Subject: Re: Open letter to those who believe in a right to free software
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Sat, 23 Oct 1999 16:32:25 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Ian" == Ian Lance Taylor <> writes:

   Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1999 16:51:36 -0400
   From: "Frank Ch. Eigler" <>

   But Stephen has been looking for people to justify their claim
   of a moral or ethical aspect to the software issue.  It's
   apparently not clear as a "rights" issue, so from what other
   source would a moral/ethical claim arise?

    Ian> I already explained in a previous note how (I believe) RMS
    Ian> can justify his insistence on free software on ethical
    Ian> grounds.

I should make clear that I am asking noone else to justify themselves
to me.  I have yet not done so, apparently, and I apologize for that.

I plan to write and publish some essays that I believe would (a) pain
RMS (a minor consideration except to him and me) and (b) tend to
weaken some of the arguments of Free Software advocates.  I must
justify that action _to me_.  That is most of what I wanted to do in
this thread.  Therefore I have asked the strongest advocates of the
contrary position I know to rationalize (not justify) some of the
terms they use to me.

Most of the rest is a modeling issue.  If I can connect "immorality of
proprietary software" to something other than certain individuals'
intuitions, then my model of purpose (utility function, if you like)
will be more accurate.

Finally, if others can benefit from the discussion, then I am glad of

    Ian> There are many ethical issues on which rational people can
    Ian> disagree.

Yes, precisely.  To do professional economic analysis well, I must
understand all views, and try to incorporate them into the analysis,
whatever mine are.  For ethical issues that simply become "thou shall
do" or "thou shall not do," you just put in a footnote that says some
people believe this policy is a priori evil, or even leave it out on
the assumption that anybody who cares will already no.

But where ethical imperatives are quantitative and can be balanced,
then choice of model can make a big difference between grudging
acceptance by both sides of unpalatable conclusions, and complete
rejection on the grounds of missing the point.

As a member of the polity, of course I must advocate what I consider
to be moral courses of action; that doesn't mean that as "staff
economist" I may not analyze the consequences of immoral behavior, no
matter according to whose ethical judgement.

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."