Craigslist, Wikipedia, and the Abundance Economy
Quincy Larson

But history has shown: you often can get something for basically nothing.
And even when somebody has to pay, that somebody doesn’t have to be you, and the amount doesn’t have to be very much at all.

Your premise that the claim that there is no such thing as a free lunch is not supported by the rest of your article. TANSTAAFL doesn’t claim that you can’t get a lunch without paying money for it. Your qualifer of “basically” on free indicates that despite your article, you know what it means and that somebody is paying something. This alone demonstrates your argument that TANSTAAFL is false is untenable.

The argument that because someone else pays the money to provide infrastructure there is free lunch is nonsensical. That money and that infrastructure could have gone somewhere else, and that is part of the point. It isn’t just the dollars, it is the opportunity cost. Even someone eating a lunch someone else paid for is paying for the lunch in opportunity cost. They could be doing something else at that time. They could be eating a healthier lunch, or taking a class, or any number of other things.

The money people pay to support wikipedia is money they could be using to provide a “free lunch” to someone who actually needs it, or to a homeless shelter, or an organization such as Wounded Warriors. That is the point of TANSTAAFL.

Unless you have a time machine there is always a cost. The entire argument of there being “an abundance economy”, aside from the banality of the phrase, relies on the notion of time travel. We have not eliminated scarcity. Even in the digital medium we have physical limitations. While a file can be replicated ad nauseum, disk, bandwidth, CPU all still place limitations on it. Using cloud infrastructure can be really cheap but comes with other costs.

Ignoring the realities of economics doesn’t make them go away. Proclaiming an “end to scarcity” doesn’t make it so. Further, it precludes understanding how to handle it. Scarcity doesn’t mean “incredibly rare” it means “not unlimited”. Sophistry doesn’t eliminate scarcity, and doesn’t change fundamental economics. TANSTAAFL is an understanding that everything you do or could do involves tradeoffs.

Outside of certain industries where we’ve used government to create disencentives to lowering costs and prices, goods have been getting cheaper for centuries so that isn’t anything new. However, that curve is infinite — it will never reach zero. Unless, maybe someone has a time machine. But even then I doubt it. Now if we can find a way to get around the law of conservation … maybe. But then, that would simply be replaced with a more refined natural law.

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