How do you get anything you want for free?

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Some of the previous answers have discussed the idea of opportunity cost and the related saying, "there is no such thing as a free lunch." I will certainly discuss parts of that; however, I'd like to explore a more philosophical angle...

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DISCLAIMER: eNotes.com does not endorse stealing in any form.

Some of the previous answers have discussed the idea of opportunity cost and the related saying, "there is no such thing as a free lunch." I will certainly discuss parts of that; however, I'd like to explore a more philosophical angle for a bit.

First, I don't honestly believe it is possible to get "anything/everything" for free. There is simply stuff that is unobtainable. Having all the material in the universe in the palm of your hand is not possible, regardless of how free or expensive you believe it is. If we are allowed to use Disney logic, then it is possible to be an all-powerful being for free. You just have to wish to be an all powerful genie like Jafar did. Of course it could be argued that there was a cost. He was enslaved to the lamp.

Moving forward, perhaps this question is asking how a person can get items at no monetary cost. One way to do that would be to steal it. I would have possession of an item, and it didn't cost me any money; therefore, I got it for free. Accepting a gift would be another way. If you are given a new game for your birthday, you have ownership of an item that you didn't pay any money for. I can imagine a world in which you have such good friends and are such a good thief that you get anything you want without actually paying for it with money.

Opportunity cost is where things get sticky. Opportunity cost is essentially the trade-off you are making for every choice or purchase. You may certainly steal something, but it did cost a bit of morality. Also, in order to actually get to the item that you stole, it cost you time at a minimum. In order to have very generous friends, I'm sure that you had to cultivate those relationships. That took time and energy. A restaurant might be giving away a free lunch, and you may have enjoyed it a lot; however, it cost you the opportunity to eat somewhere else. It cost you time to get to that restaurant. Taking into account the idea of opportunity cost, it isn't very likely to get any single item for free let alone anything/everything.

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In the traditional way of looking at economics, nothing is truly free. Everything you receive is exchanged for something. Most of the time, labor or money is provided in order to receive something in return.

Sometimes something may be received without these. However, I would argue that a gift is still not truly free. Often they are earned by way of establishing social capital. There is work involved in building a reputation and making the connections needed to convince others to give you something. Even then, there may be explicit or implicit conditions placed upon the gift. Whenever you receive something without cost, you need to ask yourself if anything is expected from you as a result.

We can look at some examples of when so-called freebies are not completely free. When a celebrity or influencer is given a product, they are expected to promote and endorse that product. This means leveraging both their reputation and time in return for the "gift."

A birthday present may seem like a totally free gift. However, most social norms dictate that you are expected to return the favor upon the giver's birthday.

Receiving charity may appear totally free. However, you need to ask if the circumstances you would need to endure in order to elicit enough pity in the giver is not some sort of cost you bear.

As you can see, nothing is totally without a cost. The way that modern societies have been set up is completely reliant on some sort of exchange. In that sense, there is really no way to get anything you want for free.

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My colleague has posted an excellent summary of the popular dictum in economics, abbreviated with the acronym, "TINSTAAFL." Here I will offer a pseudo-scientific explanation (that is not mutually exclusive) in counterpoint.

In 2004, motivational speaker and author Wayne Dyer published a book on a method known as "power of intention." This theory suggests that individuals can manifest what they desire by willing it, as it were. In his book, Dyer states, "you don't attract what you want; you attract what you are." Intention is defined as an inner awareness that is an invisible force of energy.

So, following Dyer's philosophy, one can manifest the things that he or she wants by means of the power of intention—specifically, by behaving in such a way that you deserve or expect what you desire, you can hope to achieve it.

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By applying a single concept that is important to the study of economics, it is easy to see that there is no way to get something for free.  That principle of economics is known as TINSTAAFL and is an acronym for "there is not such thing as a free lunch."  Because resources are scarce, or finite, everything has a cost.  Decisions are made in economics about costs and benefits.  If a person gets something for free, some other person is paying for it.  For instance, if a student from a low socio-economic background is receiving a free lunch, that lunch is paid for with tax revenues and actually does have a cost.  When a high school student is awarded a full scholarship to attend a university, that scholarship has been sponsored of funded by another party.  If you were to receive free samples in the mail, the company that  sends those samples will assume the cost.  In any example that you can think of, a cost is paid by somebody for something that is deemed "free."  So to answer your question as an economist, there is no way to get everything that you want for free. 

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