Subject: Re: slavery and freedom
From: "John McDermott" <>
Date: Wed, 03 Sep 2008 15:09:44 -0600

On Wed, 03 Sep 2008 14:50:58 -0600, Thomas Lord <> wrote:

> Ben and Chris (Tilly and DiBona) are committing a logical fallacy.
> Ben offers an anecdotal "attitudinal survey" of the Perl community
> and Chris offers a sociological attitudinal survey of open source
> volunteers.
> Both report a large degree of contentment among volunteers.
> Both use these observations to argue that volunteers are not being
> exploited.
> The fallacy is that attitude, no matter how accurately measured,
> has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not the subject is being
> exploited.

Your last statement is indeed true. However you miss the issue. A  
situation perceived by both parties as win-win is not exploitation (if  
both parties are of sound mind and there is no coercion).  Even if an  
impartial outside observer does not see the win-win nature, and thinks one  
side is getting a better deal, if it is still win-win to the participants,  
it is not exploitation.

When I contribute to a project, and I see that giving my labor gets me  
something I want, it can be a win-win for me and the "project".  If you  
think I am operating at a loss, that does not make it exploitation.

If in a "free" market I sell a widget for a dollar, and I believe that I  
got a fair price, then I got a fair price. If you think it was worth five  
dollars and the buyer "cheated" me, you are entitled to your opinion. This  
is what a free market is about.

> Consider the "battered spouse syndrome":  victims of exploitation
> *often* express attitudes of contentment with or preference for
> their situation.   We recognize, anyway, that they are indeed
> exploited, regardless of their attitude.

This is not an example of a win-win situation where both parties are of  
sound mind. There may also be coercion.

> The attitudinal surveys are irrelevant to the questions at hand.

Only if you can show that the participants are not of sound mind or you  
can show coercion. If the surveys show that they are in a perceived  
win-win situation, then they are relevant. [And the notion of win-win is  
really all about perception isn't it?]

> -t

John McDermott, CPLP, CCP
Learning and Performance Consultant
jjm at
V: +1 575/377-6293  Please call for fax access.