There Was Too Such a Thing | Bleader

There Was Too Such a Thing


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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?

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.

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

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!

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

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.

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

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