Subject: Re: New ESR paper: The Magic Cauldron
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Fri, 25 Jun 1999 14:50:15 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Eric" == Eric S Raymond <esr@thyrsus.com> writes:

    Eric> Stephen J. Turnbull <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>:

    Ian> He spends time on the tragedy of the commons, [...]  Do
    Ian> people really make that objection?

    >> Eric (or his consulting economist) is being sloppy. [...]

    Eric> You misunderstood my exposition (pardonably so, as I look
    Eric> back at the wording -- I'll have to try to make the point
    Eric> explicitly somewhere).

OK.  (Not entirely pardonably; I considered the interpretation that
you were addressing a common misconception and rejected it.)  That
still leaves Ian's question: where have you heard this objection?
I've never heard it, evidently Ian hasn't either.  It's not in the GNU 
Manifesto, one obvious place where there's a long list of objections.

But the "free rider problem" objection is everywhere, and you get that
one wrong.  First, there definitely _is_ a free rider problem for
J. Random Bugfixer, two of them in fact.  The first is that some
people will never fix or report any bugs at all, although they would
do so for compensation, leading to a lower total value (fewer features)
for the project.  The second is that even J. Random herself may decide
that "it's not worth submitting this fix because I'll have to clean up
the patch, write a ChangeLog entry, and sign the bloody FSF assignment
papers ... it's easy, the maintainers or someone else will get to it."
Again, features (here, elimination of bugs) are underprovided.

Second, the free rider problem can be present even if the project gets
implemented; free riding can result in a project of too small a scale.
Thus the fact that Red Hat doesn't object to CheapBytes doesn't mean
that Red Hat Linux wouldn't be a better product if Red Hat received a
larger amount of revenues from people who are buying CheapBytes.  You
don't explicitly deny that, but you leave the impression that it's not
a problem---call it a "bug in the exposition."

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