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GNU is Not Unix Software Technology

When Libertarians Attack Free Software 944

binarybits writes 'I've got a new article analyzing the unfortunate tendency of libertarian and free-market organizations to attack free software. The latest example is a policy analyst at the Heartland Institute who attacks network neutrality regulations by arguing that advocates have 'unwittingly bought into' the 'radical agenda' of the free software movement. I argue that in reality, the free market and free software are entirely compatible, and libertarians are shooting themselves in the foot by antagonizing the free software movement.'
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When Libertarians Attack Free Software

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:16PM (#29847063) Journal
    I posit that one of the most prized products of Capitalism and the free market is to reduce the cost for the end consumer and raise the quality of the products and services. Now, the scientific formula for deciding the positive effectiveness of this is: (customer's percieved value)/(actual retail cost)

    So you can see that as the actual retail cost approaches zero, the positive effects of capitalism approach infinity! Unfortunately when the actual cost is zero, it's undefined and your interpretation may vary.

    Basically I suggest open source software people instruct these complaining parties to donate a penny or fraction of a penny to once again make them look like the epitome of our capitalistic system at work. Anyone else (who isn't stupid) may continue to use it for free and -- at least in the case of open source software -- enjoy unparalleled benefits like being able to modify and redistribute the source let alone view it. Problem solved.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This is actually a pretty accurate post when considered from the point of view of capitalism's proponents. They bypass the moral discussion (with respect to individual freedom, personal autonomy, mutual voluntary association, etc) and go straight for the purely utilitarian side-effects (the efficiency of the market with respect to the quality of goods and prices). It seems as though they have conceded the battle where it should have been won, and so whenever perceived downsides to the free market arise (i

    • by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <> on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:37PM (#29847347) Homepage

      I posit that one of the most prized products of Capitalism and the free market is to reduce the cost for the end consumer and raise the quality of the products and services.

      Do not confuse capitalism with the free market.

      The "most prized product" -- the goal -- of capitalism is greater wealth for the aristocrats who control the capital.

      The free market doesn't have a goal; the whole idea is that it's a decentralized system of actors each pursuing their own goals. Under certain circumstances -- when buyers and sellers meet with equal power, full knowledge, and no externalization of costs -- it can produce reduced costs and better goods and services for the consumer.

      • by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @01:15PM (#29847921)

        Do not confuse capitalism with the free market.

        I concur. After all Thomas Jefferson wrote many scathing letters against corporations and even proposed that laws be used to limit them.

        After all... Corporations like the British East India Company were the ones that caused the revolutionaries to rise up in the first place.

      • by sarhjinian ( 94086 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @01:20PM (#29848011)

        Do not confuse capitalism with the free market.

        You cannot have a free market once economic power starts to accumulate, as it will in the absence of regulation; nor you have a free market with regulation.

        The "free market", thusly, cannot really exist, except for a very brief period at the beginning before clout accumulates and capitalism takes hold. It's a philosophical fiction; a Utopia by definition. Marxism is more realistic.

        • by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @02:25PM (#29849165)
          Marxism is more realistic.

          Despite evidence?

          The free market is a simple consequence of individual freedom. Just as free speech is good and right, but there may need to be some regulation on edge cases, the free market is good and right, with regulation needed only on extremes. In both cases, the less regulation the better. Capitalism generally leads to a better standard of living than other economic system, but that's not why I support it; I support it because it's the only ethical economic system. The only economic system based on freedom and personal choice.
          • by sarhjinian ( 94086 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @02:51PM (#29849571)

            The only economic system based on freedom and personal choice.

            It's not based on freedom and personal choice, it's based on a lack of restrictions. Similar concepts, but there's an important semantic difference: the first implies regulation to make sure that choice and freedom an ensured(and is thusly self-compromising); the second just crosses it's metaphorical fingers and hopes that things stay unrestricted. They don't and can't, of course.

            "Good and right" or "ethical" has nothing to do with it, especially since "good and right" are highly subjective terms and certainly when dealing with government or the lack thereof. What's good and right and ethical to you can very easily seem selfish and uncaring and highly unethical to someone else because they're suffering for the lack of regulation. A lack of restrictions on you can, and does, incur restrictions upon others. That's not very ethical (by your definition), is it?

