There Is Such a Thing As a Free Lunch

[Read the post]

1 Like

If you’re going to be picky (which I am), “There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch” and “There Is Such a Thing As a Free Lunch” are logically equivalent, as the former uses a double negative.

(Yes, Shakespeare used double negatives for emphasis, etc.)

1 Like

We’ve got a whole topic over in games to quibble over descriptivist vs prescriptivist grammar, if you feel like going hardcore with the pickiness :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Libertarianism is a great ideal until the roads need mowing.


If An “Armed Society is a Polite Society”

MLK BLV in the US should be prime real estate.

/Heinlein (love him) but he got a lot of things wrong.


"Technological innovations are the most obvious kind of free lunch. "
How can this make sense? Technical innovations take effort, time, calories. They are not free. The theory of mechanism design also highlights that simply getting more efficient allocations takes effort as well.


There’s no such thing as a free lunch. There is such a thing as a mutually beneficial transaction, or reaping the benefits of investing in society. That isn’t what the aphorism is denying the existence of (or at least I hope not, because that would be a pretty dumb assertion).


The logical double negation and the ordinary language negation ain’t nothing alike.


Adopting the new technology allows us to increase output without using any additional resources.

Since when? We use significantly more resources now as compared to the past. For example: coal, oil. Even if we are talking about tech that makes us more efficient with existing resources, it requires investment.

At this moment, I’d rather argue against the worry over opportunity costs this way: You can’t buy a yacht because of taxes to feed and house the poor? Boo fucking hoo.


Curious if the author is aware of Skype’s business model.

The original libertarians have that sorted, but they don’t believe in capitalism.


“Technological innovations that allow us to produce a given output with less of every kind of input, including labour, provide us with the classic example of free lunch. Adopting the new technology allows us to increase output without using any additional resources. So, the opportunity cost of the additional output is zero.”

If you are using less resources to get your output, that’s a good thing, because it means you’re using your resources more efficiently and wasting less. But there’s still waste and entropy. That never goes to zero, and can’t go to less than zero. You can’t get something for literally nothing.


If there were no such thing as a free lunch, there would be no humans. We would all die as infants.

As for technological innovation, many benefit who contributed nothing to its development. More generally, many benefit from social organization who did not participate in its origination: language, group experience, law and order, capital formation, science, art, etc. etc. etc. If we had to wait for trade and markets, nothing would ever have occurred.

All this stuff seems so dreadfully obvious, yet one has to point it out over and over again to our Calvinistic libertarians.


There was a shuttered cafe on my college campus that had started out strong but ended up having to close because they couldn’t turn a profit.

As you might have already guessed, its name was TANSTAAFL. (I kid you not.)


What about say snail mail vs. email? They both do approximately the same thing, but I’m almost certain email is going to use fewer natural resources.

9 of 10 True Scotsmen believe: There is such a thing as a free lunch.

1 Like

Not if you guage the difference by movement of mass, rather than information.

If you’re going to be picky, you should try not to confuse mathematical logic with grammatical logic.

Yeah, I’ve spent time in several societies where pretty much everyone routinely went armed, often openly, and, while you could say a lot of nice things about a couple of them, I’d never call any of them ‘polite.’

IME, in armed societies, rude people usually get away with whatever rudeness doesn’t rise to the level of justifying a firefight.

1 Like

Though in fairness to Heinlein, I think he’s right about this one — he just meant something completely different than what the author of this article means.

The author seems to have redefined ‘free lunch’ as ‘synergistic or mutually beneficial relationship’.

And those do exist, sure enough, but they’re not what Heinlein was talking.about.

1 Like