Subject: Re: Chaordic Commons
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Wed, 10 Jul 2002 14:30:40 +0900

 Wed, 10 Jul 2002 14:30:40 +0900
>>>>> "L" == L Jean Camp <> writes:

    L> Which seems to perversely suggest that OS would be more
    L> successful in games and less successful in infrastructure, were
    L> the traditional economic models correct.

Can you unpack this?  I don't see it at all, maybe I'm just missing
something.  Yes, games are more likely to collect a mass of
subscribers who (might) contribute money.  But they are less likely to
collect contributions in code.

Infrastructure, on the other hand, has a user population composed
primarily of user/developers ("subscribers") who have  already written
the improvements they need for their own purposes , those improvements
are  nonrival  in use (unlike money), so their disincentive to
contribute is nil.  Even a tiny "social" or "altruistic" motive is
enough to overcome the tiny disincentive imposed by the mechanics of
making and submitting a patch---no matter how big the contribution is!

Compare the disincentive of contributing money, which is exactly equal
to the sum of money, no matter the size of the social motive.  I think
the  real  contributable resources available to the "infrastructure"
project are vastly greater per user than to "consumption" projects.

Quoting Wendy Gordon:

    >> Consider a company fearing destructive competition from an
    >> innovation.  If the law endowed the company with a right to
    >> stop the innovation, it might refuse to waive the right no
    >> matter how much money it was offered.

This is just a long-winded, obscure way of describing "patent".
But patent is not (at present) the deciding factor in the office
software market, is it?  And IMO, "endowment effect" which blocks
large "destructive" innovations is much less important than the
"nickel and dime" transaction costs that patent and (to a lesser
effect) copyright impose on small, incremental innovations.

    >> In such cases, simple deference to property owners is
    >> inappropriate. Courts or legislatures must intervene to decide
    >> where the endowments should be placed, and whether or not the
    >> innovation or other resource use is worthwhile.

Just take the last sentence out of context, realize that you have
really lost nothing by taking it out of context (the argument is
perfectly general beyond the particular boneheaded use of patent
described by Ms. Gordon to boneheaded use of any property right), and
conclude that we should allow courts and legislatures to intervene in
 all  business ("resource use") decisions.  *shiver*

    L> This above suggests that the problem with the desktop software
    L> market was the intial allocation and suggests that markets
    L> alone may be unable to solve the problem of reduced innovation
    L> resulting from closed software.

Er, but in fact the initial allocation was to everyone  but 
Microsoft.  Only in a few cases did Microsoft enter a market with
dominance; in most cases it has fought for market share, often taking
it away from (a) well-established incumbent(s).  So it would seem that
in fact, with sufficient application of financial resources, property
rights  do  flow to the high bidder.

In fact, I would suspect that the reason nobody buys those rights away
from Microsoft is that Microsoft  correctly  estimates that they are
better at turning monopoly into profit than any alternative purchaser,
not that Microsoft vastly overestimates its ability to turn monopoly
rights into profit and refuses a lot of (socially beneficial) deals.
Where the alternative technology is pretty good, Microsoft usually
turns around and buys it up, typically  delaying  (but not preventing!)
the innovation.

None of this is to deny that the property rights themselves may be too
strong.  But this is an argument for weakening the rights granted in
general, not for non-market intervention in allocation of the rights
that  are  granted.

Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
 My nostalgia for Icon makes me forget about any of the bad things.  I don't
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