Doug Smith: TANSTAAFL – “There is no ‘free lunch'”

7 Jan

What lie behind us and what lies before us is overshadowed by ‘what lies within us’

doug smith


So the other day, among my other junk mail, I got a check. Now we are all looking for that million dollar check in the mail, and I’ll bet the creamer in my next cup of coffee many of you out there have gotten this same check.

It was a sign and spend check, free money, for $15,000. Free money. So easy. Just sign it, and spend it, and take care of Christmas. Except of course, it was not free at all. It was a loan, initiated if I were foolish enough to sign that check, and the usurious rate of 29% interest. The bills would be coming in about now.

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Now it got me to pondering whether the old adage is right. “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. “ (TANSTAAFL) Robert Heinlein immortalized the saying as the national motto of a group of independent minded stubborn cusses on the moon, who had a nasty habit of paying their debts, and working for what they got. (And distrusting government, but that is, perhaps, another article.)

Where did the notion of a free lunch come from? Actually beer halls and bars used to use the “free lunch” as a hook to bring patrons into their bar. Of course, that lunch was not free at all, or you’d be paying 3 cents instead of a nickel for that beer. Or those 4 beers. The mark up on the nickel beers they sold you, in return for a free lunch, was such that they could give you all the sandwiches you cared to eat as long as you were buying their beer and still make money off of you.

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For some, there is that deep seated “beat the system” urge to get something for free. Those who have gambled in Vegas can tell you that the house always wins, if you keep playing. The free lunch bars always win. And the free lunch politicians always win. TANSTAAFL. You pay more for the beer than your lunch is worth, you may win $100 bucks on blackjack, then lose it back on roulette, and politicians who pay you off with your money get elected, then, to your dismay, pay their promised free lunch to you by making you pay more taxes on your food. Even the free part. Wow, that doesn’t seem quite fair, does it?

Of course, if you keep the basic principle in mind, then it is fair. For then you will never fall for the long con that promises something for nothing. TANSTAAFL. Nothing in this world is free. If someone is offering you something for free, hold on to your wallet: he is picking your pocket.

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Governors are wavering toward the promise of free money in the form of subsidies for ACA approved policies which are so overpriced no one can afford them. If they play ball with the Fed, they get the money, and their constituents can afford the Unaffordable Affordable Care Act policies. For a while. Except, guess what? The government has no money, and produces no goods or services. So, where does it get the money to give to the states to give to the people to pay for an overpriced, unaffordable, and unwanted insurance policy? Here’s a hint: you are about to get your W-2 in the mail. That s right campers, you pay for the largess of the overly generous politicians. You pay in higher taxes. Have fun come April 15. You pay in reduced buying power of your dollar as the government prints money by the Trillions. Money that doesn’t exist. Money that devalues your dollar every day. If you or I did it, it would be counterfeiting, and a federal crime, punishable by a huge fine and 25 years in prison. Enemies have used counterfeiting as a weapon to devalue and undermine the economy of countries with whom they are at war. But as the government and the Fed does it, you simply get the bill.

Haven’t seen that bill come in the mail? Run to the grocery store and try to buy a piece of beef. Wonder why you are paying half again what you were 6 years ago? That is your bill for all the freebies the government is handing out.

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We see it in our schools as well. The School Building Authority offers millions to local school boards to build new buildings, but no one cent to maintain existing buildings. Not surprisingly, School Boards react like a good drug addict, selling moms false teeth and wedding ring to qualify for that 16 million dollar freebie. Except, of course, remember our rule about freebies? Who pays for them? TANSTAFL.

I was unsurprised recently to read of a local county school board preparing to build a new building. They were going to purchase a new piece of land for it at a cost of $300,000. Since the property was owned by one of the board members, she graciously recused herself from voting on whether or not to buy it. Conflict of interest, you say? Well perhaps it was. That never occurred to me. I’m sure no school board politicians would personally benefit from the millions of public largess intended for the good of the voters, and the children of their county. Oh wait, remember our rule? Where do freebies come from? And who do they ultimately benefit?

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TANSTAAFL. It’s a good word. Remember it. And remember the fellow who insists he wants to give you or your neighbor’s freebies has already planned how he is going to pick your pocket to do it.

But there just ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

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