Subject: So what is an FSB anyway?
From: burley@gnu.ai.mit.edu (Craig Burley)
Date: Thu, 4 Feb 93 13:18:02 -0500

>This goes against the
>anarcho-socialist principles that seem to motivate Free Software but
>both models are pretty similar in practice.

Nobody commented on this, so I will.

I think I understand "anarcho-" and feel it probably does adequately
describe part of what motivates Free Software.  Specifically, I believe
it means, in this context, that the author/copyright-owner of a piece
of software chooses the Free Software model because he or she does not
believe there must always be One True (big-brother-style) Vendor of said
software.  This certainly applies to my decision to write GNU Fortran
and release it under the GPL; I'm happy to be its author, and maybe be seen
for a time or for as long as it is useful as The Source (via the FSF,
presumably), but I don't want that to be a precondition for others to use it.
I.e. I want others to be able to do with it pretty much what they please, as
long as that doesn't involve taking way other users' rights to it, etc.
And if someone replaces me as the expert and thus The Source for
improvements to "my" compiler, that's all the better.  (In fact, I'm
very worried that _won't_ happen someday...we _are_ talking Fortran here! :-)

But the "socialist" stuff I don't get or maybe I do and don't agree with.
As far as I'm aware, I'm nowhere near socialist or communist, I don't
believe (for example) that everyone has a right to a computer (on which to
place free software), an income, a job, and so on, as socialists appear to.

While some socialist or socialist-leaning individuals certainly may have
embraced (or even help started) the Free Software movement, which is fine,
I think many capitalists and free-market enthusiasts (like myself) have
done so as well.

So I'm not sure "socialist" is useful as a term to describe the motivation
of free software.

What I think might be vaguely accurate about the term is that (and I'm
not so sure if this is true, but it's something I've been thinking about
lately) Free Software People seem to agree that software in general,
and source code (knowledge) in particular, should be "decapitalized"
(more specifically, not turned into capital) when distributed to others.

After all, once the source code is available for free, it doesn't really
represent capital in the usual sense of the term (it's not "plant", such
as computer equipment, desks, chairs, etc., nor things like service
contracts, accounts receivable, whatever).

Now, reasons for decapitalizing software vary among individuals who
feel that is what they want to do, but some of the ones I've noted are:

-  it gives the person a good warm feeling (nothing wrong with that!)

-  it contributes to the social good (vs. not sharing, i.e. preserving
   the source code as capital in one form or another)

-  it serves as advertising for the capabilities of the author of the code
   (it shows the author can write code in a certain area)

-  it serves as advertising for the "meta-code" awareness of the author
   (in that, typically, the knowledge of the author over the domain for
   which the code is intended exceeds the knowledge the author was willing
   or able to write into the code itself; an area where exceptions to this
   abound might be neural nets, the "source code" to which might well be
   nearly useless as capital or free software), showing that the author
   is likely to be the best person to make changes to the code even though
   others have the freedom to do so

-  it increases the pool of contributors to enhancements and bug-fixes
   to the code (that is, the overall value of the code is likely to
   increase faster than if it were maintained as internal capital)

-  it increases the pool of contractors available to maintain the code and
   decreases the training time they need to come up to speed on it

I've probably forgotten other reasons, but my point is that while we all
(might) agree that decapitalization of source code is the central facet
of Free Software, we all have varying reasons (and priorities) for why
we want to so decapitalize.

Note that decapitalization and the desire to do it does not represent
a retreat from capitalism in any practical sense.  After all, the
decapitalization of typefaces, breathable air, slave labor, and so on,
contributes greatly to the overall ability of the free market to
flourish, even though capitalizing any of those items would permit
huge amounts of money to be made by a few individuals (and restrict
society to a ridiculous degree, IMHO).  It appears that
the decapitalization of (and perhaps even removal of the concept of
sovereignty regarding) animal and plant species, perhaps minerals as well
to some degree, will be necessary to ensure the long-term survival of
higher life forms on the planet, and obviously, _if that is true_ (and I'm
no eco-warrior), that, too, would contribute to the continued existence
of the free market.

Sorry if I'm off the mark on any of this terminology.  I never studied
politics in any great detail, and I'm not radical enough to assign
sinister motives to any of the terms I use here.

        tq vm, (burley)