09 July 2010
There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch
Anyway, it is a profound truth. I was once arguing about health care policy with a Canadian who was trying to instruct the ignorant Yankee on this subject. She said that of course health care in Canada isn't a free lunch. It does get paid for obviously -- doctors don't work for free -- hospitals don't construct themselves. So since there is no such thing as a "free lunch" anyway, there is nothing to be concerned about. Right?
I told her that she had entirely misunderstood the significance of TANSTAAFL. The point isn't "the free lunch is like Big Foot. Big Foot doesn't exist, so he won't come and hurt you." The significance of TANSTAFFL is a warning, not a bit of re-assurance.
The warning is precisely that some people sometimes deceive themselves into believing that they see a free lunch, or that they see Big Foot for that matter. The coddling of such deceptions can do real harm. The danger is not Big Foot but the delusion.
Anyway, this column in the Chicago Sun Times Monday made much the same point using that Independence weekend favorite beverage -- lemonade. When that old symbol of childish enthusiasm and entrepreneurship, the lemonade stand, is turned into a lesson that good (material) things are "free," things are in a sorry state indeed.
Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.