Subject: Re: Value returned from free(d) software
From: Russell Nelson <>
Date: 4 Dec 1997 03:45:00 -0000

Brian Bartholomew writes:
 > Here's my favorite example.  Suppose aliens landed tomorrow and handed
 > us a Star Trek food duplicator.  This would copy objects like digital
 > copies work today: perfect copies and nearly free.  Would we say,
 > "sorry, take it away, it will break our economy", or would we use it
 > to eliminate world hunger?

Many people would think the latter, but that is a fallacy.  Any
efficiency in any industry makes the economy as a whole more
efficient.  Simple example: butlers are higher paid than they have
ever been.  Butlers are no more efficient at their task; the job has
not changed for centuries.  Butlers are paid more because they need to
be kept away from competing jobs.

 > My impression for some time has been that Cygnus is making money in
 > direct proportion to how much artificial scarcity they create.  Why
 > else would they advertise their stuff as 'better than free software
 > off the net'?  If it really is better, and it really is libre, then
 > put it up for ftp and eliminate the differential.

Part of the reason is to establish a brand name.  Brand names make
economies operate more efficiently, because they lower the transaction
cost of choosing a product.  When you choose a meal at McDonald's, you
know you're going to get clean bathrooms.  The food in the local
greasy spoon is probably better, but without a brand, you don't know

-russ <>  | Freedom is the
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