Subject: Re: Open letter to those who believe in a right to free software
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Wed, 27 Oct 1999 13:56:44 +0900 (JST)

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

    Ian> OK.  This was a relatively trivial (in fact, parenthetical)
    Ian> side point to what I was trying to say.  Do you accept my
    Ian> main point that the very definition of the community is
    Ian> itself an ethically driven choice?

No and yes.  No, because I think that although somewhat subjective,
the bonds between individuals can be quantified crudely, and thus the
definition of community is scientific.  Yes, in the sense that basing
ethical argument on communities so defined is an ethical choice, in
fact an ethical assumption.

    Ian> Perhaps I made a poor choice of words.  By ``economic
    Ian> arguments'' I meant to include the assumptions which underlie
    Ian> the model which supports the logic.

This is extremely unfair to people like myself who practice
neoclassical economics for its scientific rigor and explanatory power
but whose personal goals and opinions about social welfare are heavily
informed by various philosophical ideas including utilitarianism and
Marxism (Marx's analysis of worker alienation is applicable to
produced intellectual assets, with interesting implications for the
free software movement and the software industry in general), as well
as the classical liberalism (more so than modern libertarianism) which
is the ethical foundation for the usual failure of neoclassical
economics to advocate intervention in many processes we judge to have
"bad" outcomes.  When I come up with the same conclusion as the
"neoclassical party line" using different assumptions, many people
reject them without considering the argument, justifying that with
"it's just the same old party line," although it is not.

You could argue that "people can account for that ex post", but that
is equivalent to separating the assumptions from the methods a priori,
and more error-prone in my experience.  Furthermore, in actual
practice many people don't bother.  They evalute the policy
recommendations as unethical, and simply throw the whole analysis into
a trashbin labeled "Bad Science."

    Ian> You can't model everything.  Your very choice of what to
    Ian> model is part of your assumptions.

True.  This fact causes me some pain, because some FSBer's models of
me are not sufficiently detailed to discriminate between my personal
values and my professional methodology with reliability.

I try not to do the same to others, although I have obviously failed
with respect to RMS.  I am not referring to our on-going debate about
"domination," which I now believe is a genuine difference of values,
but rather to the many times I have made statements concerning his
position where he has justly responded with "that is not and never was
my position and a careful reading of my public statements will show
that."  That was avoidable, and I am sorry I did it, and that I did
not take appropriate care to avoid it.

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."