            What you're advocating, more or less, is a degree of socialism, except that you don't want to call it that. There must be some kind of regulation to ensure a functioning social contract, otherwise ad-hoc regulation happens as soon as power starts to accumulate, and those ad-hoc structures can very easily be bad and wrong and unethical.

            The original point though, is that an unregulated, completely free market has a lifespan that makes mayflies look like Methusela. It can't exist because the accumulation of power, which happens no matter what, negates it's existence. Marxism, at least, doesn't completely self-contradict itself, despite being almost as ignorant of the reality of human society.

            Calling it "good and right" or "ethical" is disingenuous.

          • by bennomatic ( 691188 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @03:25PM (#29850091) Homepage

            Despite evidence?

            What evidence? Despite many claims by governments over the last century that they are based on Marxist tenets, that they are socialist, that they are the people's democracies, they have typically, in fact been dictatorships or oligarchies.

            Unfortunately, as lofty as Marx's own goals might have been, the people who have walked the path that he paved--or who claim to have tried to walk that path--typically get distracted by their own greed and power, and end up no better than the robber barons who run much of industry in the capitalist world.

            Looking back, I realize that you weren't claiming that Marxism wouldn't be better, but rather challenging the assertion that it is more realistic. Maybe I've just added fuel to that argument.

    • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:39PM (#29847371) Journal

      Now, the scientific formula for deciding the positive effectiveness of this is: (customer's percieved value)/(actual retail cost)

      Your formula is missing a term.

      The formula should be: [(customer's actual value received) + (customer's bad information value)] / [(price paid by customer) + (other transaction costs)]

      For the numerator addition: I could value something at $1000, but if it only really benefits me $500, that's important in terms of systemic effects. This is where marketing, branding, incomplete information, TCO, FUD, etc all come into play.

      For the denominator, this is the one that helps your point. The other transaction costs prevent your ratio from ever being undefined, so you can go ahead and remove that clause from your analysis.

    • This just shows the utter hypocrisy of the libertarians. I've said all along that libertarians really want corporate feudalism, or at least they have been completely co-opted by corporate feudalists. Libertarians, in general, feel they are superior to everyone else. They also feel that it is a natural right for the elite to profit from the plebeians. When anything threatens their real agenda, they will set aside their supposed ideals to destroy it. Free software reduces the ability of the elite to profit off of the 'inferior people' of the world, and therefore it must be destroyed. Unions, even though they are a product of free association, also threaten libertarians ability to exploit others, and so you will never find a libertarian who is pro union, even though, according to their ideals, they should be.

      The thing is, Libertarians always have such high levels of cognitive dissonance, they do not realize this is what they are doing. They firmly believe they are 'good' people, because being a 'good' person goes along with their image of themselves as vastly superior beings, so they will never look at all the ways their ideals and actions work to oppress the less fortunate. In their minds, they are helping the less fortunate by exploiting them.

      • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @01:15PM (#29847933)

        Libertarians, in general, feel they are superior to everyone else.

        I dislike libertarianism as much as the next non-libertarian, but I do have to say that's not quite fair. EVERYONE feels superior to everyone else if they're being honest. Except me, I don't think I'm superior to everyone else, I alone am not deluded like everyone else, because I'm smarter. My unparalleled sexiness probably doesn't hurt my lack of self delusions either.

      • by feepness ( 543479 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @01:19PM (#29847995) Homepage

        and so you will never find a libertarian who is pro union, even though, according to their ideals, they should be.

        I consider myself a libertarian, though I don't always espouse the exact party line of the big 'L' Libertarians.

        I fully support unions as a group of freely associating group of people.

        Also, I don't consider myself better than others, even those who would tell me that I think I am.

        I do believe that the freest market possible provides the greatest benefit to the most individuals, though many people who also believe this are unclear that unfettered capitalism will lead to capital concentration and a non-free market. Therefore regulation is required to approximate one. A true free market is simply a thought experiment and target, it can never be achieved anymore than a marxist economy could.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by spun ( 1352 )

          See, if all libertarians were as reasonable as you I wouldn't diss on you guys so much. :)

      • by bhima ( 46039 ) * <Bhima.Pandava@gmail. c o m> on Friday October 23, 2009 @01:27PM (#29848163) Journal

        My feeling is that after the disaster that was the Bush Administration the brand name of " Libertarianism" came into vogue... so there are a lot of folks running around calling themselves Libertarians when they actually are not.

