Somebody wants to open a shop near another equivalent one. He estimates that the other shop will still stay in business just fine but may have to fire a few of their workers. Can they protest the opening of his shop because for those workers it is Mafsid Chiyusei Legamri?

Answer:

This is an interesting question. It stands to reason that the concept of Mafsid Chiyuso Legamri, which originates with the Aviasaf and which is ruled by the Chasam Sofer and others, applies specifically to a storekeeper, who will lose his income and will not be able to recover.

In the circumstances described by the Aviasaf, the town shoemaker / baker / blacksmith stands to lose his only possible income. This does not apply to a worker, who can find work with another store or another company etc. Therefore, the idea will not apply to workers but only to the owners of the store.

Moreover, having to think about companies cutting down etc. would be crippling to competition, and the modern market requires a healthy level of competition to ensure fair pricing etc.

Best wishes.

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2 Responses to “Workers Losing their Income due to Competition”

  1. Would this still apply if the worker was somebody who wouldn’t be able to just get another job, such as a dental hygienist? Also, why don’t we take into account the fact that the worker will now have to move the place he works? We don’t let somebody open a store at the beginning of the same alleyway because it’s Mafsid Lechiyusei Legamri despite the fact he can just pick up and move to a different alleyway… Additionally, we don’t tell a store owner that now that your watch store will go out of business, just sell cell phones!

    • The general approach in this matter is that “ein lecha bo elah chiddushu.” The ruling of the Aviasaf is a chiddush, and there is a significant dispute among later authorities as to whether it is ruled halachah le-maaseh. Even if we assume that this is practical halachah (which many assume), I think that it should be limited to its specific setting, and not broadened to include more cases. In general, we know that competition is important for any market, and we are willing to engage in a competitive market even though we know that there are always winners and losers. The very existence of a market is a gain that outweighs the individual gains and losses of individuals. Chazal, and the Aviasaf included, balance this gain against the need to protect the income of local businesses – but this should not be expanded beyond its basic intention.
      Concerning the specific question, the fact that the worker will have to move is not a problem – workers move the whole time! The problem that Chazal refer to is a local business, which is very relevant to a small town etc. where you have a local butcher, a local blacksmith, etc. The point is that the local blacksmith can’t go elsewhere, because each place has its own local blacksmith. This is not true for workers, who are more flexible by nature.

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