Subject: Re: Thoughts on free trade and white collar workers
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <stephen@xemacs.org>
Date: Fri, 14 Feb 2003 13:19:02 +0900

>>>>> "Jean" == Jean Camp <jean_camp@harvard.edu> writes:

    >> >>>>> "sjt" == Stephen J Turnbull <stephen@xemacs.org> writes:

    >> In fact, in a very real sense free software is both
    >> anti-capitalistic and anti-socialistic because it takes access
    >> to tools out of the realms of both market trade and government
    >> regulation.

    Jean> Copyright isn't government regulation?

*sigh*  You could have written the following clarifications yourself,
I'm pretty sure.  Why don't you do it that way next time, and save
some bandwidth?

Of course it requires government intervention, and in that sense is
government regulation.  The point is that for free software the
government makes no case-by-case decisions about who will have access
to a given tool, and who will not.  Under socialism, the government
operates tools in the same way that firms do under capitalism: it
decides which workers will be allowed/assigned to use which tools.

    Jean> Branding and reputation don't function in the market?

That affects _choice_ of tools to which freedom guarantees _access_,
regardless of brand or reputation.  If by "branding and reputation"
you mean the "this product exists" aspect of marketing, of course
absence of that kind of information affects access.  But the free
software world is developing extremely effective methods for
disseminating availability information in the absence of Microsoft-
style marketing budgets that consume half or more of revenues.

Abstracting from the question of "how do I know what I have access
to?!?" seems to me a justifiable simplification, no?

    Jean> wow. the things you can learn ;->

I really enjoy learning.  I do a lot of it.  Sometimes even affecting
my politics.  But not today.  ;->

    Jean> Free software allows for labor to be mobile since
    Jean> contributions can be made from any wired locale.

Please unpack that.  In principle (use of "waldos") "wired locales"
can even provide labor to physical manufacturing in remote locations.
I don't see how free software matters, except as it enables access to
the wiring.  But Microsoft can (and does) do that too.  In general you
would expect capitalists to be as happy to move labor by wires to
where the capital is as to wire the capital to where labor is.  (Or
both to some third location, where the physical factory is.)
Microsoft is happy to provide that.  So except for the "Microsoft
tax", I don't see how free software helps more than proprietary
software does.

True, you can make contributions to free software from anywhere, and
in principle charge for them, without asking permission of its owners.
But that's not particularly great for labor.  Labor hates uncertainty
about compensation, and the (financial) rewards to free software
development are among the most uncertain in all industry.

What AFAICS matters about free software is that third parties have
unfettered access to the software in use.  Where they do business is
irrelevant to the free vs. proprietary distinction in the sense that
all software is physically geographically portable, whether free or
not.

So you must be thinking about something else.  ??

    Jean> In contrast current globalization is really unfettered flow
    Jean> of capital with only the barest minimal rule of law, with
    Jean> labor tightly controlled.

Well, yes.  But it's not capital that objects to labor mobility on the
global scale!  Rather, it works to _reduce_ their biggest problem, the
mobility of the labor they've already hired to other (local) employment.

Of course "global capital" all too often abuses those workers, the
child sweatshops of the footware industry being a well-known example.
But even where (Bangalore) there is no visible sign that workers are
being abused in any way except that they're paid less than what
privileged (Silicon Valley) labor has come to expect, labor finds
excuses to object to mobility of capital.  "Our" jobs are going
overseas, they say.

Well, I have some trouble sympathizing.  I know a few of those[1]
"underpaid" Indians, and not only are they as happy with their (low)
pay as Americans are with theirs (much higher), but they're a pleasant
lot, equal to the company we keep here on FSB.  I see no reason why
these nice guys should be excluded from doing what they want to do,
just because somebody else is currently being paid 5 times as much to
do that job.

ObFSB: so the "Red Queen's race" of running an FSB is great practice
for the new globalized environment.  :-)


Footnotes: 
[1]  Well, strictly speaking it's a somewhat different crowd, as
they've made it to Japan.  But most plan on going back---and taking
substantial, like 60%, pay cuts---and from their descriptions it sounds
like they're more adventurous and entrepreneurial but otherwise fairly
similar to their stay-at-home colleagues.

-- 
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences     http://turnbull.sk.tsukuba.ac.jp
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN

          There's only two songs in me, and I just wrote the third!