Subject: Re: FW: Why would I pay for Ximian software?
From: David Fetter <david@fetter.org>
Date: Thu, 3 Jan 2002 09:58:13 -0800

On Thu, Jan 03, 2002 at 12:21:34PM -0500, Joshua C. Lerner wrote:
> On Thu, 3 Jan 2002, Harald Koch wrote:
> 
> > "Joshua C. Lerner" wrote:
> >
> > > Yes, capitalism is oriented around corporations trying to
> > > maximize profit.  Individuals too are generally interested in
> > > maximizing income.
> >
> > Most individuals I know are interested in maximizing "standard of
> > living", an entirely different measure
> 
> Sure, the value of income (money) is based on what you can do with
> it.  Isn't money what you use to raise your standard of living?  I
> guess I need to know how you define "standard of living".
> 
> > which (after a certain point) is only loosely related to income.
> 
> How do you figure this?
> 
> > This is one of the disconnects between pure free-market capitalism
> > and reality; money is not the only measure of progress or
> > perfection.
> 
> For individuals, sure. I have goals in life besides making money. I
> think for most people, making money is not the #1 priority. But it's
> up there.

I think staying healthy, keeping up with your family, having friends,
feeling like a part of a community are *way* ahead of making money for
most people, and the only counter-examples I've met are sorry
specimens indeed.

> > Neither is "efficient resource allocation", but that's another
> > argument :)
> >
> > > The paradox of capitalism, IMHO, is that the needs of society as
> > > a whole are best met when businesses and individuals act in
> > > their own best self-interest. Others have explained why better
> > > than I ever could.
> >
> > Unfortunately, businesses and indivuduals seldom act in their own
> > best self-interest; that's *hard*.
> 
> If businesses "seldom" act in their own self-interest (which is to
> maximize profit),

Let's look at that a little more closely.  "Maximizing profit" in the
short term could mean doing things like screwing over your employees,
playing funny accounting games, cutting corners on safety and
security, etc. which eventually cause the company to go under.

"Maximizing profit" in the long term could mean investing in R&D,
keeping your employees happy, etc. and could (gasp) mean actually
*losing* money for a quarter or six.

> then how do they survive at all? Do you envision some kind of race
> to the bottom? Is it all just based on chance?

A gigantic part of it is just that, as any honest person who's started
companies--they almost always have to start more than one--will tell
you.

> How do you account for which companies thrive and which fail?

I don't have the arrogance to believe I know a deterministic answer to
that, and considering the plethora of books, etc. that are supposed to
guarantee success in business vs. actual successes in business, I
submit that nobody else really knows either.

> > For corporations, there are numerous pressures to do the opposite;
> > quarterly earnings expectations are one obvious one.
> 
> How is meeting quarterly earnings estimates NOT in a public
> company's best interest?

See above.

> > Individuals rarely even known what their own best self-interest
> > is.

> That's a rather dangerous opinion.

Why?  Because it's not libertarically correct according to you?

> The point is, who is most qualified to make that judgment for
> himself or herself. You? The State? Or the individual?

That depends very much on the individual and the situation.  A
3-year-old is not in the least bit qualified to make such a judgment,
nor should she be allowed to.  Jeff Dahmer wasn't qualified to make
such judgments either.  Rebellious suburban 15-year-olds are not
qualified to decide they're going to do [random parent-aggravating
act], and thank goodness, most are prevented from doing so.  Drunks
ought not to get behind the wheel of a car.

> Do you think you typically try to act in your own best
> self-interest? 

Not all the time.  Often my judgment is clouded and/or I am
under-informed and/or I am misinformed.

> If "yes", don't you think most people would say the same thing about
> themselves?

If they think so, that doesn't necessarily mean they're right.

Cheers,
D
-- 
David Fetter david@fetter.org http://fetter.org/~shackle/
phone: +1 510 893 6100