"And it strikes me as really disturbing when a machine with all free software is more expensive than the same machine without free software."
Then you got the value equation backwards, my friend.
You pay for Free Software. (It is something of value to the user, who has to pay in one way or another to put it in place.)
Proprietary Software pays for YOU! (The makers of blobs literally pay the manufacturers to "preload" their stuff onto computers in the factory, so that users who do not have the time, knowledge, and inclination to format and rebuild will be stuck with them. The software is valued primarily by the maker, not the user - the user is typically the commodity being sold in one way or another here. )