Free for All

Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (Wikipedia)

It doesn’t matter why we receive it—free stuff makes us happy. But sometimes, most of the time actually, it turns out to be junk. Or really not free at all.

But my belief in free-is-crap has been shaken. In January, the cultural ministry of France announced that entrance to all its national museums would be free for the next six months. In a place where the prime minister has attested that the country is in a state of bankruptcy, this is quite the grand gesture.

And what a boon. There are 18 amazing national museums in France including the Louvre, the Centre Pompidou and Quai Branly. Now no one will waste precious art-gawking time steeped in bitterness because they had to pay just for the mere opportunity to look.

The motive for such beneficence is to draw young people and locals into the museums. There are strings attached. Some of the museums are free all the time, others only one day a week. Still others are putting an age limit—26—on the free ride.

Half way through the experiment, which will be revisited by the French government in June, some have criticized the plan saying that only tourists benefit. However, since England dissolved their museum admission fees five years ago, almost 30 million additional visits have been made to that country's museums. If France wants to see similar increases, then keeping its national institutions fee-free may be the lure citizens need to get off the couch and into the museum.

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