Subject: freedom and human kindness (was Re: Open letter to those who believe in a right to free software)
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1999 14:34:42 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Bradley" == Bradley M Kuhn <> writes:

    >> Cynical though it may be, I believe that self-interest is more
    >> enduring than faith (though the irony in that sentence does not
    >> escape me).

    Bradley> I wonder: do you think self-interest is more enduring
    Bradley> than human desire to love and help other humans?

Economists do _not_ _define_ "self-interest" to exclude the "human
desire to love and help other humans."

It is true that it is technically difficult to incorporate such
desires, and that empirically it is typically sufficient to define the
"family" (aka "household") or "dynasty" (ie, a family that makes
time-consistent decisions over many generations) as the self-
interested decision-maker.  This captures the (empirically) most
important unselfish motives (love of kin) without treating them
explicitly, allowing economists to treat the household as selfishly
interested only in its own consumption.

The analyses I propose to do, on the other hand, explicitly (albeit
crudely) account for such unselfish motivations on the part of
programmers by incorporating them in the mathematical representation
of self-interest, the utility function.

This is one aspect of the strength of appeals to "self-interest."
Jonathan can (and I hope will) speak for himself.

    Bradley> I don't see the free software movement as a "battle
    Bradley> against proprietary software", nor do I see it as
    Bradley> "balancing the self-interest of many parties".  I see it
    Bradley> as creating an alternative model for software that allows
    Bradley> greater freedom (and, by extension, greater opportunity)
    Bradley> for everyone.  I think that the reason free software is
    Bradley> so often "pitted" against proprietary software is that
    Bradley> the opportunities free software creates ( payment for
    Bradley> services rendered rather than licensing fees, focus on
    Bradley> service as means of funding new development, etc.) are
    Bradley> radically different from the opportunities that exist in
    Bradley> the proprietary software realm.

Although the _emphasis_ is different, as you say, the opportunities
created by free software are a proper subset of those created by
proprietary software, in a "physical" sense.  All of those
opportunities are available to firms dealing in proprietary software;
it would seem that the revenues available from exploiting proprietary
software are so much bigger than those available from "rendering
services" that the "sell software products, not programmer hours"
model dominates.

To the extent that free software creates a sense of community (ie,
quasi-family in the sense mentioned above), some of the defects of the
laissez-faire regime, with whatever assignment of property rights, may
be mitigated.  This is intractible to economic analysis by current
techniques, although progress is being made in abstract analysis of
cooperation.  The sense of community itself is a value; again, hard to 
treat in an economic analysis.[1]

To rephrase Jonathan's argument in these terms, the GNU GPL is a
legally binding contract that creates a sense of community, and
actually enforces community in practice.

[1]  I don't know of any alternative scientific methodology that does
better, though.

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."