“Free” is a word that’s been overused and abused in recent times.  Here’s one definition from the online Oxford Dictionary that’s relevant to my point:

Given or available without charge: free health care.

Notice that is doesn’t say, there’s no cost.  Free health care, or free anything else, is simply given without charge to the recipient.  It doesn’t come at no cost.

To this, add “free phones”, “free college”, etc.   A similar sentiment is expressed by the phrase, “The government will pay for it.”

Let’s start with the last one first, although they’re really all related.  The government gets their money from us, the taxpayers.  No matter how you feel about what they spend our money on, the money comes from us, and from the people who make up the government as individual taxpayers and spenders.  True, the government can and does print money that’s not back by anything worthwhile, but when they pay, we pay.  There is always a cost.

If you think about it for a moment, you’ll realize that nothing can really be free.  In health care, doctors, nurses, orderlies, secretaries, everyone who work in the hospital or office, must be paid.  Drug companies, hospital equipment companies, all those who supply health products, office products, even toilet paper for bathroom in all these places, need to be paid or paid for. Despite objections, legitimate or not, to what companies might charge for drugs, there are high costs associated with bringing a drug or any other innovation to market.  Supply companies have to be paid so their workers can be paid, so they can buy more materials to produce more goods, etc, etc., etc.

Teachers, administrators, janitors, and other have to be paid at colleges.  People who work in the dining hall, making and dishing out the much-abused food must be paid.  Food must be bought. Dining halls, dorms and campuses need to be cleaned.  There are myriad costs, even when those costs are inflated.  Donations pay for some things, but there are still high costs.

Free phones?  Just continue the thought. Someone somewhere pays.

My point?  No matter on which side of the political aisle you find yourself, be honest.  Nothing is free.  You may use things you didn’t pay for to garner favor or votes for yourself.  You may give away things for a worthy cause.

But none of them are free.

To paraphrase Janis Joplin,  these days “Free is just another word.”


Apologies to everyone who read, subscribed and commented on the tea blog I mentioned yesterday.  For reasons that will remain unpublished, I have to take it down.  Thanks for your support and enthusiasm.

  1. An additional thought. Free software. Not a good thing because there is no support and it is often crap. You get what you pay for. If it is free you get nothing. For example, ever tried getting help with Gmail?

  2. I agree… everything has its price… like the spanish proverb says: take what you want and pay for it :o)

    • Very true. People often don’t appreciate “free” things anyway and get to feel that they deserve them. That’s very detrimental both to society and to the person.

      Welcome back! Hope your trip was great.


  3. Interesting and timely topic. If we actually paid attention to what is spent in WA by those that we elect to represent us, we’d be curled up in the fetal position. As we all know, it is very easy to spend money that is earned by someone else. Now, if we could find representatives who spend money like it was theirs. 🙂

    • Tom Coburn has always paid attention and has a yearly book of wasteful spending that’s probably just the tip of the iceberg. The rampant spending is a continuing source of frustration to me and not having to come up with a budget that even somewhat balances is insane.


  4. Agreed, there is a cost, saying it is free just seems a bit dishonest.

    • Of course, some of those things are without financial cost to the recipient, but they certainly don’t cost nothing! What people too often think when they hear “free” is not what’s true. So yes, a bit dishonest or even more than a bit.


  5. Dan Antion says:

    I don’t mind paying for things. I’d often rather pay for a slightly better experience than the free one that is offered. What bothers me is when I’m told something is free but it’s clearly not. Just be honest. Charge a fair price, provide a fair service and let’s call it even.

    • I agree. The airlines, with the exception of Southwest are a perfect example. Charge what the flight costs, don’t charge for luggage, food, breathing, etc. Then give great service and be done with it.


  6. A lot to think about this morning.

  7. Well expressed and poignant…

  8. Allan G. Smorra says:

    Notice that is doesn’t say, there’s no cost. Free health care, or free anything else, is simply given without charge to the recipient. It doesn’t come at no cost.

    Good point, Janet. Thanks for this well-reasoned look at the expense of “free” items.

