.)

Since every chauffered car circulating then,was considered "person of interest" for kidnapers , I decided to arrive at office by subway,eat my "torta",and soft drink at my little cubicle,and never visit expensive restaurants.

Other guys in this assignment ,abused and contracted escorts and "assistants",all paid with corporate card.
At ten percent of the bill,paid with my money,I only "abused" candies,chocolate bars,and soft drinks at my Four seasons hotel room.


Simon Hanauer

We had a similar issue with interns where I work. The idea was to take some of the time consuming paperwork/followup and have an intern work on it. We hired 8 interns for 12 people. It was a disaster, interns still cost money, time and energy. By month 4 our total productivity had dropped 30% and as we were in sales/marketing it was very painful. Note: the interns were good people who worked very hard but the learning curve was large and we were a high pressure sales room so most had never been exposed to that environment.

Derek T

Noone really thinks that an iPhone on a 24 month contact is 'free' when they buy one but I often hear people talking about free upgrades at renewal time. They fail to see its the exact same transaction and that they wouldn't want 3 free upgrades.


Puppies. At some point, even if it is a thoroughbred, you aren't going to take anymore, no matter if they are free. After all, you have to pay for their upkeep, deal with their wailing in the nighttime, clean up their messes, etc. (sounds a lot like kids!).

Others might think that if the puppies are thoroughbreds, you should take them for free then turn around and resell them at a profit. But if there were a demand for them, then you would not have been given them for free, right? So you would find that you couldn't sell them either--and might only be able to give them away for free AFTER you have already paid out money to fee and keep the puppy.

So...puppies. And children. And kittens. And cars. And what have you.


How about the cost of an entitlement society vs. the contributions made to society by the entitled. It seems to me that society cannot afford to give away the store forever. Eventually the society will collapse, as it did with Rome. We're there now.