David R. Henderson  

Arlo Guthrie Says TANSTAAFL

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New York Times interviewer: You're giving a free evening concert in New York this Thursday, July 30, at Battery Park.
Arlo Guthrie: Free to the public. It doesn't mean I'm doing it for free.

In almost every economics course I teach, I start with "The 10 Pillars of Economic Wisdom." (If you go to the link, be aware that I've updated Pillar 5. It now reads, "Information is valuable and costly, and inherently decentralized.) Pillar 1 is TANSTAAFL (There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.) In the above snippet from the NYT interview, Arlo Guthrie reminds us of that. The whole (short) interview is worth reading.

Interestingly, Arlo is politically very different from his father Woody. Check out the following song, with the lyrics here, for Woody's pretty nasty attack on Charles Lindbergh, Herbert Hoover, and John L. Lewis, among others, all skeptics or opponents of the U.S. entering World War II before Peal Harbor. Guthrie pere hits below the belt, accusing Lindbergh of colluding with the Japanese government, even though he favored America's war with Japan after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

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CATEGORIES: Economic Education

COMMENTS (11 to date)
Billy writes:

Arlo Guthrie is also a Ron Paul supporter.

Blackadder writes:

Wow, that song was over the top.

John Thacker writes:

You missed out the better part about Woody Guthrie and especially his friend Pete Seeger. They both wrote, sung, and published anti-war peace songs about Nazi Germany after the Nazi-Soviet (Ribbentop-Molotov) Pact was signed, and only suddenly reversed to pro-war anti-fascism after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, not after Pearl Harbor.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell writes:

[Comment removed for policy violations. Email the webmaster@econlib.org to request restoring your comment privileges.--Econlib Ed.]

Steve Sailer writes:

Lindbergh also flew about 50 missions in the Pacific theatre of war as a private contractor. (FDR wouldn't let him join the military).

Dan Hill writes:

The city in my resort community runs "free" buses between downtown and the ski mountain. They are funded from sales tax revenues and are labelled "free to rider." Someone on the city council understands TANSTAAFL!

423782383 writes:


That's not entirely fair. The problem is that it is difficult to do experiments in economics, because there are so many variables. For example, you can claim that the USA has been running a deficit for years without any ill effects, but I can claim that those effects have been wiped out by the improved productivity from new technology like the Internet.

Peter A. Taylor writes:

That igreens site says,"Whether taxes are on income, or on property, or on sales – that matters."

Which do you prefer, and why?

Peter Taylor

John Fembup writes:

"Arlo Guthrie: Free to the public. It doesn't mean I'm doing it for free."

I wish Obamocrats were paying attention.

Any government program - say Health care for example - can be made free of direct cost to the public.

But that doesn't mean it's free.

And since the government has no funds to pay for anything - including health care - the government must take money from from productive workers to pay for whatever it wants. Government programs are not "free", we just pay for them in another way.

The people of New York are paying for the Guthrie concert, via some unreported means, even though the concert ticket price = $0.

Not rocket science.

Gary Rogers writes:

I liked his response to the times when we were taught to hide under our desks in the event of a nuclear blast. He said:

"It was a real threat. But the response to it was crazy. At some point, these kids grew up and said, “What?” They realized that the people who are teaching you and the people who are in positions of authority are actually insane."

How soon before we realize that the response to global warming is just as insane?

John Thacker writes:

GMU econ chair Don Boudreaux pointed out another good response to a question:

NYTM: Have you ever seen “American Idol”?

Arlo Guthrie: No, I have never watched it. But I’m thankful we’re living in a world where we can actually afford to waste your time. What a great thing that is.

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