Subject: Re: Open letter to those who believe in a right to free software
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Sat, 23 Oct 1999 18:05:33 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Craig" == Craig Brozefsky <> writes:

    Craig> "Stephen J. Turnbull" <> writes:

    Crispin> Now *this* claim would seem to be rather specific, and
    Crispin> need supporting.  Why would an all-free-software world be
    Crispin> a poor world?

    >> Because there would be less software, of lower-than-necessary
    >> quality.  This matters a lot to non-programmers.

    Craig> I have two questions:

    Craig> 1.  How are we determining what the total amount of
    Craig> software, the "software mass" is, both with and without
    Craig> proprietary licenses?

User benefits, measured by willingness-to-pay for the software,
ignoring the fact that some people find proprietary software
disgusting, or get additional benefits from using free software,
simply because they know it's free.  The difference in benefits
between using software knowing it is free and using exactly the same
software in exactly the same world (including income net of purchase
price, which varies across the two worlds), except for knowing it is
proprietary, will be accounted separately.

For the free software case, you can think about it as follows: the
user is asked which world he likes better: the world in which he
happens to have $X and the use of Emacs, or the world in which he
happens to have $Y and cannot use Emacs.  When he is indifferent, you
say that Emacs is worth $(Y - X) to him.

Note I am _not_ "selling" Emacs to him; I don't have the power to
enforce the transition.  I'm just asking in which state he's happier.

It is theoretically possible that this "use value" $(Y - X) would be
different in when proprietary than when free; this is called "state-
dependent utility".  However, this basically means that we cannot talk
about "the same software" being free or unfree.  In this case all we
could do is take either the free case or the proprietary case as the
measuring stick, and attribute the difference between the two to
"emotional value."  This would be accounted separately.

I don't plan to do that for this purpose---I will assume
state-independent utility for simplicity---but I do plan to do it
elsewhere for illustrative purposes (since such a differential in
enjoyment, although presumably positive for the free software, is
entirely speculative), showing that there are benefits to free
software which cannot be fully accounted for by use value.

    Craig> 2.  Is this "software mass" an accurate indicator of the
    Craig> wealth produced by software?

Make that "wealth of produced software."  Yes, by construction.

It does not account for value lost through some people's distaste for
proprietary software or through loss of community; it is intended to
be a physical measure of software mass adjusted for the fact that
people value different kinds of software differently.

Values that relate to issues of the social organization that
distributes the material benefits will be accounted for separately.

    Craig> voodoo economics

The adjective is not redundant.

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."