Subject: Re: Exploring the limits of free software: Cygnus, and GPL
From: Jean Camp <>
Date: Wed, 26 May 1999 12:02:49 -0400

>"Stephen J. Turnbull" <>>
>    >> Here's the kicker: if I figure out how to maximize social
>    >> benefit, I will probably be able to do the profit maximization
>    >> (and any combination in between) as a corollary.
<> writes:
>    Jean> And I will guess they are mutually exclusive solutions to
>    Jean> the equations that are the question.
>"Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
>Well, you are either drastically underinformed, or you didn't
>understand the implicit model at all.

Don't be a snob,  economics is not brain surgery. I just disagree with you.
The model works for lemonade and M&M's but not FS.

>If that does make sense to you, then please explain the grounds for
>your guess.  I can think of some, but none of them apply as far as I
There is no reason to assume that the socially optimal and profit
maximization occur at the same point because free software is a public
good: it is non-rival and non-excluadable.* What was the Nobel Prize on
this, Arrow?, said that the best way was to tax everyone and then Coase
(most ref him, not Gilmore, sorry ;->) said that without transactions costs
negotiation of externalities may result in both socially optimal and
profit maximization.  Transactions costs do seem to exist; however.

Anyway by defintion FS is a public good, but the reasonably predicted lack
of supply does not occur. To me this does not imply that  economic models
will never fail. ;->

Here on this list are examples of real world attempts to resolve the
problem by finding out just if a system can be configured given that  the
transactions costs are uncertain, and the threshold for Coase thereom are
not determined in this case.  I have much respect for the constructed FS
markets and the  pure hacking skill and organizational skill evident in the
(not homogenous but pretty damn impressive) FS community.

You propose as the absolute certain predictive truth (and economics while
valuable  is weak on prediction) that social benefit == maximization in the
special case of free software where the standard economic assumptions do
not hold. I disagree.

I disagree because, as the other thread points out (as does  the critical difficult part is creating some
functioning mechanism to address the problem of  PAYING the free software
people well enough. If the free software people are not paid well enough we
have  closed software: an infrastructure governing issues like privacy and
access and ability to speak which we the people are prohibited by property
law from examining.  Provision of FS is IMHO a critical important
governance issue of the information age, the difference between facism and
open dialogue. I hope to have the joy of spending my life considering
issues of electronic civil libertiess. Economics would predict that free
software, and therefore the resulting liberties,  are underprovided, that
equivalent proprietary  software would dominate. That does not seem to be
the case right now, it looks more like the marketplac eof ideas than the
m&m's marketplace. Given that there is no equivalent proprietary software,
that  is untested.

read intro to... oh please. the answer which you offered is in fact the
interesting question.

PS Government doesn't do all governance lots of organizations do so please
don't misread my statement as a suggestion for active policy management. I
think in fact that is a BAD IDEA (excluding the elimination of monopoly, an
appropriate role at this time).

Non-rival means that my using it doesn't stop you from using.
Non-excludable means that  I cannot stop you from using it,
The classic example is of a lighthouse where all skips can see the warning
and it has not traditionally been possible to provide light only to those
who pay.