Monday, July 25, 2011

Dom Post claims to have found the “free lunch”

This comes in the form of the “Free Store” started in Wellington and now replicated in Waitakere – a grocery shop where offerings are given away while local artists exhibit their works.  Instant claims of a free lunch were made.

Far from being a “free lunch” the  huge popularity of the Free Shop and the joy it no doubt brings to both needy “shoppers” and generous volunteers, the idea, its execution and its popularity demonstrates numerous economic principles and underlines the value of market processes.

We see that:

  • people do derive benefit from from helping others, are more than willing to expend energy and ingenuity doing just that and the return to them can take many forms – satisfaction, a sense of communing with their fellows and, let’s hope, some artwork sold.
  • produce comes from local businesses donating leftover and other produce. So it seems not all the business world is full of the vicious, spiteful and mean capitalist classes. The business’s reputations and their own desire to feel they are doing something useful turns out to, in fact, be useful.

And on the other side – some economic problems never go away.

  • The shop is so popular the managers have to “ration” how many people are allowed in at once. Scarce resources – free groceries in this case, do, it seems have to be rationed even when the high minded are running the place.
  • There has also been some criticism of consumers of the Free Shop offering. What? These “shoppers” are likely to be needy and poor. But envy and fear of competition is also a classic feature of success.

So free lunch it is not. Worthy example of capitalism it is – and as in “conventional” capitalism those who bring nothing but envy to the party are welcome to leave.


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