In economics, TANSTAAFL demonstrates opportunity cost. Greg Mankiw described the concept as follows: “To get one thing that we like, we usually have to give up another thing that we like. Making decisions requires trading off one goal against another.” The idea that there is no free lunch at the societal level applies only when all resources are being used completely and appropriately – i.e., when economic efficiency prevails. If not, a ‘free lunch’ can be had through a more efficient utilization of resources. Or, as Fred Brooks put it, “You can only get something for nothing if you have previously gotten nothing for something.” If one individual or group gets something at no cost, somebody else ends up paying for it. If there appears to be no direct cost to any single individual, there is a social cost. Similarly, someone can benefit for “free” from an externality or from a public good, but someone has to pay the cost of producing these benefits.
I had an interesting talk with a charming young lady today. She is the wife of our gardener. They are both in their late 20s. Somehow the subject of collecting social security came up, and the fact that I would be able to collect mine next year. She said “oh nice, free money.” I was kind of shocked and informed her that there is no such thing as “free money.” I worked for FORTY YEARS and paid into my social security during these decades of drudgery intermingled with interesting jobs.
It made me wonder. Do young people think oldsters are getting a ride on “free money” from social security? Do they understand how the social security system works? Maybe not. I don’t really understand it myself. All I know is that I am entitled to it. Yeah I know, the dreaded “entitled” word. However… there is a huge difference between “I’m entitled to this because I paid for it” and “I’m entitled to this because I exist on this planet and I have decided that I should have everything free.”
I remember my grandmother used to say to me “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” And there really isn’t. Everything costs something. Time, effort, money, materials, thought, preparation and on and on. For example: you may say air is free. But you still have to do something, yeah breathe. The air isn’t just going to float into your lungs with no effort on your part.
So I am interested and concerned at the same time. I keep hearing the term “democratic socialism.” What does that even mean? Socialism has been tried over and over again, in many countries. If we can learn anything from history is that it doesn’t work. Human nature drives us to explore, try to improve ourselves, make money. (yea I know another evil word ‘money.”) And we expect a result.
I only truly know myself, and just barely. What I do know is that I expect some outcome or benefit from my efforts and adventures. If I work at a job I expect to get paid. If I work on an art project, I expect to end up with a painting. I would not appreciate the government stepping in and confiscating the fruits of my efforts. “Well we want 30% of your paintings, and we decide who gets to have them.” We want 30% of your salary and you have NO say in what we are going to do with it or who we give it to.”
I’m just basically confused. Where do people think money comes from? It doesn’t grow on trees. It comes from the sweat of someone’s brow. All these people proudly cruising around in electric cars…..where do they think electricity comes from? Electricity comes from power plants that use … yes…take a deep breath…fossil fuels.
I am at the end of my rather rambling rant. It’s good to be back to my blog. I’ve really missed it. Love to all and peace on earth.