      • by tcrown007 ( 473444 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @01:30PM (#29848221)

        You're completely out of sync with what most libertarians believe. Many libertarians would abolish corporations completely, as the government does not have the power to grant any "rights" to a non person entity. Given that a libertarian would likely take the argument that far, the idea that they *want* corporate feudalism is just absurd on its face. Please stop espousing ideas that are so far from the truth.

      • by QuantumRiff ( 120817 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @01:51PM (#29848537)

        nd so you will never find a libertarian who is pro union, even though, according to their ideals, they should be.

        I am a registered Libertarian, and am very pro Union. I am not a fan of "union shops" where just to get employment, you are forced to be in a union. For me, that is a little to close to "you have to be $Religion to work here". I am a firm believer that people can choose to join, or choose not to (and choose to leave) if they wish.

        I'm also very much against anything done at the federal level, and handing things like Medicare and such to the states (including healthcare reform.) But yes, I do believe in universal healthcare, but it should be an option, and done by the states, (or groups of states, if they decide to band together).

        Many, many people don't toe their parties lines.. Dear god, look at the log cabin republicans. Gay people in the republican party!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You won't see all libertarians support unions, precisely because we believe in free association. Any philosophy taken too far is destructive--and we often believe government intervention has gone too far--which tends to make unions a good alternative.

        I'm fairly young--I can't really remember a time when unions appeared to do something beneficial in my life. Teachers unions have prevented me from getting tenured university faculty fired or even meaningfully reprimanded despite clear evidence of academic mi

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nine-times ( 778537 )

      I posit that one of the most prized products of Capitalism and the free market is to reduce the cost for the end consumer and raise the quality of the products and services. Now, the scientific formula for deciding the positive effectiveness of this is: (customer's percieved value)/(actual retail cost)

      Isn't that kind of stuff a little hard to measure scientifically when the customer's perceived value is relatively arbitrary and irrational []? The same customer can perceive the same item at wildly different values depending on context.

  • who's freedom? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by X10 ( 186866 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:22PM (#29847143) Homepage

    Liberarians tend to focus on "my freedom" more than on "your freedom".

    • Re:who's freedom? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:49PM (#29847513)
      That's because most libertarians are selfish bastards at heart. They are not concerned with such collectivist notions as creating a sustainable free society. Rather, it's all about maximizing their ability to put any chemical or object in their body they want, keep all of their money and hire the cheapest labor they can get.

      I say this as a political libertarian with social conservative sensibilities. The single biggest reason why libertarianism is going nowhere is because it's such an unfocused movement that grabs whatever liberty it can and that doesn't even pretend to have a higher vision than "I'll get mine." That turns off most voters. Even though under a libertarian system there'd be no corporate welfare at all (since there'd be a simple tax code and subsidizes would be outlawed in the constitution), their behavior gives normal, non-ideological people good reason to believe that a libertarian government would look like a plutocratic-kleptocratic oligarchy of rich people burdening the poor while enriching themselves, and vice totally out of control because libertarians never talk about the practical matter of **regulating vice** so it's like buying beer, not a free-for-all where any store can legally sell your kid crack.
    • John Galt complex (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ex-geek ( 847495 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:57PM (#29847625)

      Liberarians tend to focus on "my freedom" more than on "your freedom".

      Actually, a lot of them focus on the freedoms of their imaginary future selves and on the vast fortunes they are surely going to amass. See Joe the Plumber. So they end up defending big corporations and rich people, even if those pollute and exploit. The free market rhetoric is just a facade to sound somewhat reasonable.

      Libertarianism itself has valuable insights and should be taken seriously. It is spoiled by those who read Ayn Rand as teenagers and took up a professional career in corporate sponsored think tank libertarianism.

  • Where have you been? (Score:4, Informative)

    by lyinhart ( 1352173 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:25PM (#29847179)
    A better op-ed on this very subject was published by libertarian think thank The Cato Institute over two years ago: []
  • by hansamurai ( 907719 ) <> on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:26PM (#29847183) Homepage Journal

    I consider myself a libertarian and I'm a fan of FOSS simply because of the liberty and control it gives me over my computer and the software I use.

