Subject: Re: Thought crimes
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Wed, 3 Jan 2001 17:43:11 +0900

>>>>> "Crispin" == Crispin Cowan <crispin@wirex.com> writes:

    Crispin> To a first approximation, *everything* has resulted in
    Crispin> shifting power among the elites, and not empowering
    Crispin> average people.

I agree with the first part, and I'll even stipulate that
"empowerment" has resulted in a bigger gap between elites and the
average person.  But I cannot agree that the average person has not
been greatly empowered.  First, in an economic sense.  Second, given
the freedom from dire want, they have the freedom to think about how
to invest the (large or small) surplus they have in a better life for
themselves.  Cynically, I suppose most will choose to consume it or
blow it on lottery tickets (occasionally concealed as an FSB ;-).  But
that that choice exists is empowerment.

    Crispin> FSB is not different.

FSB _is_ different.  True, some (Jonathan Shapiro has expressed this
in a different way) see "free" as meaning "freedom from intellectual
property fetishism."  That is, freedom to seek efficient and
profitable use of intellectual assets without being sucked in by the
obvious possibilities of a government-granted monopoly.  However, even
here this necessarily requires empowering third parties, the "fringe
users" who can't afford a commercial license but in the free regime
get access.  (Which need not even satisfy the OSD to give great
benefits, but Jonathan certainly is working within the OSD framework.)

And then there are a lot of people who in one way or another would
like business models that allow them to live well while doing well:
part-time developers, altruists, fanatic anti-IP types.  Some of these
models may very well generalize beyond software proper, but they'll
get their start in software because of its extremely low capital
requirements.

Surely the people who will have both will and resources to take
advantage of these opportunities are "elite" in some sense.  But this
elite will reach deeper into the "middle class" than ever before (and
right on through to a very few of the poor, despite the so-called
"digital divide"), and the price of admission is remarkably low, even
in an absolute sense.

Try contrasting developing free software with dealing crack cocaine as
a way of bettering oneself.  That should puncture some of that
cynicism.  Or with those labor unions you mentioned.

A labor union functions by taking the power to decide whether to
supply effort or not, and on what terms, from the individual and
giving it to a collective.  Compare free software which functions by
taking the power of accurate computation, and distributing it to all
who think they can benefit, to use as they choose.

Everybody on this list believes in (and in many cases stakes their
livelihood on) some model in which _every_ potential user gets a copy.
(Even those like Jean and Bernard who want the government to empower
people by centralized force want Bill Gates to have his copy.)  That's
different.

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