  9. Hi J. Timely political post or what?! Thanks a bunch. I keep telling these Arab Sheikhs that MB is Free. Just like that Free Bird in that that Lynyrd Skynyrd song. And leave him to hell alone. However, they don’t seem to have ever heard of LS and it’s all a bit lost on them. Anyhow, now that I have stopped humming that tune for them and doing air guitar solos, I have switched to telling them about poetry, which is a bit of a noble tradition out these parts. I pretend that I wrote the following and they are mightily impressed, especially with the ‘desert’ references:

    Oh, give me desert, lots of desert under starry skies above
    Don’t fence me in
    Let me ride through the wide open country that I love
    Don’t fence me in
    Let me be by myself in the evenin’ breeze
    And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
    Send me off forever but I ask you please
    Don’t fence me in

    Cheers J.

    Still Free
    (Al hamd’allah – Thank God)

  10. The implication here that is missing, I think, is the inability of many people to financially access resources in our society and making those resources available to those who otherwise could not afford them. Certainly that and everything has a cost.

    Uninsured sick people cost us money when they can’t pay hospital bills, uneducated people who are unable to get jobs because of lack of access to education cost us money especially if they turn to crime or become victims of crime, lack of access to family planning resulting in inability to care for large families or even for one child – we, the tax payers, also end up paying for this, too; whether we like it or not. Not providing “free” or I’d rather call it “needed” assistance has a greater cost, I suspect.
    Must be a middle ground, here. Wouldn’t you agree?


    • Randy, no argument from me. My point here is simply that “free” has, like so many words, been emasculated and is used for a variety of purposes that are deceptive, by people of all races, creeds , color, national origins, parties, etc. The big problem I see with “free” is that the cost really isn’t counted then at a time when costs need to counted and accounted for.

      Make sense?


  11. pommepal says:

    Thought provoking post Janet. Yes every thing has a bottom line, and in many cases it is the profit margin and the share price and keep the punters happy at any cost. So put FREE in big letters in the ads to pull people (the vulnerable) in then slug them in the small print with the costs…

    • Often there isn’t any small print, which is part of the problem and people go on their merry way assuming that all these free things have no cost. Glad I got your mental juices flowing. 🙂

      • pommepal says:

        and if there is small print it is couched in legalese. Have you ever bothered to read the terms and conditions before clicking accept for a “free” computer programme? Usually screeds of it. I just scroll to the bottom and blindly accept, hoping for the best!!!

  12. You are so right, and all of this is so true. I get so frustrated with those, on either side of the aisle, who claim they can give you something free if you will vote for them! It infuriates me, and if it’s someone for whom I planned to vote, it causes me to reevaluate. (Not discussing political views here, simply referring to the principle.)
    Freedom in this country has and will always come with a price. It’s called hard work and sweat on your brow! It’s called soldiers fighting so my sons don’t have to. It’s called giving in the offering so some pastor can feed his family. What we call freedom costs somebody something, and the more we remember that, the more we will value this wonderful privilege we call freedom.
    When people get angry in this country and expect others to pay their way in this life, I’d like for them to go to a socialist or communist country and live for one year to see what it truly is like to have others “provide” for them without a monetary cost to pay…I believe they would come back to this country grateful to work for the blanket of freedom which has been given them. …okay, sorry if I sounded as if I ranting. This is a personal passion. 😉

  13. badfish says:

    Cool post, great thoughts. And Joplin may have been right…nothing left to lose, but are we there yet?

    • I don’t think so, which is one of the reasons I get angry and impassioned about much of what goes on these days. We have much to lose, even though I feel we’ve already lost too much.


  14. Amy says:

    Good point, Janet! Additionally, when they offer free software, as the same time, they collect email, age, name…. information from you when you register.

    • If you want to read a good, well-informed, but scary book (warning: descriptive sex scenes), read Barry Eisler’s “The God’s Eye View.” Eisler worked for the CIA for a few years and has extensive documentation at the end, even though the book is “fiction.” Heck, even FB knows more than I’d like about me. Very hard to keep much private these days, at least from the government and companies.

  15. Nato says:

    So true and on point!! Nothing good is free and free always comes with a hidden cost… Great read.