Subject: Re: a model of competition between free and proprietary software
From: Tom Hull <>
Date: Mon, 21 May 2001 13:51:08 -0500

Russell Nelson wrote:
> Tom Hull writes:
>  > It is interesting how much F has been developed by people when they
>  > are not acting as entrepreneurs, capitalists, or [wage] workers.
> I need an example here.

I was thinking of Linux. For example, in Glyn Moody's book there is a
piece on how Linus wrote the first cut of Linux VM to stave off boredom
during Christmas vacation. It seems likely that most of GNU fits this
mold, whether written for principle, for fun, or just as part of the
gift culture -- all of which strike me as fundamentally different from
the investment of time to secure increased future consumption.

Of course, there are counterexamples. My Ftwalk was originally conceived
as P, so I filled those three roles precisely (albeit not very well).

>  > I don't doubt that if one starts with the assumption that all human
>  > action is fundamentally economic, one can come up with economic
>  > rationalizations for F.
> The only question is whether an economic analysis creates predictions
> which come true.  If it doesn't, then it's a wrong theory (or a right
> theory which is being mis-applied).  Whether people realize they're
> engaging in economic behavior or not is besides the point.  Even if
> people think they're escaping from economic behavior, that's besides
> the point.

I majored in sociology, but was never able to shake the suspicion that
our statistical analyses, no matter how predictive, never quite dealt
with real people. Our analyses were somehow always reflections of our
queries and theories, and I see no reason why the same problem should
not plague economics -- after all, the subject matter is the same, and
the weak point to both is what the individual thinks.

> Economics only deals with scarcity (abundance is uninteresting because
> it's not a problem that needs solving -- but that's okay because
> scarcity is abundant).

Interesting point here is that when software becomes free, it becomes
abundant. Does this mean it escapes economics?

I suspect that one problem with FSB's is that once FS exists, some
people (probably an increasing number over time) don't give a hoot
about the B.

 *  Tom Hull * thull at *