    My opinion has nothing to do with the free market, but if anything, FOSS lowers the barrier of entry into the software market incredibly, allowing anyone with a computer with the opportunity to participate in the market.

  • by cshbell ( 931989 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:27PM (#29847201)
    I wrote this here years ago, but it bears repeating: Libertarianism is the carrying out of fascism by other means. The one thing it precisely does not guarantee is liberty.
  • by WinterSolstice ( 223271 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:28PM (#29847207)

    That particular variety of Libertarian is more what people in the US think of, but they tend to really be more like republicans. []

    Sort of like not all democrats want abortions and the destruction of the military, not all republicans want freedom and religious facism, and not all greens walk to work :)
    Not all libertarians are facists, or communists, or free-market/anti-market - take your pick.
    Most just want maximal individual freedoms with minimal government.

    I'd say the F/OSS market is the BEST expression of Libertarian though, especially the Limited BSD/MIT style licenses. The GPL, well, that's another debate ;)

  • Copyright (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:30PM (#29847237) Journal

    The GPL requires copyright to be enforced. You can't place terms (such as releasing the source code) on distribution if distribution is already completely legal. Copyright is a government interference in the market, using force to set up temporary monopolies. If I understand libertarianism, that's a bad thing. So under the libertarian ideal, there would be no copyright, and so no GNU software.

    • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @01:29PM (#29848187) Journal

      The GPL requires copyright to be enforced. You can't place terms (such as releasing the source code) on distribution if distribution is already completely legal.

      The GPL exists to fix a problem with Copyright law: If you release a work in the public domain, somebody can make a modified version, copyright THAT, and enforce it against YOU. They can also create a compilation of a number of public domain works and copyright the compilation.

      This means, for instance, that some commercial entity could fix a bug in or add a feature to your public-domain software product and you couldn't make the equivalent fix or add the equivalent feature. Or they could construct a distribution (ala Red Had or Debian) and copyright it, and no equivalent could be made - first Linux distribution gets a monopoly on Linux distributions.

      GPL and most other FOSS licenses head this off by maintaining the copyright and using the licensing terms on the underlying work to deny adding such restrictions to derived works and compilations.

      But without copyright the restrictions couldn't be added. Sure, something like the GPL would be unenforceable. But if someone were to release a bug fix or upgrade, anyone could reverse-engineer it and include the fix/upgrade in another version of the public-domain work. If someone made a compilation, anyone else could make a similar or identical compilation. Or they could just copy the fixed/upgraded version or compilation. So the GPL's purpose - allowing software set free to STAY free - would be realized and the GPL would be unnecessary.

  • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:30PM (#29847243) Homepage Journal

    It serves my own purposes. As a developer I am not interested in licensing and IP. That kind of crap is for big corporations. My interests lie in being a paid expert where I go from one company to another and get paid to integrate or fix their free software based products. For small indepedent businesspeople, free software is a major asset. We can share the non-competitive aspects of the software. Operating systems, webservers, etc are all commodities. The important bits are where they are configured and customized for a businesses' needs, rather than licensing the software itself.

    Free software isn't socialism, it's the new capitalism. It's the small guy capitalism.

  • by ddillman ( 267710 ) <> on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:30PM (#29847247) Journal
    Is it just me, or is anyone else put off by people tooting their own horn by submitting their blog postings as stories? I mean, the guy seems to have something serious to say and seems readable, but geez, let someone else submit it to Slashdot, it doesn't look so much like self-serving aggrandizement or driving your page views up by slashdot effect...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Blakey Rat ( 99501 )

      If the article's good, it's good. If it's not, it's not... doesn't matter to me where it's published, or who tells me about it (even if it's the person who wrote it.)

      The real problem is that Slashdot rubber-stamps terrible articles all the time. If they only linked to really good articles on blogs, I doubt anybody would mind.

  • by Thalaric ( 197339 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:38PM (#29847367)

    Speaking as a registered libertarian, not everything in a capitalist system is done for profit (just ask the NRA or the EFF). And sometimes even innovation is done for innovation's sake.

