Subject: Re: Fwd: Wall Street article on a new Cooperative
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <stephen@xemacs.org>
Date: Wed, 21 Apr 2004 17:06:15 +0900

>>>>> "Bernard" == Bernard Lang <Bernard.Lang@inria.fr> writes:

    > "Stephen J. Turnbull" <stephen@xemacs.org> wrote:

    >> > Life's like that, ya know?  Much of the time the "problem"
    >> > here is just that Individual A succumbed to the temptation to
    >> > confuse his personal interest with "the public interest" just
    >> > because everybody he hangs out with is like him.

    Bernard> I find this offensive to the many people who work or vote
    Bernard> against their own personal interest.

Why?  Just because they act against their personal interest doesn't
mean they are acting in any reasonable notion of the public interest
---there are groups smaller than "the public", not to mention
altruistic motives other than promoting your group.  To take an
extreme example: the suicide bomber.

Also cf. Karel van Wolferen, _The Enigma of Japanese Power_, for an
exhaustive discussion of a polity apparently built without any notion
of "the public interest."

Keep a bucket handy, or lots of Dramamine.  It's not a comfortable
read for sons of the Enlightenment.

    Bernard> Public interest is hard to define because it involves
    Bernard> lots of conflicting issues, which can be valued
    Bernard> differenlty by different individuals ... etc ...

Yup.  My point is precisely that "much of the time" the person in
question *didn't* consider that, merely because he doesn't know
anybody with a different opinion or who grew up in different
circumstances from himself.  If I'm offending people who aren't
thinking, who can't conceive of opinions differing from their own,
*good*.  I'm *trying* to offend them.  You might not be willing to go
that far, but you obviously don't approve of that kind of behavior
either.

[I really think you should read what others write more carefully.]

I also don't think this is off-topic for FSB.  The heart of "the FSB
problem" is that almost all of us agree that free "as in freedom"
software is in the public interest, and we want to promote it
commercially as well as in our personal hobbies, even at the expense
of ("purely" economic) efficiency, in the name of a more inclusive
notion of efficiency, that includes empowering individuals and
Green-ery and all the usual progressive causes.

If customers are regularly coming to us and says "I want you to
develop some software, and I want you to license it under the GPL",
what need for an FSB mailing list?  If that's the goal we have in mind
in promoting free software, if we really are interested only in
selling the economic benefits of free software, as rms has accused our
host and the OSI, then rms is right: the OSI is just another trade
association, with better moral standing than the RIAA and the SPA, but
basically the same kind of purpose---promoting the interests of our
industry.

But once we develop a consensus about "what is the _public_ interest we
aim to promote", then we can ethically lobby the government for direct
(funding, mandating open source for certain govt purchases, etc) and
indirect (legal framework) support for FLOSS.  We can attract the
interest and support of other public interest groups.

This is one of the fundamental problems in our community.  There is no
consensus about what we're trying to promote.  That means that we
often talk at cross-purposes about what a "FSB" should or shouldn't
do, what government interventions are desirable, etc.  I think some of
the differences are too fundamental to achieve consensus across the
entire FLOSS community, but with better understanding of what we agree
on and disagree on, we can form factions to promote controversial
agenda, and broader alliances where there are common understanding of
the public interest.

-- 
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences     http://turnbull.sk.tsukuba.ac.jp
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
               Ask not how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.