Subject: Re: Free Software == Dumping??
From: Michael Travers <mt@media.mit.edu>
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 95 00:13:04 -0400

    Date: Tue, 27 Jun 1995 18:28:19 -0400
    From: Craig Burley <burley@gnu.ai.mit.edu>
    
    A necessary component of dumping is the intent not only to force
    competitors out of the market but to, by doing so, gain exclusive
    access to that market so that the prices can be increasing again...
    
    Personally, I'd rather see government get out of any areas where
    people are capable of (and allowed to) exercise their own free
    will to obtain the desired end, WHETHER OR NOT they might actually
    do so in any given instance.  So, since consumers are _potentially_
    smart enough to decide for themselves whether to actually purchase
    the dumped products, or having done so, to continue to purchase
    the products once the competitors are ruined and the prices are
    raised, I'd prefer government to not do the regulating.  After all,
    if consumers were sufficiently educated to make these choices (and
    cheap communication a la Internet makes this more feasible), and
    businesses knew this, dumping basically wouldn't happen -- dumpers
    would be shooting themselves in the foot.

It's not a question of whether purchasers are educated enough. There
is a collective action problem here.  For any individual, it's more
rational to purchase the underpriced, dumped merchandise.  So if you
want to eliminate the hard caused by dumping, people have to be either
convinced or forced to act against their immediate self-interest in
favor of a collective, longer-term good.  Anti-dumping laws are one
way to accomplish this.  What you are suggesting above is essentially
a boycott.  Boycotts can be effective tools, but generally they only
work when there are clear moral issues at stake. I doubt that a
boycott could be organized against dumping, even with the Internet.
    
    BTW, suppose a very vicious form of dumping, e.g. where an organization
    offers free food to an increasingly large and dependent group of people,
    such that the competition (those trying to sell food to those people)
    is forced out (or at least forced to raise prices to afford to continue
    doing business in the area)...

If you are trying to make an analogy between dumping and welfare, it's
pretty strained.  Welfare does not compete with supermarkets, since it
is not usually in the form of direct grants of food, and when it is it
is to people who cannot afford to shop at the supermarkets.  The only
conceivable group that is in "competition" with welfare is employers,
who cannot expect to hire people for less than what they can receive
from the dole.
    
    Note that in discussing dumping, people rarely consider that the
    "intent" of the dumpers might be overtly to "help consumers by offering
    them less-expensive products".
    
If that's the intent, then it isn't dumping, as you yourself said
above.

Having wandered away from the topic: it's clear to me that free
software of the FSF variety is not dumping.  But I believe the
original query was about Netscape.  What they are doing, as I
understand it, is giving away beta versions of their browser, with the
intent (or at least the possibility) of charging for the finished
version later.  Given that they are the dominant supplier, this can
easily be seen as dumping.  I think it's important to keep the
distinction clear.