    Of course, that software is inherently "information" is what makes this work (avoiding the economic problem of scarcity). "Knowledge" doesn't cost anything to pass on. I think where those right(er) wing libertarians get their signals crossed. They assume that because we currently have an idea of "Intellectual Property" that it is in some way a fundamental freedom. Or that because we currently have corporations that can exist as entities they fundamentally are. These are just assumptions built into our system, not facts. I don't remember reading anything in Locke about intelectual property rights. And I don't see how giving software away for free is anti-capitalist.

  • by MetricT ( 128876 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:40PM (#29847381)

    "An economist is someone who sees something that works in practice and wonders if it would work in theory."

    I like libertarian philiosophy myself, but the nuts in the crowd can't understand that markets/politics is a synthesis of human psychology and behaviors perturbed by random events, and doesn't have some underlying grand unified theory like physics. Real life has, and always will be, a muddle.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Abcd1234 ( 188840 )

      "An economist is someone who sees something that works in practice and wonders if it would work in theory."

      I like libertarian philiosophy myself

      That's amusing, given that libertarians hold precisely the opposite view, in that much like communists, they have a cool theory, and have this deluded notion that it would actually work in practice. It'd be funny, it if weren't for the fact that their bizarre notions have been used to drive economic policy...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Moridin42 ( 219670 )

      Interesting.. A quote about economists from a guy who didn't know dick about the economy. Implicitly equating economists with libertarians. And then implying that physics isn't real life. Very curious.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:45PM (#29847453) Journal
    While "Libertarian", in principle, comes down to a fairly tight set of notions about state noninterference, there are in practice a large number of ostensible "libertarians" that are pretty much strictly anti-regulation and pro-(specific)business, rather than libertarian as such.

    Anyone who is against the activities of a group of volunteers, doing as they wish with the fruits of their labor, and offering goods under their chosen terms(Yes Virginia, the GPL is simply a voluntary private contract, not some conspiracy to oppress you) just because there isn't enough money and market-rhetoric involved is a damn shoddy libertarian. Of course, anyone who argues against the environmental regulations that prevent people from unilaterally poisoning my person and property is also a damn shoddy libertarian, and we have masses of those.

    While certain flavors of market capitalism(and potentially even limited liability corporations) can be libertarian arrangements, anybody who mistakes supporting those for being a libertarian is, as they say, Doin' it Wrong.
  • by digsbo ( 1292334 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:45PM (#29847455)
    Net neutrality uses government regulations to enforce policy on a network which is privately owned and leased. It is a violation of the property rights of the network owner. This is unrelated to, and separate from, FOSS, in which the ownership is provided freely (which has some different meanings given the particular license/copyright). Two different issues philosophically, and poorly understood in TFA.
  • Any true... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:49PM (#29847507)
    Any true libertarian recognizes that copyright is an artificial regulation produced by the government and therefore should be reduced to a minimum length (think 5-20 years or so), or abolished and the DMCA further reduces a free economy. If we have sane copyright, reduced patents (Again is government regulation of an economy), and less government involvement (so governments can't mandate closed standards) we essentially have the perfect system for free software. Propriatary software can still exist but it is checked by the fact that people can legally use it after a certain sane amount of time, little to no patents, the ability to decompile and redistribute modified sources would make it be a free economy for both authors of software and consumers. Think of it this way, we might have Windows 9X in the public domain by now, we can decompile it and use it as more or less of a backend for WINE to emulate Windows, while NT might not yet be in the public domain, a lot of legacy programs are still used, this would get us one step closer to a perfect Linux system.

    Any libertarian who is against government intervention should be against copyright, and even though RMS might be against a state in which there is no or a very weak copyright, it is a plus for both free software and consumers.
  • Simple test (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fahrvergnugen ( 228539 ) <> on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:53PM (#29847563) Homepage

    A simple test that I ask big-L Libertarians to engage in before I will discuss anything political with them on the internet:

    Explain, in your own words, how the internet as it is presently could possibly have come to exist under a Libertarian political structure. In order to be taken seriously, Be sure to account for how we would have moved beyond the walled-garden networks of the late 80's early 90's, cite ARPAnet, and reference current backbone peering economics, including the recent maneuvering by Google which prompted the whole network neutrality debate in the first place.

    Nobody's passed it yet.

    • Re:Simple test (Score:4, Informative)

      by Thalaric ( 197339 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @01:16PM (#29847943)

      Before I can take your question seriously you have to define "Libertarian political structure".

