Microeconomics Question from Walter E. Williams:[]

Give economic interpretation of the following excerpts from Exodus and Deuteronomy: Nonsense is forbidden!

  • (a) "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are an abomination unto the Lord thy God."
  • (b) "Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together."
  • (c) "He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord."
  • (d) "Honor thy father and mother. . . ." (How come honoring of children is not required by the Commandments?)
  • (e) "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."
  • (f) "And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins."
  • (g) "A bird in the hand is worth six in the bush."


  • (a)  Firstly, the garb of men and women was adapted to their specialized roles in society (i.e. women could hold grain or yarn in their long skirts). Furthermore, this rule reduces information costs. Information about a buyer's sex would be of use to a monopolist when setting prices if demand elasticities differed by sex. With regard to public goods that are privately provided: if the exclusion criterion is sex, the private entity might not provide the public good if the costs of exclusion are too high; if sex is not an exclusion criterion, the private entity may not provide an efficient amount of the public good if price discrimination is too costly.
  • (b) WEW-067 part (e).
Alternative: The costs of employing both ass and ox would be taking on the high fixed costs of both animals and failing to take advantage of the diminishing marginal costs of plowing with two of the same animal. (added) For example, two different harnesses would have to be purchased for both animals, as opposed to just buying two as a whole which would most likely be cheaper.
  • (c) Ancient Jews (and some orthodox Jews today) separated synagogue worship by gender. If one's "privy member" is cut off, the gender of the individual could be in question, and hence not allowed in. (Best guess)
Alternative: A religion or any intitution depends on having future members to keep the church going. A person who has lost his reproductive organs is a bad investment for the church to put resources into because they can no longer have children to further the church and religion. Thus, those without reproductive capabilites were banned.
Alternative 2: This again is discrimination on available information to mitigate against potential costly information that is unknown (i.e. an infection that could spread). Many of the cleanliness laws of the Scriptures can be shown to have reduced disease and germs amongst the Jewish people.
  • (d) This is a feature of asymmetrical information. Due to previous experience, parents often have a wealth of information relative to children when it comes to efficient decision-making, thus obeying them lowers the cost for the families (e.g. parents as experts). Furthermore, there was social security or other welfare state programs in the Old Testament. Children were commanded to support parents.
  • (e) This declares a deistic monopoly over the Jews. Rather than having to support many gods, the people would have to swear their allegiance and faith to this one god, thus monopolizing all religious contributions and power to the church. 
  • (f) Dowry was a source of income. By the daughter losing her virginity, the father stood to lose or did lose her future dowry (I believe). By forcing the enticer to pay the dowry of virgins, the income from the daughter is still made.
  • (g) Certainty vs. uncertainty. A bird in hand is a sure thing. If six are in the bush none are guaranteed in hand after hunting. With a bird in hand the work is already done, in the bush effort still has to be made.

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This micro-stub needs improving.

WEW Questions 81-100