Subject: Re: Open letter to those who believe in a right to free software
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Tue, 26 Oct 1999 20:48:52 +0900 (JST)

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

    Ian> there are more than a few slaves in the world today,
    Ian> and there are more than a few working children, but our
    Ian> community has (presumably) not been destroyed.)

Community-destroying behavior does not have to result in a destroyed
community in finite time.  The destruction I am referring to is the
same as the destruction Richard refers to, I believe:  the destruction 
of the bonds of community (of ... whatever) that tie two individuals
together.  "Our community" is an emergent phenomenon derived from
aggregating lots of such bonds.

    Ian> My point is that I believe that you are trying to describe
    Ian> your approach in morally neutral terms, but I believe that
    Ian> that is impossible.  Economic arguments are inherently
    Ian> grounded in a particular ethics.

The arguments are not.  Logic can be computed.  Whether you accept the
conclusions is.  Or, often enough, the conclusions you accept may
drive the next version of your ethics.

I will grant that economic argument is full of hidden assumptions that
are loaded with ethical implications.  The reason I prefer this
phrasing to yours is that it makes it possible, nay, imperative, for
me to analyze my own ethical beliefs by teasing out those hidden

    Ian> Would free software ever have come into existence without a
    Ian> moral dimension?  In the early days of the GNU project,
    Ian> nobody was saying that free software was better in any
    Ian> economic sense.

Yes.  ARPA.  BSD.  X Window System.  Free software has always made
economic sense, as a niche.  What turned the world on its head was the 
proclamation in the GNU Manifesto that _only_ free software made human 
sense, and that therefore it had better make economic sense.  And he
showed that it could.

    Ian> I am thinking about the type of abundance in which the chief
    Ian> constraints on our actions is not resources, but attention.
    Ian> If I can easily ask a computer to do whatever action I happen
    Ian> to be interested in, subject to the constraints of physical
    Ian> resources, we have an abundance of software.

I'm not sure this matters (in the sense that it has implications
beyond any other constraint on our behavior).  I will give it some thought.

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."