The Libertarian Case for Free Software

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News: The Libertarian Case for Free Software

  1. The Libertarian Case for Free Software (8 messages)

    Libertarian columnist Timothy Lee has written up "The Libertarian Case for Free Software", pointing out his own article called "Why Libertarians Should Celebrate Free Software", arguing that free software is a fulfillment (of sorts) of a libertarian ideal. He argues against the idea that "Free software has caught some flack among libertarians who fault it for its failure to rely on the traditional mechanisms of the market."
    Some libertarians seem to have developed a similar knee–jerk reaction against free software. Free software is produced through the cooperation of volunteers without anyone receiving exclusive rights in the finished product. This volunteerism has produced such widely used software as the Linux operating system, the Apache web server, and the Firefox web browser. A lot of free software is licensed under the Free Software Foundation's General Public License. The GPL is a "copyleft" license. The nickname may be provocative, but the GPL is an exercise of copyright control as much as any other license: it permits unlimited modification and redistribution of the software provided that any derivative software be made available under the same license. Many libertarians are ambivalent about free software, and some are downright hostile. When the FSF recently released a new draft of the GPL, it got a chilly reception from some libertarian and free–market analysts. And for years various libertarian writers have argued that the free software model is unsustainable because developers will not continue giving away valuable software indefinitely. That is unfortunate because free software projects like Linux, Apache, and Firefox are in fact excellent illustrations of the power of libertarian ideas.
    It's interesting seeing political motives behind software development - and it's also nice seeing the mainstream (well, so far as Libertarians are mainstream) value the product of so many open source developers.
  2. Personally, I've also assumed anyone who attacks open source as being "communist" or "socialist" has no clue what "respecting freedoms," particularly property rights (a foundation of capitalism) means. I've argued it and seen it argued on many occasions. But it's nice to see someone with a little political influence saying it.
  3. typical libertarians...[ Go to top ]

    I think the problem is that these libertarians read too many blogs and manifestos. They seem to be focusing too much on the "volunteerism" part of OSS and missing that there are a lot of free market companies *saving* and *making* a lot of money from OSS. Can't say I'm surprised by their misguidedness. I remember a Libertarian running for governor in MA with a platform of cutting taxes 80%. I take them just as seriously as I take Stallman and Geir Magnusson, meaning, not seriously at all.... Bill
  4. Re: typical libertarians...[ Go to top ]

    Libertarians are no different than any other group that doesn't fully understand the value in OSS business models, and the inherent freedoms built in to that model. This is new to laymen, and we shouldn't expect anything different at this point.
    I remember a Libertarian running for governor in MA with a platform of cutting taxes 80%. I take them just as seriously as I take Stallman and Geir Magnusson, meaning, not seriously at all....

    Bill
    Tax-cuts lead to economic growth: Either you failed Econ 101, or all those years living with the Kennedy/Kerry tax-til-you-drop duo have affected you. Hugs, and Kisses, Bill. ;-)
  5. Re: typical libertarians...[ Go to top ]

    I think the problem is that these libertarians read too many blogs and manifestos. They seem to be focusing too much on the "volunteerism" part of OSS and missing that there are a lot of free market companies *saving* and *making* a lot of money from OSS
    I actually followed the article and came across this link which seems to refute the above - they (whoever they maybe) do appear to see the "savings" and profits. The question is whether there are indeed real figures to support the common view you share with the Libertarians. http://www.ipi.org/ipi/IPIPublications.nsf/PublicationLookupFullText/F4992D9C7780355786256E49001E7595
    Agendas of advocacy groups mask weaknesses ...Most communities pushing for the release of source code are vested interests who gain from open source at the expense of software developers, but this is not usually acknowledged. Communities advocating for open source fall into four main groups - IBM, hardware makers, commodity firms and some types of lawyers. For IBM, open source is a Trojan horse that gives its consulting business access to lucrative government accounts around the world. The consulting fees charged by outsourcers for the switch to open source are often comparable to the license fees that would have been paid to Microsoft. The inconsistency in IBM’s open source advocacy can be seen in the tight hold it exercises on the source code for its own profitable software products, such as the expensive Websphere application server. For hardware makers such as Sun, HP, IBM and some makers of embedded devices, open source is a way to reduce the cost of software and thus expand the market for computers. While this is a perfectly legitimate aim for those companies, it is not in the interests of software developers or of developing countries that might have a chance of building useful software industries. For web firms and some support businesses, open source represents a reduction in costs. A common mistake in policy analysis is to see those firms as representing software developers, when they are better seen as customers of software developers. These firms will naturally advocate for software to be cheaper, while charging top dollar for their own services. For law firms and lawyers, open source represents a rich opportunity to benefit from the increased complexity of licensing and copyright agreements. Only lawyers benefit from this.
    regards -William
  6. Re: typical libertarians...[ Go to top ]

    I think the problem is that these libertarians read too many blogs and manifestos. They seem to be focusing too much on the "volunteerism" part of OSS and missing that there are a lot of free market companies *saving* and *making* a lot of money from OSS.

    Can't say I'm surprised by their misguidedness. I remember a Libertarian running for governor in MA with a platform of cutting taxes 80%. I take them just as seriously as I take Stallman and Geir Magnusson, meaning, not seriously at all....

    Bill
    I think software development must go (and in fact is already going) to a saner place: For free: if used for non-profit. With fee: if used for profit (for instance to build a profit based web site ...). Otherwise we are going to build a poor software industry of myriads of products built by smart hobbyist/volunteer-ist and used by a crowd of people with profit objectives without no return. Is it the libertarian dream? Some popular products suffer the "success paradox": extreme popularity/no business model around it, no people paid to work in it, poor documentation because no one is interested in (to write). Is this a sane industry? Are we fool? People like JBoss, Interface21, Terracotta, Trolltech etc are building a more solid software industry based on open source, Sun is following the path too (the drawback is that Sun is not a "pure" software company).
  7. It's a funny thing that libertarians have anything good to say about software licensing at all, as copyrights and patents are one of the purest forms of "government fiat".
  8. Libertarianism is a political philosophy maintaining that all persons are the absolute owners of their own lives, and should be free to do whatever they wish with their persons or property, provided they allow others the same liberty
    A liberal should celebrate someones right to choose what license they decide to put their work under. What type of license they choose is irrelevant. I think the author has to much time on his hands and should get out more often.
  9. Libertarianism is a political philosophy maintaining that all persons are the absolute owners of their own lives, and should be free to do whatever they wish with their persons or property, provided they allow others the same liberty


    A liberal should celebrate someones right to choose what license they decide to put their work under. What type of license they choose is irrelevant.

    I think the author has to much time on his hands and should get out more often.
    Holy crap! I'm libertarian! Uh, i feel dirty... Bill