TANSTAAFL – Learn it; accept it. You have no choice except to live it. TANSTAAFL is one of the fundamental laws of the universe, though one too many choose to ignore or refute.

Acronym: TANSTAAFL (/tan’stah-fl/)
Meaning: There Aint No Such Thing As A Free Lunch
Source: Robert Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress ( 1 )

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Somebody always pays. To continue the analogy – It might be the diner, but in a way that is deferred or that he or she doesn’t recognize as payment. It might be restauranteur, either willing or due to some form of coercion. Or it might be some third-party, again either willing or due to some form of coercion. But, no matter who is getting stuck with the tab, somebody always pays.

Much like the law of Entropy, TANSTAAFL has it roots in thermodynamics but extends throughout all facets of existence. This is why Socialism and all the dreams of the entitlement society promulgated by the Liberals and Progressives are doomed to failure. Somebody always pays and, sooner or later, you run out of other people’s money or, at least, the ability to access their money.

Yet Liberals and Progressives, despite their purported love of science, can’t understand this. The federal government, with their bipartisan adoration of wimpynomics, certainly doesn’t understand this. The eaters and takers living off of other people’s money most certainly refuse to consider understanding this. But in all these cases their refusal to accent and understand reality is moot; ignorance of the law is no excuse.

The problem is that TANSTAAFL, like all natural laws, isn’t subject to being broken. It is inviolate and cannot be circumvented any more than the law of gravity can be circumvented. It also, however, carries no punishment for attempted transgression; it merely has consequences.

It’s simple. Every regulation placed upon industry carries the price of reduced employment and higher costs. Every tax placed upon people carries the price of reduced spending power. Every time someone or some group is given a handout somebody else has their circumstance worsened.

None of the above should be construed as a blanket statement against social safety net programs or industry regulation. There’s a certain understood value in both. The price of these things, however, needs to be carefully weighed before they’re put into place and this is something that neither the Leftists and their dependent demographics are willing or able to do.


NOTE: While Robert Heinlein popularized this acronym and attendant phrase, he did not create it. The earliest known occurrence of the phrase, “There ain’t no such thing as free lunch”, appears as the punchline of a joke related in an article in the El Paso Herald-Post of June 27, 1938, entitled “Economics in Eight Words“ and was repeated used multiple times before the 1966 publication of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress:

  • The phrase later, in 1942, appeared in an article in the Oelwein Daily Register.
  • In 1945, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” appeared in the Columbia Law Review
  • In 1947 it appeared in a column by economist Merryle S. Rukeyser.
  • In 1949 In 1949 the phrase appeared in an article by Walter Morrow in the San Francisco News and was part of the title of Pierre Dos Utt’s monograph, “TANSTAAFL: a plan for a new economic world order”
  • In 1950, a New York Times columnist ascribed the phrase to economist Leonard P. Ayres.

Heinlein’s popularization of the phrase may, however, have been the inspiration for economist Milton Friedman using it as the title of a 1975 book, There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch.

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Time Enough For Love

For good or ill I was exposed to a great deal of literature as a young child and encouraged to take full advantage of that privilege. Consequently, I became an avid reader starting at what most would consider a very young – I won’t, however, say “tender” – age.

It followed quite naturally that my reading greatly influenced my thoughts upon many things

While many, many books of varied sorts influenced my views on myriad topics, I truly believe that no single work influenced my thoughts on living more than Robert Heinlein’s Time Enough For Love.

Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein finishes his “Future History” as presented to world by his then-editor, John W. Campbell. In it we are given a cornucopia of other stories, as Lazarus Long, now some 2300 years old, is induced to reminisce about his life as part of a complex deal to preserve the ‘wisdom’ of the oldest man alive. Each of the stories that Lazarus relates are fairly complete by themselves, and many authors would have chosen to publish each of them separately so as to maximize his monetary returns.

Heinlein, being the author and the man that we was, chose to keep them all as one piece, as each story helped to illuminate his overriding theme, on just what is love in all of its myriad aspects and why it is so important to man’s survival as a species.

This is a book that I strongly and most emphatically recommend for everyone, though not, perhaps, for children as young as I was when I first read it as it contains much that I prepubescent child cannot viscerally understand. This does, however, present a problem as many of the “lessons” contained within this work are best learned as young as possible.

