There is no such thing as a free lunch

The phrase “there is no such thing as a free lunch” communicates one sentiment; there are a few things given to us at no cost or free. The phrase came about due to a marketing scheme in the 1800s whereby taverns were advertising free lunch to attract customers during midday hours. Customers would of course have to buy drinks in order to get the “free” lunch. The cost of the drink was additionally raised to make up for the cost of the food. In a way the customers never got free lunch; the drinks they bought in order to get free lunch covered the cost of lunch one way or another.

This is similarly how socialism continues to draw so many followers up to date; disgruntled individuals (mostly low income) are promised free things at the expense of the government. The government will in turn transfer these expenses to unfairly “high income” individuals who do not deserve to hoard such amounts of wealth. Many young Americans are denouncing capitalism on the basis that it has failed to provide for them.

But something is wrong with this logic; just like the bar owners, the government cannot create wealth out of nothing. If the bar owners were to truly give free lunch at one point they would not be able to keep up with the costs of providing free lunch. The same logic applies to the government; the government cannot provide free services to anyone. Someone will have to pay for these services. This someone ends up being everyone that the government has taxation power over, including the aforementioned disgruntled individuals.

Effectively all socialism does is give the government spending power over everyone else’s output. But can you really trust the government to give you what you want, when you want, and in whatever quantity you want? If pub drinkers were given explicit prices on foods that were being included in their drinks, they would have been able to decide if their money was best spent somewhere else. But they were not, and their money was spent on the food they thought they were getting for free.

This is the same way the government operates; the government does not give anything for free. Instead, it distributes those costs over numerous individuals and if need be, over long periods of time (e.g social security benefits) prolonging the illusion of free.