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Re: Please don't refer to Emacs as "open source"

From: Stephen J. Turnbull
Subject: Re: Please don't refer to Emacs as "open source"
Date: Fri, 17 Jun 2011 19:17:10 +0900

David Kastrup writes:
 > "Stephen J. Turnbull" <address@hidden> writes:
 > > You're missing the point, which is that of all human beings not
 > > currently in the free software movement, the most likely-to-join group
 > > is probably the open source community.
 > If the free software movement masks itself as the open source community,
 > that group has nowhere to go.

Are you *deliberately* missing the point?  Please reread the Executive
Summary, and note that self-labeling is *part of the message*.

 > Because business will only cooperate at gunpoint.

Nonsense.  Business is all about cooperation, especially about
organizing cooperation between parties who never meet, but
nevertheless need to exchange value indirectly.

It is true that some businesses are enforced at gunpoint (the
telephone company, in many countries), and others are enabled by
gunpoint (any business based on licensing copyrights or patents as a
salient example).  But the actual conduct of even those businesses is
cooperative in all cases, because it's voluntary trade.

That doesn't mean you have to like cooperating with a given business,
or that you wouldn't prefer a different share of surplus value (more
to yourself, less to the business).  Nonetheless, it *is* cooperation.

 > But business only believes in shareholder value, anyway.

Of course not.  Any viable business believes in customer value.  Even
franchised monopolies do.  It is true that a good business aims
primarily at increasing shareholder value in most advanced countries
(Japan is a prominent exception).  Nevertheless, businesses know that
if they do not produce customer value, they will die, extracting no
shareholder value.

 > Since the economy is built around taxing any flow of cooperation
 > and knowledge, free software, which is designed to be impervious to
 > damming, is bound to fail as a business model component in a lot of
 > settings.

Your phrasing is disagreeable, but accurate enough for the particular
case.  Indeed, free software is primarily about enabling face-to-face
cooperation, it sucks at protecting value of third party businesses,
and therefore is able to capture only bilateral value for its
participants in many cases.  For this reason, free software often (not
always, perhaps only a minority of cases) leaves most of the latent
value, which is due to indirect cooperation, lying on the sidewalk.

But free software is not about value, it's about freedom.  So we don't
care about that.  Right?

 > The Open Source movement counts this as a deficiency of the software,
 > the Free Software movement counts this as a deficiency of the system.

I agree with your characterization of the free software movement, and
frankly, the free software movement needs to get a clue.  Sorry.  The
current system using artificial property rights in software sucks, and
the one that free software aims at is IM nonprofessional O is clearly
better.  That's why I support the free software movement although I'm
not a member.  But wearing my economics professor hat, I have to say
that the free software movement's economics gets an F.

 > > If what you mean is, "Give me software freedom, or give me death!",
 > "or I will create it myself." is the actual credo of the free software
 > movement.

Of course it's not.  You cannot create a social system yourself; you
must get the participation of others.  But imposing a social system on
people who don't want it is abhorrent to freedom lovers.

The question is whether the value of full software freedom is so high
that you would give up anything that is merely economic value for it,
or whether there can be "enough" software freedom in a mixed system.
The rhetoric of the free software movement, especially when trash-
talking open source, is that the value of software freedom is *that*
high.  No mixed system will do.  No?

 > > OK, but the basic fact of life in any group larger than one is that
 > > there are many rights, they conflict, and not everybody is going to
 > > agree with that unidimensional philosophy as a solution.
 > That's not a problem of the philosophy.

Unidimensionality is a fundamental problem in any social philosophy,
at least if it wants to get broad enough acceptance to get implemented
in a democracy.

 > > Please stop merely repeating the FSF propaganda about open source, and
 > > deal with the phenomenon as it is: diverse.  You cannot win the hearts
 > > of my friends otherwise.
 > Why win their hearts with false pretense?  One won't be able to keep
 > them that way.

You're the one talking about false pretenses.  "Presentation" does not
mean lying or hiding one's true intent.  It means talking about your
ideas in terms that others understand.  In the case of my circle, you
*can* talk about free software and have them understand that this
connotes a movement.  You *can* use the usual terms of discourse used
in the free software movement and they will understand them.

They just don't yet agree with the program.  They may never consider
it ideal, but come to support it with minor philosophical
reservations.  And yes, by "program" I do mean "elimination of
artificial property rights of all kinds in software".

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