Law 40: Despise the Free Lunch (48 Laws of Power)

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Overview of Law #40: Despise the Free Lunch

Use money and generosity strategically to achieve your goals. Remember that everything has a price, and don’t accept “free gifts.” But use the desire for a “free lunch” to deceive others. Use gifts to build a reputation of generosity, which creates an aura or power, and also to obligate people to you.

Principles of Law 40

Money is a tool of power — use it creatively and strategically to enhance your reputation and power. Or, use the psychology of how people behave around money to implement scams.

When someone gives you something for free, you’re then obligated to them. This is why you should despise the free lunch. You need to guard your independence, but you can use the tactic with others.

According to Law 40 of the 48 Laws of Power, when you give a gift, you put the recipient under obligation. You also disarm the person so she’s less likely to see what you’re really up to. You enhance your reputation — everyone likes a generous person — and build allies, which furthers your quest for power.

There are several personality types who don’t understand how to use money or a free lunch to enhance power. Don’t fall into these patterns. Further, when you encounter these types, use their weakness to your advantage:

  • Driven by greed: People who are driven by greed see only balance sheets. They view others as hindrances or pawns in their quest for money. They’re isolated because their coldness alienates others. Their focus on numbers and failure to understand psychology makes them easy to deceive.
  • Obsessed with bargains: These people waste time, energy, and even money, searching for the best price on everything, no matter how small the savings. When they do buy something, they worry about whether they could have gotten it somewhere else for less. Their bargains end up being costly when they turn out to be poorly made and need replacement. Their attitude is catching — when you’re around them you start feeling you’re a sucker and paid too much for something. Just remember that bargains have hidden costs.
  • Hardball player: They play games with money to demonstrate their power, for instance by making you wait for money they owe you, haggling endlessly, or charging exorbitant interest. They enjoy torturing others over money.
  • Overly generous: Generosity should be intentional, for a specific purpose. However, some people give money and gifts indiscriminately because they want to be admired or loved. But when you give to everyone, no one feels special. Such people are easy to swindle because they’re driven by strong emotional needs.

Putting Law 40 to Work

Here are some examples of how to apply Law 40 of the 48 Laws of Power:

  • Spain nearly came to financial ruin over the pursuit of gold. Untold money was spent on failed explorations for gold and riches in South America, particularly the futile search for El Dorado. Cities emptied and declined as men joined the search for supposedly easy riches. It was all that people could think and talk about.
    • People lose control and become irrational at the prospect of easy money. Never let greed distract you. Stay focused on power— not money — and on the things you need to build power: self-discipline, goodwill, allies, respect, etc. As a result, money will come.
  • The Duchess of Marlborough was infamous for using money to play petty power games. For over twenty years, she complained about the costs, ranted, and refused to pay the architect and workers who were building the magnificent Blenheim palace. For being cruel and petty, she lost respect and social standing, and ironically wasted vast sums of money.
    • Rather than trying to use money to demonstrate power by nickel-and-diming people, it’s better to enhance your reputation (which pays dividends) by being generous.
  • Baron James Rothschild was a Jew and German who needed social acceptance to build his wealth and power as a banker and outsider in Paris in the 1820s. So he used money, not to give gifts or bribe people, which would have been viewed as vulgar, but to win people’s hearts. He spent huge sums of money entertaining the upper classes and showcasing France’s culture. For instance, he hired the best French architects to design gardens and a ballroom for his parties; and a celebrated chef to prepare the best food. His parties became famous and his strategic spending won him the acceptance he sought.

Of all these examples, Baron Rothschild was the best at providing the free lunch to other people.

Exceptions to Law 40

Are there any exceptions to Law 40 of the 48 Laws of Power? Should you ever not despise the free lunch? No. As a power player, you understand that it’s impossible to get something for nothing; everything has a price. But you can use others’ desire for a “free lunch” or easy money to deceive and fleece them. Blinded by greed, they won’t see the con. It’s always best to follow Law 40 of the 48 Laws of Power: Despise the Free Lunch.

Law 40: Despise the Free Lunch (48 Laws of Power)

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Amanda Penn

Amanda Penn

Amanda Penn is a writer and reading specialist. She’s published dozens of articles and book reviews spanning a wide range of topics, including health, relationships, psychology, science, and much more. Amanda was a Fulbright Scholar and has taught in schools in the US and South Africa. Amanda received her Master's Degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.

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