Subject: Re: [ppc-mobo] Re: GNU License for Hardware
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1999 12:26:12 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Kragen" == Kragen Sitaker <> writes:

    Kragen> Russ Nelson writes:
    >> RMS is in the majority of people who think that economics is
    >> about money.  It's not.  Economics is the study of what people
    >> do with their freedom -- why they make the choices they make.

    Kragen> Economics is the study of what fictional people with
    Kragen> purely selfish motivations, and classically perfect
    Kragen> information about their alternatives and perfect strategy,
    Kragen> do.  It is not the study of what people actually do, in
    Kragen> large numbers or otherwise; predicting that requires a
    Kragen> more advanced form of psychology than we currently
    Kragen> possess.

    Kragen> In Eben Moglen's inimitable prose:

Well, if cute metaphors are appropriate, how about this one:

The view of "what economics is" you are espousing is quite analogous
to "computer science == writing programs in Visual Basic".  It's
common, it's profitable, its practioners think they are doing a good
job, and the public doesn't know any better than to identify the field 
with that activity.

    Kragen> Reasoning from economic principles doesn't necessarily
    Kragen> mean you, yourself, only care about money (or other
    Kragen> payoffs).  It means you think everybody else does, or at
    Kragen> least that that is a good enough approximation to have
    Kragen> great predictive power.

Yes.  "Payoff" has very broad definition, however.  Payoff functions
like "all programs are free = heaven (1), some program is non-free =
hell (-1)" are just as much "economic payoffs" as "he who dies with
the most toys wins."  I think that that payoff function predicts
Richard Stallman's behavior pretty accurately; the "sacrifices" (ie,
unconventional choices) he has made are easily justified using that
payoff function.  (It is true that if you yourself don't understand
your own payoffs, economic reasoning is hardly worth the candle.)

What's practically hard about doing economics is defining the strategy
space that someone with that kind of payoff function is choosing from
in a way that results in good policy recommendations.

What's frustrating about dealing with a "client" (so to speak) who
claims such a payoff function is that his behavior indicates somewhat
finer discrimination, but he won't help define in pragmatic terms what 
they are.

What is always going to be a weakness of economics proper is that for
political movements, such as the free software movement, many many
actors do not care or have very fuzzy notions of how changes in that
arena affect payoffs.  In those cases, we need to borrow expertise
from other disciplines.  Economists being academics are arrogant, and
think they know best.  Being specialists, they don't, not for others'

However, with respect to the behavior of actors whose payoffs can be
specified fairly clearly (in the case of the FSM, proprietary firms,
programmers of various persuasions, software buyers, etc), economic
analysis has great relevance.

Even to those with dichotomous-valued payoff functions.  If they would 
give up the paternalistic idea that others have the same kind of
payoff function, they could get much more accurate predictions of what 
others will do and benefit from, and will no longer need to call them
"immoral" to understand their behavior.

University of Tsukuba                Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences       Tel/fax: +81 (298) 53-5091
What are those two straight lines for?  "Free software rules."