Subject: Re: Free Software vs. Open Source
From: Russell Nelson <nelson@crynwr.com>
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2002 12:22:46 -0500 (EST)

Norbert Bollow writes:
 > Russell Nelson <nelson@crynwr.com> wrote:
 > 
 > > Businesses, to be as successful as they can, must not
 > > adopt any morality.
 > 
 > What exactly do you mean with this?

By this I mean that anything which interferes with being of service to
customers (e.g. not serving those damned niggers, as a racist might
say it) is counter to the interests of the business.  Why, then, you
might ask, were whites and blacks served separately in the US through
most of the previous century?  Because even though a majority
preferred to discriminate, business values (call it morality if you
want) dictate non-discrimination.  A set of businesses could try to
form a cartel to discriminate, but cartels always break down.
Sometimes it takes decades and decades, but even the deBeers diamond
cartel is breaking down.  No, in order to successfully discriminate,
the majority had to pass a law (which majorities do very well)
mandating discrimination.  And hence, the Jim Crow laws and then the
whole separate-but-equal(-my-foot!) nonsense.

So, I'm not sure that morality is the right word.  I hope I have made
myself clear regardless.  A free software business is going to act as
if its highest value was the freedom of its software (otherwise it
falls out of the category of FSB), BUT it can't try to promulgate that
belief unless its customers want it to.  It's all very well and good
for the FSF to say that the freedom to share and modify is an ethical
requirement.  The FSF can afford to be a leader.  A FSB must be a
follower, and do sell what its customers want to buy.

I'm makin' this up as I go along, so if I'm full of crap, please tell
me so.  I have no references to fall back on, no books by famous
authors who are smarter than I.  I'm just talking about what I know,
and I'm just as eager as the next guy to be corrected if I'm wrong.

-- 
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