Free Lunch

There is no such thing as a free lunch

The "Free Lunch" is a marketing technique historically used by bars. But, did you notice the cover charge at the door? Did you notice that the "free lunch" is highly salty? ("Hey, have some free pretzels and chips with that, buddy.") The drinks, if you notice, are anything but free.

So one reaches the conclusion that "there's no such thing as a free lunch."

It's stated by Manny in the book The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966) by RobertHeinlein, ISBN 0312863551 ; although phrased "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch", hence the abbreviation TANSTAAFL.

Nobel laureate Milton Friedman took the phrase as the title for his book:

"There's No Such Thing As a Free Lunch" by Milton Friedman (1975) ISBN 0875483100

In The Tomb by F Paul Wilson, there's a restaurant which has a sign in the window: "Free Lunch: $4.95".

Hmm. Never read that, but read "the restaurant - at the end of the universe." Somewhere, there. I still, after all these years, have no real clue - as to what WIKI is all about - despite it having been adopted commercially, far and wide. Wikipedia? I always thought of it as a venue for people to collaborate - work together. Get together. my 2 cents

In a course on negotiating, Chester L. Karrass (sp?) notes: There ain't no such thing as a free lunch, BUT... "If you can't get a dinner [for free, that is], get a sandwich." and... "Peanuts are filling." -- FalkBruegmann

This is false. I give you Wiki as an example. FidoNet (or, rather, as another. -- SunirShah

WardCunningham pays the bills at this particular Wiki cafe.

I paid for the computer, electricity, and phone line that my FidoNet node needed. -- anon.

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch, but there are lunches that someone gives to you for free. The difference is important. -- anon.

It is very important to see both sides of this phrase:

  1. First, economically speaking, the free lunch has a cost for someone. For example, Linus Torvald spent time to do Linux, even if it is free for everybody else, it has a cost for Linus. This could be seen as a law, even as the SecondLawOfThermodynamics for economists.

  2. Second, it is a warning. If someone is offering you a FreeLunch, beware.

    -- GeraldoXexeo

Why the 2nd Law? I think it's more analogous to the Law of Conservation of Mass/Energy.

I can see your point. I was thinking that every action should have a cost, i.e., entropy must grow.
I've had a free lunch; Out walking I and eat some wild strawberries and bilberries (blueberries). Asside from the time it took me to pick and eat, which was no longer than eating in a cafe would have taken, that must be a completeley free lunch.

Your vendor may buy you lunch. But don't think he isn't getting something in return. Your good will has tangible value which has been purchased in the process.

I host these wiki pages. In return I get your good will. Now, can I turn around and sell you something to reap the value of that good will? Perhaps. But it is not my motivation.

Most anything can be valued by a trade. Further, through a chain of (hypothetical) trades this value can be equated to, say, dollars, a one dimensional metric. However, it is sloppy logic to therefore assume all motivation is likewise one dimensional. Don't make this mistake no matter what the economists say. -- WardCunningham

An axiom from economics popular in the 1960s, the words have no known source, though have been dated to the 1840s, when they were used in saloons where snacks were offered to customers. Ascribed to an Italian immigrant outside Grand Central Station, New York, in Alistair Cooke's America (epilogue, 1973), the expression appears in Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, ch. 11 (1966), but has become most closely associated with economist Milton Friedman, who made it the title of a book in 1975.

Heinlein's "Tanstaafl" inspired Niven's "Tanj", "There Ain't No Justice".

Tanstaafl, of course, stands for ThereAintNoSuchThingAsaFreeLunch.
Since there is a new Heinlein book (it was banned, once, from being sent in the mail, I believe) -- -- I took the liberty of editing the above to: ThereAintNoSuchThingAsaFreeLunch
There is 100 different ways to analyze this. If you look at it in terms of MacroEconomics?, then something has to cost something to someone. However, in terms of MicroEconomics?, if someone gives you something, there is nothing required of you. Another way, in terms of ObligationalEconomics? (coined that up right now!) is that if they give you something, they expect you to buy something else, but you have NoObligation?. See MarketingPattern, FreeAsInBeer, CrippledShareware?

I know a lot of girls attracted to "clubbing" due to free drinks, attention, entertainment, and some of these get extended later to free trips, subsidized accommodation, etc. There is a large number of people on both the supply, and demand side of the FreeLunch concept. And the people who tell others ThereAintNoSuchThingAsaFreeLunch are disadvantaged.

By the way, in animal kingdom routineely the male members of the species offer free food to female, and in the case of some spiders, they offer themselves (not knowingly) as the bait.

The "true" origin of the term TANSTAAFL: Near the end of prohibition, in NYC, a city ordinance was created which permitted the sale of alcohol as long as food was also sold. This permitted many speak-easys to become legit. They simply placed a mouldy sandwich on a plate at the end of the bar, and hung a sign over it: "Free Lunch". The phrase "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch" thus was born - Robert Heinlein grew up during this period - and later folded the term into "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress". He did not originate it - but he CERTAINLY did popularize it!

Interesting anecdote:

My father owns a sound engineering business. I'd work for him on my early days. He would sometimes work on a hard event for free, as in, company's gesture of good graces. I once asked him why would he do it, and swiftly answered: "Because it earns trust on the part of the employer. It's like an investment, if it's a good client, he'll think of us before anyone else(1) and you can rest assured this is not the last event he'll run on his life. However, if he's a cheap bastard, we've just added one more to our blacklist without counting on his pay on monthly closure."(2)


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