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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

What Price Is Right?

Recently I was musing about whether or not it is right to negotiate the highest possible price for a commodity when one is selling on EBay.

At the time that I was asking the question my daughter had come to me to inquire about a situation in which she was offered a price much higher than what she had paid for an item which she was auctioning off. She was wondering if it was morally right to sell an item so much above her asking price.

Although we decided that the selling price of an item at an auction was totally negotiable with the both seller and buyer attempting to get the most value for their money, I had some doubts about morality of the whole process/system.

A couple of commenters were guarded in their approval of the system, although they called for moderation and balance. One cautioned that the gospel demands that greed and profiteering should not have any place in living out a gospel-infuzed life.

I tend to agree.

When it comes to pricing and economics, fairness and value-for-money must always balance the pursuit of profits and high gain. The standard must always be value and the exchange of value - we cannot give things away for nothing as well, or no one will ever be able to stay in business for long.

While I think within limits selling and buying on Ebay can be like a poker game in that it is like a game of chance and subtle negotiation, business is not and ought not be like that at all.

I think as Christians, we must always look at justice - from a moral standpoint, and not just from a legal point of view - and in business dealings especially, justice or fairness must always come into play. The problem is that for the Christian, we sometimes forget tend to measure our justice from the moral standpoint and accept the lower standard of a legal justice.

The trouble with our society is that too often all of life is taken to be somewhat like Ebay - with the primary goal of achieving the highest profit possible driving all transactions.

That is why we have so many artificially inflated prices like we have now in this world today. Just look at the disparity in what people get paid for doing what they do - in sports, entertainment and in the pricing of some of the commodities that we take for granted. No wonder it seems so true that in a "free" society like ours, the rich keeps getting richer and the poor keeps getting poorer.

What can we do as Christians in this culture, and how can we affect the culture with a call to a higher moral standard in economics, justice and business?