Some of the Best Things in Life Really Are Free

December 23, 2014 4:45 PM

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Some months ago I flew from New York to Detroit. The standard airline prices were exorbitant so I booked a flight on Spirit Airlines, a low-cost, no frills carrier. And I mean no frills at all. I soon learned that my ticket bought me only two things: a seat on the plane and use of the bathroom (or, as we say in airplane speak, lavatories). Everything else, from a carry-on to a drink, came at a hefty price (in relative terms). Frustrated by just how tight this airline operated (after all, it's not like I paid five cents for my ticket), I offered a quip to one of the flight attendants. "I am wondering," I said, "if you're going to charge me for breathing on this flight." No worries, she told me. Air was still free.

I have thought often about that exchange. Our society has managed to monetize just about everything, from drinking water to public parks. Want a snack on an airplane? That'll be $3. Need an Internet connection to get work done? It'll cost $10. And it's not only the airlines. Even free downloads aren...

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