Subject: Re: FW: Why would I pay for Ximian software?
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <stephen@xemacs.org>
Date: 22 Dec 2001 14:34:19 +0900

Scott Capdevielle <scott@syndicom.com> writes:

    >> In my opinion, a more civil society would freely share their
    >> intellectual property, rather than restrict and charge for it.

That's not a civil society, that's a children's sandbox.  (In a good
sense, I'm talking about a pack of happy children, playing and
learning together.  I spent the morning in one.  :-)

In the adult world, people are willing to work (ie, do things that
aren't immediately fun) in order to earn the resources they need to
have more fun when they're not working.  So what should they do first?
If you think that's a question worthy of careful consideration, then
you implicitly accept pricing of resources, including intellectual
assets (not "property", which is a legal concept).  Prices are simply
the dual variable (in the linear programming sense) of waiting time.

Although it would be nice if we could do things according to Marx's
Maxim ("from each according to his abilities, to each according to his
needs") it turns out that _even in a world where everyone states their
needs and abilities accurately and honestly_ there is no more
efficient way than the price system to set priorities.  (In the
mathematical economics literature, this is called a "realization
mechanism".)

Interestingly enough, making people actually _pay_ the price they say
they're willing to pay also works in a world where people are either
dishonest or inaccurate in stating valuations.  (In the math econ
literature, this is called an "incentive" or "implementation
mechanism.")

Of course, it's mere math, and may or may not reflect the world "well
enough."  But it provides strong reason to believe that establishing a
"civil society" in the sense you mean will be either extremely
difficult, or quite a bit poorer in material (including software and
other intellectual assets) goods than the society we do have.

Perhaps poverty is compensated by civility.  I certainly think so: my
salary as a professor is only a fraction of what I could make on Wall
Street (however, I'm tempted).  But I have come to understand that the
vast majority of human beings disagree with me.

>>>>> "Kevin" == Kevin A Burton <burton@openprivacy.org> writes:

    Kevin> I think that the developers work is certainly worth paying
    Kevin> for.  We just need a decent (micro?) payment system that
    Kevin> can support this :)

Find one, and you will get very very rich on the nanocommissions---you
could live comfortably on picocommissions.  :-)  I think it's highly
unlikely that a practical one exists, though.  The collapse of the
distribution-oriented dot-coms was not an accident.  Rather, it
reflects just how well-tuned the existing market system is to
delivering goods to the paying customers, in the face of the inherent
defects in the valuation system.


-- 
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;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.