"There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch" Is A Famous Economic Expression That Means Everything Has A Cost. In 1 Or 2 Sentences, Describe How This Expression Relates To Opportunity Cost.

Please explain in economic terms the saying "there is no such thing as a free lunch."

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The old adage that "there is no such thing as a free lunch" was meant to suggest that nothing in life is really free, because there is always some kind of cost involved. That cost could be almost anything, from the expectation of social or professional commitment in exchange for the ostensibly "free" item or service to the notion that freedom in the larger sense of the word requires a sustained and costly commitment that may extend to the greatest sacrifice one can make (i.e., to give one's life for one's country). In a certain sense, the concept is born of cynicism. One person gives another person a gift with an unwritten understanding that the gift comes with a price tag. That price tag could mean the expectation of payment somewhere down the road, such as when a businessperson makes a campaign contribution to a politician with the unspoken but very serious expectation that the contribution had better result in access to the politician if elected. Such quid pro quo arrangements are painfully common in elective politics. 

"There is no such thing as a free lunch" can also refer to the notion that a country will pay a price in the long run for some kind of benefit today. The construction of a new factory, for example, will provide jobs and revenue for many people, from the construction workers who build the new plant to the employees who will work at it, to the suppliers who will sell it components, to the bars and restaurants that will surround it and where employees will spend money on lunches and after-work drinks. That is all well and good. The cost down the road, however, could mean long-term environmental degradation, depending upon the type of factory, such as the spoiling of previously pristine waterways and forests, or the development of health problems among employees exposed to toxic chemicals.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The idea that there is no such thing as a free lunch is an illustration of a couple of the basic ideas of economics -- that of scarcity, and that of opportunity cost.

The idea of scarcity says that every resource on earth is limited in comparison to people's unlimited desires.  Therefore, everything has a price because people have to compete for resources. So even if they say the lunch is free, it isn't because everything has a price.

The other, and connected, idea is that of opportunity cost.  Whenever you choose to do something, you give up the ability to do something else at the same time.  So, if someone uses grain to feed cows to make the hamburger for your free lunch, they lost the opportunity to use that grain for something else.  And that's another cost of the lunch.

kipkemoi | Student

This can be explained by scarce resources which are limited  to satisfy our unlimited wants.Therefore if the resources were limited there would be no economics hence there is no free lunch. Since there is scarce resources you have to choose the best alternative and give up another you like. Also the concept of opportunity cost brings up the concept of 'there is no free lunch' since it involves the cost of foregone alternative that is given un up hence you have to make a choice among the many alternatives

grgsiocl | Student

The economic theory, and also the lay opinion, that whatever goods and services are provided, they must be paid for by someone - i.e. you don't get something for nothing. The phrase is also known by the acronym of 'there ain't no such thing as a free lunch