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What is a "Just Price"?

Christian Michel


Solidarity products are now in vogue: Coffee, honey, chocolateavailable in all Swiss Coop and Migros supermarketsplay an active role in the promotion of these products for fair trade. These goods, identifiable by their packaging, bring to mind images of tropical plantations and foreign workers. Amigosa popular brand name in Switzerlandemphasizes its exotic origin and seeks to impart a feeling of conviviality. However, the drawback to these brand names is that they are far more expensive than their competitors products. Swiss retail chain Max Havelaarthe distributor of these ethical productsexplains that the higher cost sets a positive moral example since the profit margin is diverted back to the poor small planters of South America and Africa. The company alleges that because the surplus profit ends up in the pockets of the workers, the higher prices are just. But in what sense precisely are these prices just? Is there an indisputable criterion to differentiate the just from the unjust in pricing goods? If so, what is it?

Christian Michel, "What is a 'Just Price'?" Journal of Markets & Morality 2, no. 2 (Fall 1999): 182-196

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