TANSTAAFL – By John Reed

TANSTAAFL
There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.
This phrase gained common usage in the 1960’s when author Robert Heinlein used it in one of his most popular books. But it’s been around in one form or another for much longer. In physics, the idea is manifested in the conservation laws of energy and momentum. In biology, if a life form is eating, another one is getting eaten.
And in economics, there’s always a cost for products or services. Period. The only wiggle room is who pays. Thus, the issues of “free college” or “free health care” are merely words, not realities. So if students don’t pay for their college education, who does? Who pays the instructors? The groundskeepers? The custodians? The power bill? I guess all that is supposed to be free too.
Closer to home, many if not most of our students qualify for “free lunch” at school. Certainly the cooks didn’t work for free, nor did the farmers just donate all that food. So while the kids indeed didn’t pay for their lunches, somebody did. Indeed, that “somebody” was taxpayers.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously said “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” And we’ll also run out of “other people.” If I worked in a state that said they were going to take 25% of everything I work hard to make so that everyone else in that state could go to college or see a doctor for “free,” I’d move. Businesses do the same: notice how many new, bustling car plants have opened in the South in recent years, while Detroit rusts away.
“Free stuff” sounds good, especially to young people who haven’t yet had to work for a living. They’ve lived their first 18 years basically free as their parents and others clothed, fed, and attempted to educate them. Soon, however, they will discover TANSTAAFL.
For the adults out there still fantasizing about such things, it’s time to grow up.

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