Thursday, June 30, 2005

Richard Stallman and GNU - political extremist

> you might take a look at the philosophy behind Free Software

Well, I've read the GNU ideological material before and am entirely familiar with what it advocates.

As a property rights advocate and observer of the national historical experience I disagree with practically every point espoused by GNU. Sure, ideas benefit society and in time all ideas eventually become part of the civilization knowledge base. Yet the originators of ideas should have opportunity to profit from their particular advancements. Software is a product that can cost extraordinary amounts to produce (cost of replication is an entirely different and somewhat irrelevant matter). It's no different than any physical product that is conceived, made, and sold to the audience of those that believe they could stand to benefit from said product in some manner.

GNU: "The system of owners of software encourages software owners to produce something - but not what society really needs. And it causes intangible ethical pollution that affects us all."

Actually for those who create commercial software that is not what society really needs, they soon learn of their error by the feedback mechanism of the marketplace. Notice the shear arrogance and conceit of Stallman/GNU as they assert to be wiser than everyone else such that they truly know what it is society really needs as pertaining to the production of software. And the silly appeal to some purposely vague "ethical pollution" - the hallmark reasoning tactic of a conceited group that sets out to assert its moral superiority over everyone else via innuendo.

GNU: "The economic argument for owners is erroneous"

I have no problem with folk that want to write software and give it away for free and share it with a community. People should certainly enjoy the freedom to do as they want in that regard. However to GNU, the so-called "freedom" that they espouse is really only in the fascist terms that they envision it. The true believer fanatics of the GNU creed would prefer that all software be created under the terms and conditions that they advocate. The continuing of existence of a commercial software marketplace of the traditional manner disturbs them deeply - it practically drives Stallman into conniptions.

GNU: "Society also needs freedom. When a program has an owner, the users lose freedom to control part of their own lives."

This is the standard line of all political socialism. The practical problem with socialism, of course, is that it is entirely too one-sided in terms of who has rights. True civil society is founded on a means to arrive at balanced relations between societal members. Hence users of software shouldn't be absolute in their rights as the GNU political ideology would have, but instead there needs to be a balance between those who create/fashion/fabricate and those that benefit by its acquisition/use. Private property rights and the marketplace is the means that societies achieve civil balance between differing parities and thus promote the greatest welfare.

GNU: "It also states that the purpose of copyright is to promote progress---not to reward authors. Copyright does reward authors somewhat, and publishers more, but that is intended as a means of modifying their behavior."

Well, here we have at least a cryptic (and grudging) admission that profit motive was what was considered by the Founders as the best means to promote human progress. The Founders were realist and thus sought how to best fashion government and its rules to the nature of man. The Founders were very wise by and large. Stallman, though, is nothing but a political extremist and his politics is counter to the bulwark of what the Founders fashioned.


  • You can certainly be against Free Software, but you are going to run into problems if you start making economic claims. You'll agree, I'm sure, that in a free market, the price of goods is driven down to the marginal cost of production by competition. (Ask any economist). The marginal cost of production for software is what? I can copy bits for pretty close to zero dollars. Zero cost software is the natural outcome of a free market in software. In an effort to prevent this, software vendors engage in rent seeking behavior and appeal to the government to grant them monopolies (copyrights and patents). That's not something Adam Smith would endorse.

    Copyrights are only a minor annoyance, since they protect a particular work and the GPL is a clever hack designed to use the system against itself. Software patents are an abomination though. Ideas aren't property. They're nonrivalrous in use, and you can't defend an idea, especially one that has an independent discovery. Compare that to physical goods like land, or even intangible goods like chastity. If you squat on my land, I can't use it for other purposes. And I can do a good job of defending it by putting up fences or unleashing the hounds. Somewhere in our DNA is a gene for protecting and hoarding scarce resources. We'll fight to protect them. That's 100% natural. So society has institutionalized this notion as property rights in the hopes of limiting the fighting. But you can't even know if someone, somewhere is using an idea similar to yours, let alone try to prevent it from happening. It's like sunshine. Sure, we could make it subject to property rights, but that would be unworkable and downright wrong.

    But Stallman doesn't care about economic arguments, he is only interested in protecting users from becoming digital sharecroppers in an age of plenty. And he is not advocating the violent confiscation of your work to better the public good. He's convincing people with words and deeds to voluntarily contribute to the cause. Here's the great thing about it. You don't have to participate. Just don't be surprised if we think you are suffering from a case of sour grapes.

    By Anonymous Greg Buchholz, at 9:31 AM  

  • Although I'm sure you know it, but for the other readers out there, I'll quote from section 8...

    To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:38 AM  

  • Oh, and I couldn't resist digging up one of my previous essays...

    Intellectual property laws are a necessity for modern society. Take corn farmers for example. What incentive would farmers have to plant corn and sell it without IP laws? How would they recoup their initial R&D? Surely, there would be only one customer ever and that customer would buy just one solitary kernel. The buyer could merely throw the seed into the ground and with no work of his own (effortless copying), he would have access to a 100 copies of unlicensed derivative corn kernel IP in the matter of a few short months. In fact, the buyer now has complete access to the very same self-replicating nanotechnlogy that the farmer had. The buyer could then give away the corn IP to a friend or neighbor or (gasp!) even try to sell it for a profit. The ease of copying is the major problem with corn and encryption methods haven't been sucessful so far. Agriculture is one of the major industry in this country and we'd all hate to see it destroyed because of a handful of out-of-control corn pirates. So surely you can see there is no way farmers would even consider growing corn until we have strong government enforced monolopolies in corn.

    By Anonymous Greg Buchholz, at 9:47 AM  

  • Readers might also be interested in Against IP and Against Intellectual Monopoly for a more academic view of property rights in ideas.

    By Anonymous Greg Buchholz, at 10:07 AM  

  • 1. Patents are over inventions, not ideas.
    2. Patents are limited by time. Planting seeds is considered to be prior art.
    3. Pfizer never would've developed Viagra, for good and for bad, it is wasn't for patents. That's just an example, for course.
    4. Farmers already enjoy overwhelming subsidies.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:45 AM  

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