The Benefits of 'Free'

People Still Pay for Freebies With Their Time and Energy

Free’s For Me: Money doesn’t have to change hands for things to have value to us. Trips to Israel and using the free library involve spending moral currencies like commitment, not to mention valuable time.
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Free’s For Me: Money doesn’t have to change hands for things to have value to us. Trips to Israel and using the free library involve spending moral currencies like commitment, not to mention valuable time.

By Dan Markel

Published June 25, 2012, issue of June 29, 2012.
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At least I don’t take Bryfman to be claiming that there is zero benefit resulting from free books and CDs to Jewish kids or Birthright trips. If there is some nonzero value to the community that arises from these programs, we still have reason to prefer them as long there aren’t other ways of preserving Jewish continuity that are more effective or more efficient. Are there any? Maybe, but I find it hard to believe that the model of Jewish life that dominated over the last forty years (outside of Orthodox circles, which frequently used significant subsidization models) is the paragon of effectiveness.

So, if Bryfman wants us merely to “pause” before we embrace “free,” fine. Everything we do as a community should be mindfully done. But the arguments and evidence for “reset” based on the putative downsides and dangers of “free” seem quite speculative and not particularly persuasive.

Dan Markel is D’Alemberte Professor of Law at Florida State University’s College of Law.


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