Henry A. Wallace, handpicked as vice president by Franklin Roosevelt, would have liked President Obama. In 1942, Wallace called for federal support for education—a novel concept at the time—and universal health care for workers. Highly progressive even by New Deal standards, Wallace championed many social programs and government giveaways. In response, prominent Princeton economist Harley L. Lutz employed one of the earliest known uses of a now-famous aphorism.
“Mr. Wallace neglects the fact that such a thing as a ‘free’ lunch never existed,” Lutz wrote. “Until man acquires the power of creation, someone will always have to pay for a free lunch.”
Harley Lutz didn’t live to see Barack Obama’s political rise. The Princeton professor passed away in 1975, the year famed University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman produced a best-selling book, “There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch.”
Practicing what he preached, Friedman worked until the day he died in 2006 at age 94. Obama was in the Senate by then, already eyeing the White House and planning a successful 2008 presidential run that included campaign slogans “Change We Can Believe In” and “Yes We Can!”