No, it’s not free

There’s a heartwarming story in today’s WaPo that has this catchy headline in the dead-tree edition: Turns out, there is such a thing as a free lunch.

Here in the real world, it turns out there is no such thing as a “free” lunch. The WaPo article is about breakfasts and lunches that are provided to needy children without charge to the children or their parents. That means they are “free,” doesn’t it? No. It means that someone else is paying for them.

In this instance, it is the taxpayers of Montgomery County, Maryland, who are paying. Or, possibly, Federal taxpayers, if Federal taxes help to pay for these “free” meals.

The point is not to begrudge needy children of necessary food. Not at all. It is to highlight the mindset, at least of the reporter and his headline writer: when the government pays for something that is given away, that something is “free.” No, it’s not. There’s always someone who pays.


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