Subject: Re: that "discard" thing
From: Seth Gordon <>
Date: 27 Feb 2003 09:10:20 -0500

On Wed, 2003-02-26 at 16:50, Tom Lord wrote:
> We all as a society, and a few of us as music industry business
> people, do, indeed, do an overall poor job of supporting the arts and
> artists. 

One of my co-workers at Whitehead -- the best Java programmer in the
group -- was a musician who moved from an industrial job to an academic
job so that he would have more time to work on his music.

> There is a _cynical_ interpretation of the business model of several
> prominant software vendors that suggests that, yes, you've made a very
> good analogy: the free software industry is evolving into one in which
> the intrinsic reward of doing something you love is the only
> compensation programmers should expect (though they can also hope to
> "win the lottery" and get a seat at the career table).

Software, as most people on this list have heard over and over, is what
economists call a "non-rival" good -- I can give mine to you without
losing what I have.

The pleasure of doing something you love is *also*, come to think of it,
non-rival.  If Larry Wall writes a computer program and I write a
computer program, the amount of pleasure he feels at his accomplishment
has no effect on how much I feel at mine.

So it wouldn't surprise me that in "the state of nature", so to speak,
production of one non-rival good is only rewarded by another non-rival

>      seth:
>      > The summer after I graduated from MIT, I had to hustle for temp
>      > jobs to pay for rent and food.  The last temp job I had before
>      > landing full-time work was as a third-shift data-entry clerk
>      > for UPS.
> I have some similar stories.   Somebody else's tales are always of
> greater sacrifices and hardships.

You're misconstruing my story.  I'm not trying to one-up you by saying
I've suffered more than you.  I'm just trying to illustrate that doing
things one ordinarily wouldn't want to do, for people who don't
appreciate how much your work benefits *them*, in exchange for less than
you feel your labor is intrinsically worth ... is the *typical*
*experience* of almost *everyone* in a market economy.

Other people made this point the last time you were asking for donations
on fsb, and I don't understand which part of the message you aren't
getting.  I mean, if you agreed that this was typical and not fair, you
wouldn't be asking for donations only for your own cause -- you'd be
agitating for some kind of change in the structure of the economy as a
whole.  Do you think that most people *are* fairly compensated for the
work, and you (or free-software programmers) are an exception.  Or do
you think that because of the nature of your work, you deserve to be an
exception to this pattern?

"Perhaps those of us who care about quality programs have not spoken up
often enough--`for bad programs to triumph requires only that good
programmers remain silent.' I call this passivity the `Silence of the
Lambdas.'" --Henry Baker
// seth gordon // // //