Acronym for the phrase "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch".
Used by jaded travellers who believe, often through personal experience, that you cannot get something for nothing. The original idea appears to have originated on old Earth, where a sign proclaiming patrons could receive a "free lunch" merely meant the drinks cost twice as much as in other places.
The concept has expanded into the realm of economics, which suggests that someone ends up paying the cost of the "lunch". Even in cases where there is no individual cost, there may well be a social cost. Similarly, someone may benefit from a public good (e.g. a free public transport network) but someone still has to pay the cost of providing this benefit (e.g. the taxpayers).
(HIWGt, 1120; mine, 1120)
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