Many Christians will have issues with this work; of this I have no doubts. I would suggest trying to get past this as the work contains many ethical and behavioral lessons of great worth.

If you can bring yourself to do so, put the situational details aside and absorb the underlying context and message.

Go to your your library and check it out if they have it. If not, buy it. In any event, read it. Personally, I’d suggest buying it since I’ve been returning to it for nigh on 40 years and love it still. It’s the sort of book that becomes an old friend and teacher – one that you keep coming back to and finding new meaning, joy, and sorrow in.

Time Enough For Love also contains two “interludes” which comprise the 64-page The Notebooks of Lazarus Long (Kindle), which I believe is a useful addition to anyone’s traveling library in the same fashion that Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Mushashi’s The Book of Five Rings, and Machiavelli’s The Prince are.

And yes, I know; it’s more than odd to include a work of fiction – science fiction at that! – alongside philosophical works such as I have done. Mr. Heinlein was that sort of man though. He, much like that radical rabbi from Nazareth, knew that parables teach far better than anything else.

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No Worse Tyranny

One the great Truths was revealed to masses of Mankind by Robert Heinlein in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, originally published in 1966.

No Worse Tyranny
Heinlein Nailed It

As was often the case with Mr. Heinlein, he was exactly correct. Tyranny of the worst sort will not be enacted by the angry despot; it will be forced upon the people by a more kindly despot, the Nanny State.

This, more than any other of their evils, is why the Liberals and Progressives are the enemies of freedom and liberty. They are Statists, promulgating neo-Socialist policies, for “our own good” as they see it.

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True Then, True Now

In January of 1945, during the final months of WW2, the already renowned science fiction author Robert Heinlein wrote a letter to one of science fiction’s greatest fans, Forrest Ackerman who many consider the founder of science fiction fandom. In the missive Mr. Heinlein offered his sincere and heart-felt condolences over Mr. Ackerman’s brother, Alden’s death during the Battle of the Bulge on New Years Day 1945 while he serving in the 11th Armor Division, 42nd Tank Battalion, D Company as the battalion was fighting its way to Bastogne to relieve the 101st Airborne.

Alden Ackerman was 21 years old at the time of of his death from a German air strike on the battalion which was securing Rechrival, Belgium.

Robert Heinlein did more than offer his condolences though. He also launched a blistering and cruelly accurate attack on the bulk of science fiction fandom of the time. Heinlein passionately condemned the inaction of most fans and, not without cause, blamed these fans for the death of Forrest’s brother, Alden.

The transcript and scan of Heinlein’s letter is from Letters of Note.

311 S. Hicks St.
Philadelphia 2, Pa.
28 Jan 1945

Dear Forry,

Our hearts are sore at your loss and there is nothing we can say to relieve your personal anguish. Your brother died a noble and heroic death. It is my belief that he did in fact die to make a better world; it is for us who live on to see to it that a better world is accomplished. I am heartened that you regard it as your duty to follow through on his unfinished work.

I will not be able to supply an article for the fan publication you propose to publish in his memory. I dislike to have to tell you that I will not be writing for you, under the circumstances, and I feel that you are entitled to a full explanation. Forry, every day I am writing things which are, literally, dedicated to Alden, and to the many, many others who have died and are dying. My daily writings are dedicated to getting the war won quicker with the fewest number of deaths of our own. My writings are laboratory instructions, engineering reports, letters to manufacturers, and other things having to do with the tedious work of scientific research for war. It takes up all of my energy and all of my imagination and I have none left over for other matters. If I had any energy left over, I would know that I was not doing all that I could do and I would then, in truth, be disloyal to your brother’s memory.

(I have, not a belief, not a conviction, but a knowledge of personal survival. You said on your post card that you wanted to discuss the matter with us someday. We will be honored to do so.)

Forry, you have sought my advice on matters which worried you in the past. You have not sought my advice in this matter, but I am going to presume on our old friendship to offer you some. I know that you are solemn in your intention to see to it that Alden’s sacrifice does not become meaningless. I am unable to believe that fan activity and fan publications can have anything to do with such intent. I have read the fan publications you have sent me and, with rare exceptions, I find myself utterly disgusted with the way the active fans have met the trial of this war. By the fan mags I learn that many of these persons, who are readily self-congratulatory on their superiority to ordinary people—so many, many of these “fans” have done nothing whatsoever to help out. Many of them are neither in the army nor in war work. Many have found this a golden opportunity to make money during a war boom—by writing, by commercial photography, through the movies, or by other worthless activities—worthless when compared with what your brother Alden was doing. These bastards let your brother die, Forry, and did not lift a hand to help him. I mean that literally. The war in Europe would have been over if all the slackers in this country had been trying to help out—would have been over before the date on which your brother died. The slackers are collectively and individually personally responsible for the death of Alden. And a large percent of fans are among those slackers. Alden’s blood is on their hands.

