Free Lunch Society
"Free Lunch Society" asks the audience to consider whether a Utopian society is really beyond reach.
Under the traditional definition of a utopian society, everyone in the society would liberate themselves from the burden of paid labor. Due to the abundance of resources and ease of production, humans would no longer need to work to maintain a healthy and happy lifestyle, which gives everyone a chance to explore their passions. “Free Lunch Society,” directed by Christian Tod, digs into the idea of a a universal income given to every member of society to meet their basic living demands. The documentary includes interviews with a variety of experts from different industries, as well as several social experiments that put theory into practice.
As a documentary, “Free Lunch Society” is well-crafted and appeals to audiences even if they don’t have a background in economic research. The film starts with a clip from “Star Trek: Next Generation,” which immediately draws people’s attention into this futuristic, detailed idea. Throughout the documentary, popular culture references are mixed in with interviews to lighten the mood. The movie also has a balance of opinions from different locations, including interviews conducted in Alaska, Berlin and Stockholm, demonstrating the director’s dedication to the project. The interviewees come from different vocational backgrounds, ranging from computer science and financial management to sociology and retail.
A part of the movie focuses on social experiments that try to put the concept of a universal income into practice. By showing three projects done in North America, Africa and Europe — three continents with very different histories and cultures — the film tries to determine whether there is a universal value that would help to equalize and spread wealth not just in Western societies, but throughout the world. Universal basic income is presented as a practical plan already on the agendas of governments all over the world instead of as a science fiction idea that only exists in theory.
While there is no doubt about the effort put into the production of the documentary, it does contain flaws. An effective documentary needs to strike a balance between presenting objective facts and advancing the director’s viewpoint. “Free Lunch Society” put too much emphasis on the argument in favor of UBI. More than once, the film tries to make a point by showing clips of debates over relevant topics, but cuts out parts where the opposite side presents its rebuttals. The topic of this documentary is so ahead of its time that even if it’s not convincing, audiences will stay open to the idea as long as it’s presented in an interesting way. However, if doubts are barely addressed throughout the whole movie, it’s easy to start questioning how trustworthy the director and his message is.
“Free Lunch Society” addresses a bold but incredibly innovative concept that may change not only the way we think about work ethic, but possibly the entire societal value system that we have established through capitalism. The film supports a seemingly unrealistic idea with studies providing tentative evidence of its practical viability. However, the film suffers from editing choices that make it too one-sided and, ultimately, less convincing than it could be. In the end, “Free Lunch Society” is an imperfect film that does a good job starting a discussion about whether or not humans are ready for a utopian society that has, up until now, been a dream.