- Special Sections
- Public Notices
There is no free lunch
A T-shirt popular when I was in college (many moons ago) proclaimed “TANSTAAFL.” It stands for “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” a common phrase in economics.
That simple axiom says much about what is wrong with our political dynamics today at all levels.
Lunch may be free to the person eating it. But someone pays for it. If it is only partially free, the subsidized part is paid for by someone else.
The same is true for any grant, benefit, or subsidy —whether it comes from an employer, insurer, or government. “Free” money is not free. Someone pays for it. Every “benefit,” private or government, is paid for by someone.
A few freebies provide high leverage; their actual net benefits significantly exceed their cost. Most are promoted that way; few actually deliver.
Politicians hate to say “no” to anyone. They are eager to trumpet the freebies, benefits, subsidies, etc. they “give” us. Every single one is paid for by someone. It may be today’s taxpayers or it may burden future generations.
In addition, every transfer of resources or newly-invented rights incurs costs just in the transfer. Laws, policies, and regulations are written. Public and private bureaucracies are created in which some people work hard, but which perform little truly useful work.
Our lives become ever more entangled in “red tape.” Governments and allied institutions keep getting larger, more cumbersome, more remote, less personal, more intrusive into our lives, and more expensive. Society becomes more complex, artificial, and inefficient.
In exchange for seductive freebies, we give away not only our dollars but, more seriously, our freedoms.
What do we do about it? How do we regain control of our lives, society, and pocketbooks? As we enter another election year, we can remember TANSTAAFL whenever politicians (of any party) blather about what they “give” us.
Free lunches are very expensive.