Subject: [Fwd: Open letter to those who believe in a right to free software]
From: "Karsten M. Self" <>
Date: Fri, 29 Oct 1999 23:02:59 -0700
Fri, 29 Oct 1999 23:02:59 -0700
<grumble>  Meant to fwd this to the list.  It even has sex appeal.

Karsten M. Self (
    What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?

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Subject: Re: Open letter to those who believe in a right to free software
From: "Karsten M. Self" <>
Date: Fri, 29 Oct 1999 22:11:46 -0700 wrote:
> Stephen Turnbull wrote:

> [...]

> > Note that there is no mention of money or even physical commodities,
> > nor even properties like "more is better."  They are not implied.
> > Furthermore, relevant factors are not restricted to the personal
> > sphere; they can include family, friends, or the whole human race,
> > individually or in aggregates.  In fact, in general the only
> > restrictions that "better" must satisfy are that given three worlds,
> > A, B, and C
> >
> > a. A is no better than itself
> > b. Either A is better than B, B is better than A, or they are
> >    indifferent
> > c. If A is no better than B, and B no better than C, then A is no
> >    better than C.
> >
> > Most people, as well as most economists, agree these are pretty weak.
> Most people question whether mathematicians are most people.
> Particularly mathematicians who point out such uncomfortable
> facts as the issue that a heck of a lot of these decisions are
> made by organizations, and in organizations rule c is manifestly
> violated.  Don't believe me?  Let me take 3 people whose
> preferences are:
> A > B > C
> B > C > A
> C > A > B
> Don't look now, but the following statements are each accepted
> by a 2/3 margin in this group:
> A is better than B.
> B is better than C.
> C is better than A.
> Keep this in mind the next time you cannot figure out how a group
> organization (eg a company) does not seem to make much
> sense.  That *might* just be a reflection of the reality of how
> people behave in groups!

First:  wrong problem domain.  Stephen was, AFAICT, speaking of
individual preferences.  You are alluding to group or voting
preferences.  Old hat.  Arrow's Impossibility Theorem:

Note the title of the book:  "History of Mathematical Programming" --
with a contribution by an economist.  Wow!  Everyone's represented.  How

> > (1) "continuity", which implies that given two goods it's always
> >     possible to make up for a loss of one by a sufficiently large gain
> >     in the other.
> >
> Uh, please explain this?  I thought I knew what continuity was
> inside out and backwards, and I certainly DO NOT see how the
> above statement is derivable from any of the several definitions
> that I am familiar with.

Buy the econ book I mentioned before, Ben.  Varian "Intermediate
Microeconomics".  If you really want to practice some cranial
self-indulgence, you could graduate to Georgescu-Roegen....

Substitution preferences for two goods.  Say, for the benefit of the
current crowd, hacking and sex.  

Though the end products of each are rather distinct, one might have a
personal preference of, um, consuming certain amounts of both
activities, say over the course of a week.  At extremes (exclusive
consumption of one or the other), one is willing to trade more of the
consumed good for less of the unconsumed one.  As consumption moves
toward the opposite extreme, the consumer is less inclined to give up
the now less common good, and will only do so for a very large increase
the the quality of the other.  

Plotted, you have a curve asymptotically approaching the sex axis where
hack approaches zero, and asymptotically approaching the hack axis where
sex approaches zero.

Karsten M. Self (
    What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?

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 Fri, 29 Oct 1999 22:11:46 -0700