Subject: Re: Open letter to those who believe in a right to free software
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Mon, 15 Nov 1999 13:12:00 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "rms" == Richard Stallman <> writes:

    If the "moral position" to which you refer is the existence of
    property rights in intellectual assets, it is going to be a parameter, 
    not an assumption, in the model.

    rms> Whether *other* people hold this moral position could be a
    rms> parameter.  Simply by proposing to make decisions based on an
    rms> economic model, you are making an assumption about what is
    rms> and is not important, and you ask the reader to share it.

No.  The whole point of making an economic model is allowing the model
to take account of the desirability of participants in society making
the decision about what is important for themselves.  There is no
other reason to make a (true) microeconomic model.  This is inherently
a difficult and controversial process---even for what we acknowledge
to be definitely economic ground, such as consumer behavior in well-
developed markets---but it is by no means impossible to develop useful
approximations---even outside of the universally acknowledged domain
of economic analysis.

For example, when I specify parameters for individual utility
functions, I can (and will) include people like you who have an active
distaste for living in a society where property rights in intellectual
assets are available.  I will also include parameters on your weight
in a utilitarian social welfare function, and do sensitivity analysis
giving you weight beyond your numbers, including, just for the hell of
it, 100%.

This last parametrization will of course have the result that an
intellectual property-less regime is socially optimal (this isn't 100%
assuming the answer, because I can imagine---and set parameters of---a
world so software-poor and development-difficult that even you might
admit the desirability of kick starting the software development
process with some proprietary products; but given the current
achievements of the GNU project---and the parameters that implies for
simulating the "real" world---I cannot imagine any future development
in software that would make you willing to compromise the principle of
using only free software).

What will be more interesting will be sensitivity analysis on just how
much weight needs to be given to people like you to get such a result;
I expect it to be extremely high, but don't know yet.

    rms> (You said so yourself when you started this discussion, so
    rms> why dispute it now?)

I'm not disputing that I will include the _possibility_ of property
rights in the model.  I will also include the possibility of
abolishing them.  I have made that point before.

Given that my model provides for the possibility of abolishing
property rights and this should be known to you, may I assume that
you wish to _exclude_ them by assumption, and thus force your audience
to accept your implicit assumptions?

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."