Sultan Knish: Utopia's Free Lunch | Domestic Politics, Foreign Policy & Culture |

Lunch is a nice meal and a free lunch is even nicer. The problem with free lunches is that someone always has to pay for them. Lunches don't grow on trees, unless they're fresh fruit, the ingredients have to be gathered, processed, shipped, mixed, prepared, packaged, shipped again and put on your plate by a waiter working in an establishment that has to pay rent, heating, electricity and salaries.

A free lunch isn't just free food, it's the entire human and mechanical infrastructure needed to get it ready and subsidizing a free lunch means paying for that entire infrastructure. That's one reason why some states and cities are slipping into bankruptcy like a man who has had too many martinis over lunch. It's not just the free lunch that's expensive, it's the often inflated cost of the lunch delivery system that is killing everything.

The free lunch began as the Bread and Circuses which had its roots in a Roman bread dole. Free or subsidized bread is still a feature of political life in many parts of the world, including Egypt where the revolution had more to do with the price of bread than with democracy. The Muslim Brotherhood offered voters food giveways, turning Bread and Circuses into Bread and Beheadings, which is also a circus of sorts.

Free Egyptian bread started out as American subsidized aid. The world's free lunch is still doled out in Washington D.C. where the Senate dining rooms had to be privatized after losing 18 million dollars. A government that can't even run a cafeteria without losing millions of dollars can't run anything else without losing billions or trillions doing it.