Quote of the Day: TANSTAAFL

 

“There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch” — Robert Heinlein

I recall the first time I was exposed to this expression was during the science fiction binge reading period of my late teens. It was from reading a novel by Robert Heinlein, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Mr. Heinlein was a Naval Academy graduate, and after experiencing health issues left the Navy and did some additional graduate work in physics, which I am sure in hindsight influenced his notion that the universe gives nothing for free, and wound it into his opines on the nature of men, and well … nature.

Why do I think exposure to college-level physics engenders a viewpoint of a curmudgeonly universe? Because after three semesters of physics, and then later grinding through, in greater computational depth, three more semesters of thermodynamics, it becomes clear that TANSTAAFL is in fact built into the operating system of the universe. Every exchange of one form of energy to another comes with a price. Every exchange of matter to energy, or energy back to matter (truly an exorbitant exchange) comes with a cost. This theory is enshrined in Laws of Thermodynamics and here are the rules as approximately coined by my introductory Physics class professor, who was riffing off Ginsberg’s parody theorem, which helps you get your mind around the “big picture.”

The first law states: You are not going to win in the exchange game,

The second law states: You will not break even in the exchange,

The third law notes: That you cannot even bow out of the game.

To date, no one has ever demonstrated the elusive perpetual motion machine.

The consumption of energy is at the very heart of our society’s promise to a life that allows leisure rather than a Hobbesian existence of nasty, brutish, and short. Everything we touch has a component of energy, we eat it (fertilizer), harvesting with it, transport everything with it, or handle something directly composed from an energy product (“Plastics” was the advice Mr. Robinson bestowed on a young Benjamin Braddock, in The Graduate). It heats us, cool us, moves us, eases our chores, anyone recall that an entire Monday used to be allotted for the laundry, (mostly by the ladies, want to relive those great times?) and it entertains us. Is there nothing that sweet transposition of energy cannot do?

Later I was exposed from my wife’s studies in business accounting the works of Milton Friedman, a brilliant economist who reiterated that TANSAAFL in not purely a matter, of well … matter, but of the economic man. We all strive for a win-win exchange, but it all depends on where you draw the boundaries and temporal limits of any transactional exchange.

So given the nearly universal and intuitive exposure we have to this principle, why does half of one of the largest collection of the most highly educated, sophisticated, and enlightened societies of men and women, since the earliest records of the musing from the cradle of civilization on the structure of our humanity, do they still think we can get free stuff from any government?

God’s universe unequivocally says no, how do we humble men think we can say otherwise?

There are 40 comments.

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  1. Derek Simmons Member
    Derek Simmons
    @

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):
    I don’t want areas owned by others that are centers for crime.

    How about areas owned by “you” that are centers for crime, AKA public housing?

    • #31
  2. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Derek Simmons (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):
    I don’t want areas owned by others that are centers for crime.

    How about areas owned by “you” that are centers for crime, AKA public housing?

    Landlords have rights to kick people out. Use them.

    • #32
  3. Ralphie Inactive
    Ralphie
    @Ralphie

    GLDIII (View Comment):
    When you are of the left and not so secretly despise the Proles, upon who’s labors you are incognizant of, and who sustain your pinnacle existence, they relish the twofer of both pricing them out of existence, while morally preening on having saved the environment from their rapacious energy using joys. (NASCAR, Hunting, RV camping, Fish trolling, ATV’s in the wilderness, etc, etc, etc)

    Brilliant.

    • #33
  4. Derek Simmons Member
    Derek Simmons
    @

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):
    Landlords have rights to kick people out. Use them.

    In public housing “you” through your GOVCO employed rep is in charge of exercising those rights. Of course, GOVCO also employs both the “kicked” and the “kicker” and just to be sure there’s work for all, it also employs the refs and the security guards. I’ve worked this issue and in my limited and admittedly anecdotal experience the rights you suggest are trumped, subsumed, overwhelmed, forgotten or most frequently just never asserted for all and each of the reasons just stated.

    • #34
  5. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Joe P (View Comment):

    GLDIII: It was from reading a novel by Robert Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

    This is the best book ever.

    It’s certainly in the running in its genre. It is Heinlein’s best book.

    Funny thing about Augsburg: One of the bigger law firms in town is “Gollman, Brosche und Heinlein”.

    I was always pretty fond of Starship Troopers.

    • #35
  6. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    GLDIII (View Comment):

    Ralphie (View Comment):
    From the media buzz, it seems that medical care/insurance is the biggest need of Americans, but I think it is having a stable, healthy, energy system. If people had to choose between health insurance and electricity, would they understand then, how great energy on demand is? Doctors and nurses cannot do much without it, neither can actors and actresses.

    The right to energy is more important than the right to health insurance, IMO. But neither should be rights, just free will choices. If you spend more than needed on either of those two segments, that dollar doesn’t get spent at the box office, or grocery store, etc.

    The working class pays a higher percentage of their income for needs: food, shelter, energy. The upper and rich are not as restricted in the excess amount of money they have available for other things.

    Subsidies are guilt offerings, and claiming ownership of citizens.

    Don’t get me going on the collective and profound idiocy the left has with their understanding of energy and the consumption there of has on their mostly wastrel lifestyles. I have been intimately familiar with solar energy for the balance of my career (never worked on a nuclear power spacecraft, so call it 40 years) so to listen to intellectual morons expound how we can remold our society thru wind and solar power is a conceit I really cannot fathom.

    It is a real sham that they call themselves progressives while reaching back to near ancient substitutes for “human power”.

    Niven and Pournelle once wrote about going to an “alternative energy fair in LA” and seeing a device that was a bike set up to mill grain into flour, and at the same time the person peddling had a board where he could kneed the flour into dough.

    Far out man.

    Their comment was that all it needed was a dark skinned person on it, while someone stood behind them with a whip.

    Slavery, the eternal scourge of humanity was ended by the ability to harness machines for our labor far more then any change in the human heart.

    • #36
  7. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    We vote for Democrats that guess at subsides and higher rates (done at the point of a gun, taxes and utility rates) to force money into unicorn energy stupidity. This is supposed to work.

    • #37
  8. Richard Finlay Inactive
    Richard Finlay
    @RichardFinlay

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):
    My favorite Heinlein aphorism is from one of his juvenile novels, where a father advises his son who’s contemplating skirting the rules for entering a contest:

    It’s within the rules, Kip, but I’ve never yet known a skunk to be welcome at a picnic.

    It was a different time.

    Do you have a spacesuit?  Will you travel?

    • #38
  9. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Richard Finlay (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):
    My favorite Heinlein aphorism is from one of his juvenile novels, where a father advises his son who’s contemplating skirting the rules for entering a contest:

    It’s within the rules, Kip, but I’ve never yet known a skunk to be welcome at a picnic.

    It was a different time.

    Do you have a spacesuit? Will you travel?

    He did win that spacesuit in a contest, didn’t he?

    • #39
  10. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Richard Finlay (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):
    My favorite Heinlein aphorism is from one of his juvenile novels, where a father advises his son who’s contemplating skirting the rules for entering a contest:

    It’s within the rules, Kip, but I’ve never yet known a skunk to be welcome at a picnic.

    It was a different time.

    Do you have a spacesuit? Will you travel?

    He did win that spacesuit in a contest, didn’t he?

    The Skyway Soap contest. The suit was make by Goodyear.

    • #40
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