WALTER E WILLIAMS: 

There's Nothing Free

It was Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman who made famous the adage, "There's no such thing as a free lunch." Professor Friedman could have added that there is a difference between something's being free and something's having a zero price. For example, people say that there's free public education and there are free libraries, but public education and libraries cost money. Proof that they have costs is the fact that somebody has to have less of something by giving up tax money so that schools and libraries can be produced and operated. A much more accurate statement is that we have zero-price public education and libraries.

Costs can be concealed but not eliminated. If people ignore costs and look only to benefits, they will do darn near anything, because everything has a benefit. Politicians love the fact that costs can easily be concealed. The call for import restrictions, in the name of saving jobs, is politically popular in some quarters. But few talk about the costs. We know there are costs because nothing is free. ... MORE




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