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Re: [DotGNU]DotGNU Manifesto - first draft

From: Barry Fitzgerald
Subject: Re: [DotGNU]DotGNU Manifesto - first draft
Date: Mon, 15 Apr 2002 22:50:46 -0400

David Sugar wrote:
> There are plenty of other reasons and situations where a society may
> choose to restrict "limitless profit potential" of a few for the overall
> good of the whole.  For example, imagine what the practice of medicine
> could be like without the ethics of things like the hippocratic oath
> getting in the way of making a profit on someone's illness?  Should we
> permit a for profit market in human organs because it might improve the
> economy a little?
> If we as a society permit things like exclusionary practices common in
> proprietary software and granting of temporary monopolies on ideas
> because it benefits the profits of existing organizations at the cost of
> everyone's freedom, is this very different from saying let's suspend
> parts of the constitution for awhile because freedom is currently
> interefering with the ability of government to maximize it's policies?
> Freedom as an ethic has nothing to say directly about pro or
> anti-business when taken in whole that I can see.  That it can
> potentially prevent the rise of unnatural market monopolies and
> encourage more market diversity by loweing barriers to market entry is
> probably in the long run market neutral.  One might even say in that
> role it can function as the invisible hand of capitalism immortalized by
> Adam Smith.  As such, I cannot think of anything that is more
> pro-capitalist for the software market than Free Software.
> No, I see nothing anti-business in the GPL.

I personally feel that adam smith style capitalism can never actually
occur without having a completely free exchange of ideas and
implementations.  The modern "intellectual property" legalities actually
produces a system where there is no free market because there is an
inherent oligarchy of base businesses.  That much is certainly true.

I liken this to the same effect that attempting to gain software freedom
finds in it's balance.  I feel that copyleft licenses are the epitome of
all attempts at freedom in structure.  The trick here is that many
people say the word freedom and use the abstract dictionary definition
when they speak.  That is to say that freedom, to many people,
represents complete lack of restraint.  However, when you look beyond
the dictionary and into implementation, you see that this is not so.  A
lack of restraint (lack of regulation, laws, etc...) actually produces a
state where freedom can be found nowhere.  To remove restraint from
people outright, you allow those people to violate the freedom of others
and the cycle begins as a lack restraint generates totalitarianism.  The
state of all power being organized and engineered into the hands of the
few under the premise of total control.  The GNU GPL model, however,
gets it right.

The ideal: supply only those restraints necessary to ensure that
everyone can have an equal opportunity for freedom.  The term
opportunity is key because to have freedom requires one to exercise
their freedom.  Further, the base restrictions can themselves serve ONLY
the purpose of ensuring that freedom cannot be taken away once it is
given.  At least not through the originating mechanism.  

Hence, the same goes for Free Markets.  Many "Free Marketeers" argue for
negating all restraints on the market.  While the market currently,
arguably, has too many restraints - the complete removal of key
restraints (like anti-trust laws) would create a situation where a Free
Market would be entirely impossible.  Since markets are dependant on
their social context, the GNU GPL applies to this equation directly.

To make a long analysis short - I think you're entirely right.  That the
GNU GPL provides an environment where the Free Market can be realised
inherently - not damaged.  That the current system is inequitable,
corrupt, and unfree should be no surprise to anybody.  To not wish this
to change is, IMO, the wrong way to think - and supporting
infrastructure that only adds to that systems tenure is, IMO, limiting
oneself to initial context and not allowing them to see what could be if
we simply tried.

A model will be found that allows the GNU GPL to be the pinacle of
economic production - but it is not the goal.  Economic production is
nothing without freedom.  However, much of our history seems to indicate
that the two have a direct relationship.  Slavery did not produce a
better economy.  However, people at the time thought that it did.  The
same will be true of software - but we have to leave the current
economic context before that will be evident to people.  There are too
many circumstantial pollutants working against the Free Software
ecosphere to make a realistic analysis on any of the current cases.


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