Posted 28/Aug 2011 at 14:21
by in Home & Living read by 25 people

Nothing is free just because you don't feel that you pay for it

This morning, like many mornings before, I woke up and started my daily routine with making coffee. I poured water into the pot, and then in the machine. I took a filter and put coffee in it. Put everything on the machine in their proper places and turned on the machine. Then I did some other things and after a while the coffee was ready. Poured some in a cup and the rest in a thermo jug. I made some extra, as I need to save a bit in my usage of coffee filters. Knowing I only have three left, I need to use as little as possible as I might not want to go shopping tomorrow.

Resourced used:

  • Water
  • Electricity
  • Coffee
  • Coffee filter
  • Coffee machine
  • More electricty to watch the news while waiting for coffee

Expenses:

  • €0 (but the same amount in USD, GPB and any other currency)

Especially in the morning my mind tends to drift off making me think about topics I might not want to use the more productive hours of day on. Today, and that was the direct lead up to writing this piece, I came to think about free internet services. And in particular wondering if they are really free. When it comes to that, the lines to the Alanis Morissette song Ironic are more true than ever.

It's a free ride when you've already paid.

Of course I paid for all of the resources I used for making coffee at some point. The fine grinded coffee was bought, the filters, the price of water is included in my rent etc. But all those bills have been paid so long ago that I don't feel it in my wallet when I use some of it. It's the same principle that makes free internet services feel free.

Take search giant Google for example. Completely free to use, if you think in terms of monatary currency. But every time you search, you see some adverts next to your results. These take up a fraction of your attention, or time. And time is money - so you pay, you just don't feel it.

Most countries have a public broadcasting service in some kind of way. You can usually receive those channels without paying any cable subscription or any other kind of fee (price of a TV disregarded). So it feels free. But those countries do charge tax to their citizens, and those taxes pay for public broadcasting.

Even the air you breathe, or sunshine, as some kind of hidden price. Whether you paid for a vacation to the sun, or just pay taxes to the country you live in - there is a bill to pay. Despite the fact that most people don't actually notice that much that they even pay their country's taxes, they're never paid their full salery in the first place. As a matter of fact, to most it feels that the government pays them to live in the country by giving some taxes back.

Ain't that brilliant.

I could go on and on, for example on how even a favour from a friend is rarely completely free. The commodity here is friendship, and the transaction often includes an unwritten demand for a favour in return. But I don't think I can expect that my writing so far has bought enough of your attention to continue for much longer. So, I'll just finish with some closing words.

All those more or less hidden payments are quite alright, as long as you are aware of it. Just don't let yourself be tricked into thinking that anything is completely free of any charge.

Value makes the world go round.

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