Subject: Re: The merger: a user's perspective
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 18 Nov 1999 12:18:45 -0500

   From: shapj@us.ibm.com
   Date: Thu, 18 Nov 1999 09:24:25 -0500

   As to the Green Peace analogy, I think it's misguided. Consider that most
   of the US paper manufacturers are now engaged in more responsible farming
   and replanting. While they can and will improve further, they have come a
   long way.  Things don't change overnight. But it isn't about organizations
   like Green Peace beating them up.  It's about changes in economic
   incentives accompanied by constructive education.  Paper companies farm
   trees because there is no other means to sustain the economics of their
   businesses, not because it's good for the environment.

Paper and lumber companies do more responsible farming because they
must: there isn't enough old growth forest left for them to cut down.

Organizations like GreenPeace beat up the paper companies in order to
change the economic incentives (actually I don't think GreenPeace does
very much in the paper and lumber area--I think that's more
organizations like EarthFirst--but I'll stick with GreenPeace for the
moment).  By drawing dramatic public attention to the practices of the
paper and lumber industries, they encourage people to avoid purchasing
from offending companies, and they encourage people to avoid working
for offending companies, and they encourage people to press for laws
regulating offending companies.

GreenPeace doesn't act to change companies behaviour directly, except
in the limited case of interference through direct action (which
critics might call economic terrorism).  They act to change companies
behaviour indirectly, through societal pressure.  Even the goal of
direct action is to change behaviour indirectly, by increasing the
cost sufficiently to change the economic incentives.

The paper and lumber companies, left to themselves, will cut down all
the old growth forest and then complete the switch to replanting.
That is the economics of the situation.  There is a classic case of a
lumber company which harvested their forest more or less responsibly,
and was then bought out on the stock market by an organization which
simply cut down the entire forest and liquidated the company in order
to get a fast good return on their investment.  Kim Stanley Robinson
calls this goterdammerung (sp?) capitalism, and it's not a bad name.

GreenPeace would like to save some of the old growth forest.  If you
have any suggestions as to how that may be accomplished without
grandstanding tactics, I'm sure many people would appreciate hearing
them.


This is only distantly related to FSB, and I apologize.  I think free
software is different because software is not a consumable, and
because individuals have power in the software world.  If one person,
or a small number of people, could construct paper and lumber without
requiring a huge investment, then the paper and lumber business would
be very different.

In other words, a small grassroots software organization can have real
power, equal to that of a large proprietary software company.  This is
much harder in the bricks and mortar world.

Ian