I hereby submit my proposal to eliminate the word ‘free’ from our lexicon. I would suggest that we also do away with the concept behind the word, but I’m afraid that endeavor is beyond my knowledge.
With words, we must clarify. In English, someone somewhere decided that it would be a huge laugh if they gave several meanings to a single word. It’s also known as polysemy, but please don’t tell anyone that at a party as you will come off as a boorish braggart.
I do not propose that we eliminate ‘free’ in the context of being born with the right to determine your own life. I mean it in the context of value.
Everything has value. Not everyone agrees what that value is, but we all agree that value exists. You like mangos. Chet likes guitars. I like a nice cool river to swim in on a hot day. We all might enjoy the things others do as well, but we all place more value on certain things over other things. Some of you may recognize this as a butchering of Mises’s concept of Praxeology, but yet again, do not mention that outside of our safe space here. Nobody is interested in the names you can drop. People want value for the things they like, not pomp and fluff.
Getting something free implies that no effort was put forth to achieve a particular value. So you say, well of course! Hannah gave me a pizza, I ate it and paid nobody. Free!
This is where your mind can explode if you don’t stop and accept gratitude for the universe.
Hannah did buy the pizza which you consumed. She spent hours of her life getting the currency to exchange for the pizza. The pizza maker spent time preparing the ingredients. The truck driver delivered the ingredients. The oven technician had to come in and tune up the machine. A salesman had to sell the technician the truck they drove in to repair the oven. A miner heaved through the day to produce the ore which comprised the lugnuts on that truck.
You just ate pizza though. Hell, let’s even assume that it was brought to you at your house. Ahh, the true essence of American freedom. Not a single bite of that pizza was free. Why did Hannah buy you a pizza and have it delivered to your house? We intuit that it would be strange if a random person just bought you a pizza and delivered it to your house. Aha! So Hannah must have ulterior motives!
Yes, she does. And so do you if you stop to sort them out. This is not nefarious or sinful. This is being a human. This is social capital. It is another currency that many are not trained to see. Like any other currency it has metrics, albeit more intangible. Just don’t take for granted all the withdrawals you make from other people or you will understand moral bankruptcy.
We don’t have to delve into all the potential reasons that Hannah may want you to have pizza on her dime. You understand them. If not, then you will make mistakes until you do. And this is quite alright too. Do not let the imaginary notion of becoming the Supreme Hero of your life story have a rigid timeline. You will make mistakes and people will still love you if you’re earnest.
I understand the hesitancy to jump into the idea that all human exchanges are micro-calculations of perceived exchanges of value. It’s a sort of unpalatable notion that can turn dystopian in the wrong hands. That is fine. Let the wrong hands do what they may, because if you are in control of your own two then you will always persist.
Freedom is a way of living. It is a mindset more powerful than any words you will ever write or imbibe. Free is a tired notion of subsisting from the larders of a black hole. And if you ever want to test these ideas, go down to the curb around the block and pick up that sofa which has been sitting in the rain for three days then set it up in your living room as is. You will sit on those soggy moldy cushions and understand the real essence of the word free.