The False Promise of “Free Stuff”

TANSTAAFL! There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch from “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” — Robert Heinlein.

Heinlein used that phrase to emphasize that you can never get something for nothing. There is always a price to be paid. It isn’t always money, it can be servitude or an implied promise of something to be done in the future. Or it can be high taxes imposed by the government to pay for all the free stuff that isn’t free after all.

When Amerigo Bonasera’s daughter is brutally beaten by her boyfriend and his friend for refusing to have sex after they had plied her with whiskey, the swift sword of justice was expected. But that didn’t happen. In Mario Puzo’s novel the men escape any serious penalty because they are from wealthy, politically connected families.

Bonasera goes to Don Corleone and desperately implores him to kill the young men who raped his daughter. At first, the Godfather reprimands Bonasera for seeking a favor without showing proper respect. His daughter was still alive, she will recover. Nevertheless, Corleone grants the favor in exchange for Bonesera’s “friendship.” Bonasera must have known what it means to ask the Mafia for a favor. He must have known that he would, from that day forward, be indebted to the Godfather. He knew that some day, who knew when exactly, the Godfather would come to collect that debt.

Sure enough, sometime later the Corleone crime boss delivers two dead bodies to Bonesera’s funeral home with instructions to get rid of them. Bonasera was in no position to refuse. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. There is always a quid pro quo to be paid.

Politicians such as Bernie Sanders and AOC are promising voters all sorts of free stuff. Free health care, free college tuition, free child care, and free bacon I suppose.

This sort of free stuff is markedly different from the free stuff your mother might give you. Your mother, or father perhaps, had to pay for the stuff they give you. It wasn’t free to them, and it isn’t to you either. Unless your mother stole the stuff she gave you it’s not free stuff. Fair value was paid for it. When the government give you free stuff it is first taken by force from whoever created it.

AOC insists she not offering “free stuff.” It’s rather “public goods” she says. The two concepts are actually the same thing, both involve taking something away from one to give it to another. Free stuff from the government is possible only if the wealth creators have some of their property taken away from them to be given to others that did nothing to earn it. This is a path to resentment and discord and if not stopped soon enough, to civil war. No one will continue to work and create wealth just to have it taken and given to someone who had no involvement in its creation.

“Free stuff” divides the nation into two classes of takers and makers. Without makers there will be nothing for the takers. The power of government is used to enrich thieves at the expense of productive victims.

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