Film Review: FREE LUNCH SOCIETY (Austria/Germany 2017) ***1/2

Free Lunch Society: Komm Komm Grundeinkommen Poster
What would you do if your income were taken care of?


Christian Tod


Christian Tod

“Money is better than poverty, at least for financial reasons!”  quote unquote Woody Allen.

Innovation is the challenge of an established order, and so says a billionaire in the documentary.  FREE LUNCH SOCIETY is one such innovation, which this eye-opening film examines.

FREE LUNCH SOCIETY shot in German and English, is a documentary that studies  ‘unconditional basic guaranteed income”.   This means that the residents of a society receive a fixed guaranteed income regardless of how much they make at work.  This income allows them not to worry about existence, the basic need to pay for food and essentials.  It also gives the residents a newer found freedom.  In case one wonders at the impossibility of this concept, it has already been applied in two cases, so says this film, both as a result of the oil industry.  As a result of kickbacks rom the oil industry, residents of Alaskans get a fixed amount of money provided they prove that have lived in the state for a minimum amount of months per year.  In Canada, the experiment was carried out in Manitoba from 19754 to 1978, but no conclusions were made.  Files were archived to be studied later.  In the U.S., the study was never conclusive either.  The film documents Nixon’s proposal of the Guaranteed Income Program which was opposed by Reagan in California.  However, in one diamond rich state in Africa, a village was also chosen for the experiment.  It was shown that everyone benefited.  Incomes rose and productivity increased.  The theory that people become lazy when given a fixed income was disproven.

The concept of the basic guaranteed income is a tremendously intriguing concept for someone like myself, who has an MBA degree, always interested in finance, economics or just plain making money.  So FREE LUNCH SOCIETY kept me watching, breathless from start to finish.  I do not get paid for writing film reviews, as I have sufficient money but that does not make me lazy and contribute less to film reviewing.  What company unions think (obviously they are against it, as the concept challenges their very existence) for example, what effects there will be for the rich and poor and the effects on the economy will be interesting questions to consider.  Warren Buffett, the then third richest man in the world also has his say in the movie.  His talk about the gap between the richest and the poor and especially the working middle class makes the most sense and arguably makes the most interesting and relevant part of the documentary.  It is the rich people who control and everyone else working for the rich people.  To make the film more relevant, director Tod also has a NYC cab driver have his say. 

The film also examines the ethical question of what people would do then with their time if they need not have to work to earn a living.

For those uninterested in economics and money, FREE LUNCH SOCIETY might be quite the bore.  On the other hand, those interested in the politics of income are in for a treat.