As for persons who are guilty not merely by sins of omission but who actively threw their weight against us, like that traitorous little bastard Jocquel, I have no words to describe them. It is a bitter thing that he should be alive while your brother is dead. It would be well for him to stay out of my sight when this is over. As for any of them, unless they have fought this war in every way they could to the best of their ability, I will not meet with them socially when this is over. I will not shake hands, speak, sit down, nor eat with them.

I am not alone in this opinion. You will find that my opinion is shared by Carnell and by Franklyn Brady. You will find it shared by many others of the grown-ups who know that a war is going on and know that it is not a game nor a joke nor a piece of fiction but a tragic business in which men like your brother Alden meet their deaths, too young and too horribly.

Forry, I want you to dedicate yourself to Alden’s memory. To be faithful to him we now have two jobs to do. The first is to win this war as quickly as possible. You can do that by volunteering for something more useful than you are now doing. General Lear has said that he needs thousands of limited-duty clerks and such behind the lines in Europe to release able-bodied men for action. Or, perhaps, a re-examination will find you no longer limited in duty. In either case a Wac can edit your camp paper. The second job is, now and after the war, to see to it that it shall not happen again. There are many ways to do that and each must select his own—political activity of every sort, writing intended to stir people up, the willingness to combat race hatred, discrimination, limitations of civil liberty, generalized hates of every sort, whenever and wherever they show up. But I am damn well sure that fan activity is not the way to serve Alden’s memory. Fandom has had a chance to prove itself and it has failed. I find the mags crowded with escapism and other nonsense; I find that fans now call themselves “Slans” (God save us!) on many occasions. I find many other evidences of group paranoia and of psychotic infantilism—and unwillingness to face up to adult problems and to cope with them. Forry, you may write the most inspiring things for a better world possible; if you direct them to this group, they will be worthless in carrying on with Alden’s unfinished work, for they will fall on sterile ground. I am not generalizing; there are a few adults among them and there was a fair percentage before the war. I do not indict any who are carrying their load. But there are many (and you know that I am right) who are doing nothing and did nothing to save your brother’s life. A bunch of neurotic, selfish, childish, insensitive and unimaginative, vicious bunch of jerks! It is time you quit associating with them and tackled the problems of the real world.

We are very fond of you, Forry. You are a fine and gentle soul. This is a very difficult letter to write; if I did not think you were worth it, I would not make the effort. This letter is for your eyes only; the ideas in it you are free to use but the letter is for you only.

I am very sorry your brother was killed; You may be sure that Leslyn and I will be faithful to his memory with all our strength.


(Signed, ‘Bob’)

What was true in the 1940s is just true today and Robert Heinlein would likely be no fonder of many within science fiction fandom today than he was of many of those during WW2. “A bunch of neurotic, selfish, childish, insensitive and unimaginative, vicious bunch of jerks,” who are afflicted with an odd and pernicious sort of , “group paranoia and of psychotic infantilismand unwillingness to face up to adult problems and to cope with them,” still aptly, if unflatteringly and uncharitably, describes a solid majority of fandom today.

I’m not talking about the larger body of fans of science fiction, but rather the active members of “fandom.”

I’m not sure if I can properly describe and define that distinction because I have long been involved with the science fiction and fantasy scene and am, to some extent, effected by the same affliction and attitudes of the rest of them. Suggesting that you review the movies, Trekkies and Galaxy Quest, is the best that I can offer.

This is not to say that there are not good Americans and true within fandom’s ranks, for that would be a rank falsehood. It is just that such men and women are in the minority, just as they were when Heinlein wrote this letter to Ackerman.

This is truly a sad and bitter fact. Fandom had much to offer America but has failed to do so many, many times since its members, when not actually adhering to the philosophies of our enemies, hold themselves aloof as if they were too good to soil their hands with honest work in service to the nation that provides them with the freedom to pursue their pleasures.

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