Monday, January 25, 2010

There Was Too Such a Thing

Posted By on 01.25.10 at 08:54 AM

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Chicago Daily, November 20, 1894. When it comes to the ontology of free lunch, who are you going to listen to: the historical record or the bleeding and battered Chicago School of economics?

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Dry crusaders had a far easier row to hoe in the virtuous city of Minneapolis than they did in Chicago, and the exploitation of food as a loss leader to draw patrons into saloons was always a primary target of reformers. The offhand reference to the Chinese takes us back to last Thursday's heartwarming post.

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"Free lunch has kept pace with the onward march of progress in the twentieth century": Yes: it was lunch time in America.

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A cut of pie, you say? What kind of pie, I wonder. . . The point about the poor eating more than the rich is interesting. Viewed at the level of any given saloon, free lunch is plainly a tax on heavy drinkers that benefits the patrons who limit themselves to a small beer or ginger ale, but considered as a citywide system, free lunch may also have had a redistributive function such that the business classes subsidized the caloric intake of workers. Freakonomic!

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You just know it's respectable if bankers do it.

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Unilateral disarmament was not an option in the culinary arms race among saloons. Admit it, Loop workers: you only wish you had such an option at lunch time today.

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The Bridewell, as previously discussed, was the city lock-up and workhouse, where vagrants were liable to wind up.

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