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 Ain’t 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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