      How about, how could a limited government with the help of academia and/or independant business interests create a network? For example, take 18th century new england turnpike construction or 19th century railroad networks and accompanying telegraph networks. I choose such an early example because you have to go that far back to find a small government.

      Regarding the walled-garden, it's inevitable since the worth of the network is proportional to the number of people on it. Unless there's a monopoly force at work, at some stage all networks must to interconnect.

    • Re:Simple test (Score:4, Informative)

      by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @03:19PM (#29849979) Journal

      Explain, in your own words, how the internet as it is presently could possibly have come to exist under a Libertarian political structure

      You ever hear of FIDO Net []? Or UUCP []? Or for that matter Telenet []?

      Here is the story: there were plenty of network efforts both by volunteers over modems and corporations largely over X.25. When I was in college, we had a Telenet connection to many other schools and a new-fanged "Internet" connection. The idea of hooking up networks was not a unique concept, but it is true that TCP/IP protocol (largely government funded) was in the right place at the right time (although we almost went ATM). There were several government-funded higher speed networks that took off at the same time that FIDO Net was linking the BBS world and UUCP was linking Unix boxes over modems. But it took privately built networks (UUNET, DIGEX, PSI) to bring the Internet to commercial businesses and non-university/non-military users. Commercial traffic was actually banned from the government-funded networks at first.

      I was an early employee of one of the first major nationwide DS-3 speed ISPs. We never worried much about government regulation, because government had no real clue what we were doing. We had porn servers. We peered with whom we wanted to and under what circumstances we wanted to. No "net neutrality". And there were instances of peering conflict between networks, but eventually calm heads prevailed and the Internet survived intact.

      I'll also give props to government-funded CERN for coming up with HTTP, and more importantly NCSA for coming up with the Mosaic web browser, but there was plenty of Internet going on (email, Usenet, Gopher, ftp, etc.) before the WWW.

  • Par for the course (Score:3, Insightful)

    by alanmusician ( 734071 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:59PM (#29847665)
    While I tend toward moderate libertarian ideals myself, this is a great example of why I always end up feeling alienated from the party itself. They always end up harping on legalizing hard drugs, having your own private tank, or some other extremist nonsense, and when they're not doing that they're pulling stuff like this that isn't even in line with their supposed values. There are some brilliant men in the party, but they usually end up taking a back seat to the louder-speaking loonies.
  • by grrrgrrr ( 945173 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:59PM (#29847669)
    I thought libertarian and free-market organizations would have disbanded by now because of the bank deregulation and economic catastrophe. These opinions seem a bit dated and a bit out of touch today. But I guess there are all kinds of old fashioned ideologies still around like religions but do we really care about what they think of free software? So why do we care here?
  • by daemonenwind ( 178848 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @01:02PM (#29847707)

    If you look under the covers, every article quoted by the blog post presented talk about linux in terms of POLICY DECISIONS by GOVERNMENT ENTITIES.

    When Munich went Linux, it made some open source folks realize that, if Linux had a hard road getting adoption by the likes of Dell and HP, then they could go the Apple route and be a government mandate (think schools)

    And so people began lobbying to get laws passed mandating the use of open-source tools by various government bodies.

    For example, in one of the articles (Open Source Socialism by Sonia Arrison) Lee quotes:

    But the pressing question is not whether open source can make its creators money, or its purported advantages over proprietary software. The current issue is whether government should be used to force an increase in open source deployment. A good deal of the frenzy is a reaction to the success of Microsoft. ....(my snip)....

    Microsoft has market power because it creates products that satisfy technology needs at the right price. If the open source community's products better satisfy those needs at a better price, then it shouldn't be necessary to legislate the use of open source in government departments, as some California activists suggested in August. It also shouldn't be necessary to legislate smaller items like the exact parts of a state's information technology (IT) infrastructure that must remain open, as Perens wants to do.

    If a government agency chooses to use an open or mixed system for efficiency and cost reasons, that is fine. But forcing the taxpayer's IT budget to favor one type of system over another for purely political reasons is wrong and antithetical to the spirit of the open source community.

    This is the primary concern of the libertarians - that choice is not mandated by legislative fiat. We should let the experts employed by the states decide what they'll run.

