Subject: Re: a model of competition between free and proprietary software
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Tue, 22 May 2001 19:20:49 +0900

>>>>> "Tom" == Tom Hull <thull@kscable.com> writes:

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

I don't see this as a problem, as long as you don't care what the
individual _thinks_ and focus on what he _does_.  Here, economics has
a big advantage over sociology in that we can take individual
preference as the measure of "individual good" because we take it as
given.  Sociology can't, because it does need to deal with the way
society molds individual preference.  So it never can get away from a
focus on "what real people think."

    >> 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).

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

No.  Even at the level of "copies are free", the binding constraints
become different, that's all.  If you spend all day reading Freshmeat,
you never get to use any new software but browsers (maybe), you know.

But what's really important is that free software is not really about
distributing copies.  That's not the interesting economics of FS;
we've known for ages what happens there.  Free software is about
developing new software.  And developer effort and creativity will
always be scarce.

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

Which makes the B-men scarce and valuable.  (I think somebody else
already pointed that out.)

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