Subject: Re: FW: Why would I pay for Ximian software?
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <stephen@xemacs.org>
Date: 04 Jan 2002 22:03:54 +0900

>>>>> "Bernard" == Bernard Lang <Bernard.Lang@inria.fr> writes:

    Bernard> The tragedy of commons arises from attempting to turn a
    Bernard> common resource into competing private ones, not caring
    Bernard> for the global usefulness of the resulting production.

No, the _tragedy_ of the commons arises from _failing_ to treat as a
private good what is perfectly reasonable to treat that way, viz, a
rivalrous resource.  So it has nothing to do with software as such.

    Bernard> the commons of egineering competence

There are two sides to engineering competence.  Labor, which is not a
commons at all as Karsten points out.  And "embodied" engineering
competence, ie, software.  Embodied competence is "accidental", as
Fred Brooks ("No Silver Bullet") says; the labor is "essential".

I believe Brooks: it's a truth about engineering.  But what's
important is that it is most definitely true from the FSB standpoint:
we're all here because we're interested in the problem of compensating
_developers_ instead of "owners of (private) intellectual property".

    Bernard>    If you have a limited pool of a given rivalrous
    Bernard> resource, avoid turning it into a common, because the
    Bernard> invisible hand of economic selfishness will quickly
    Bernard> destroy it by overgrazing.

This isn't a problem in software.  The essential rivalrous resource is
labor.  By law in all countries I know of, not only is labor a private
good, but it can't even be sold, it must be rented.  No commons here.

So, as usual, we come back to the problem: producing a non-rivalrous
good requires a rivalrous resource.  The former "should" be priced at
marginal cost (near zero), whereas the latter "should" have a
relatively high price.  Result: an _essential_ market failure.  But
nothing does better than the market AFAICS.  :-(


-- 
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences     http://turnbull.sk.tsukuba.ac.jp
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
              Don't ask how you can "do" free software business;
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