14th Pavia Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/Melkevik

Åsbjørn Melkevik

Starve all the lawyers: on the just price and the Cincian law

The only “sense in which we can meaningfully talk about just wages or just prices”, once said Friedrich Hayek, is for wages and prices “determined in a free market without deception, fraud or violence”. Against such a classical liberal position, this paper will argue for the notion of just price. It will demonstrate that some transactions could not happen in a market society without a certain theory of just prices, and that such transactions will then feed into our understanding of markets, hence making just prices a de facto reality. Simply put, just prices are corollaries of having, for instance, rules of property and contract law, defining the ways in which markets will work. By trying to protect the poor or the foolish, institutions will effectively impose certain standards of justice. Hence, just prices are not only defined by markets, but they also define markets themselves – and the classical liberal tradition should accordingly reassess its view of just prices, inasmuch as the common across-the-board critique of paternalism in contract-related matters is too broad if it includes the notion of just price altogether.