    I expect most folks reading Slashdot would feel the same way, in their own job.

    • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @01:54PM (#29848605) Journal

      [Argument that pushing FOSS mandates for government operations is an interference in the free market - consisting of government purchasing agents "expertly" and "freely" choosing proprietary software.]

      I was under the impression that the pushing of FOSS in government was about several other things:

        1) Keeping public documents and channels of required communications with government in freely readable formats, rather than locked up in proprietary formats that require those governed to purchase compatible software and/or agree to licensing terms in order to communicate.

        2) Keeping the details of the operation of government open and auditable, rather than exposing it to malware inside of black-box software products.

        3) Cost containment - imposed on the government by its citizens, who are the primary payers of the taxes that pay for the government's IT operation.

      1) and 2) are clearly "open information" issues, where it's obvious which choice is "open". Only 3) even touches on either "free market" or "choice in software" ideals that you claim are being violated. And given that governments (in republics at least) are supposed to be agencies of their citizens, this decision is properly the right of those citizens if they chose to issue such policy directives to their hired agents rather than relying solely on the agents' judgement.

  • by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @01:21PM (#29848047) Homepage

    Everybody wants to wrap themselves in the flag of the free market, and claim that their view is the definition of free market. Let me take a quick moment to define a few terms:

    Free Market: Objective is to maximize the efficiency of allocation of resources by maximizing the ability of people to make rational, informed, free decisions on how to transact liquid wealth.

    Laissez Faire: Believes that the objective of the free market can best be achieved by minimizing government involvement in corporate decision making (typically except those decisions regarding contracts, copyright, trademark, patents, and trade dress).

    Libertarian: Believes that the objective of the free market can best be achieved by minimizing government involvement in all decision making (typically except those decisions regarding contracts, copyright, trademark, patents, and trade dress).

    Capitalism: Believes that the objective of the free market can best be achieved by maximizing return on capital.

    The proponents of each of the latter three beliefs above profess that their belief system is synonymous with the free market. However, since they are all explicitly maximizing or minimizing different things than what the free market maximizes, it is not by definition that they are synonymous. Hence their hypothesis of synonymity is subject to analysis and disproof -- even if you fully accept the primacy of the free market.

  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @01:48PM (#29848491) Journal

    I'd like to point out that Libertarians do not all have the same beliefs. We tend not to blindly adhere to every plank of some party platform.

    This particular libertarian thinks that if you create a product, you have the right to charge whatever you want for it, including nothing. I personally don't see how a free market proponent can argue differently. Sometimes it takes a free or extremely cheap product to bust up a monopoly, when legal and market maneuvers continue to force a price that the product is no longer worth. I think any real Libertarian would argue against government intervention, but there's something extremely satisfying in watching regular people successfully compete against software giants in their spare time. I would argue strongly that this is how the free market is supposed to work. If you're trying to charge a high price for something that another person is giving away for free, chances are there's something wrong with your business model.

  • by DaveGod ( 703167 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @01:55PM (#29848611)

    It's telling that the first line of the Wiki [] is "Libertarianism is a term adopted by a broad spectrum of political philosophies". The first line of the second paragraph is "All forms of libertarianism support strong personal rights to life and liberty, but do not agree on the subject of property".

    So how can we have a discussion which is fundamentally about questioning the libertarian stance on property when there isn't one?

    To me libertarianism derives from liberty and hence the fundamental rule is everybody should be free to do as they please, provided that does not encroach on the equal rights of others, at which point a fair and just balance must be struck. (If you "get it" you'll realise everything past the first comma is redundant.) For what it's worth I certainly do not agree with the elimination of the state because a) the state (or at least judiciary) is necessary to arbitrate and enforce "a fair and just balance" b) there are major practical considerations such as markets not being perfect.

    To relate to the OP, I have a suspicion my take fundamentally agrees to that of the author but the article loses itself in the detail while fundamentally the debate is about principle. Talk of a "bottom-up, participatory structure" and so on is not relevant. The question is, does free software impinge on the rights of others? My answer is of course not. It may be difficult for paid-software to compete, but nobody has a right to do well in the market place, they only have the right to try.

Have you ever noticed that the people who are always trying to tell you `there's a time for work and a time for play' never find the time for play?