A Defense of a Thomistic Concept of the Just Price


Ethics and Business Law

Date of this version


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just price, price-gouging, Thomas Aquinas, market morality


Since St. Thomas Aquinas was one of the first scholastics to analyze the idea of a “just price,” economists, economic historians and philosophers interested in the philosophical underpinnings of the market have focused on Aquinas’s writings. One group insists that Aquinas defined the just price as the payment needed to cover sellers’ labor and material costs. A second camp vehemently counters that Aquinas’s just price is simply the going market price. We argue that neither of these views is correct. The Thomistic just price is the price that would be agreed to by a just person as part of an exchange. This “just person price” takes into account the well-being of the individual transactors and the good of the entire community. Such a price reduces neither to the cost-covering price nor to the market exchange price. A Thomistic concept of the just person price deserves to be reconsidered, especially because a Thomistic approach offers some useful ways to deal with issues quite differently from the popular neoclassical approach directed toward arriving at a socially optimal market price.

Published in

Business Ethics Quarterly

Citation/Other Information

22(3), 501-526.