Subject: Re: Examples needed against Soft Patents
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Mon, 27 Dec 2004 19:28:21 +0900

>>>>> "Ben" == Ben Tilly <> writes:

    Ben> What you're missing is that what you're calling "protecting
    Ben> our own existence" actually *IS* a public good.  It is
    Ben> something that we want, but which would (if it was delivered)
    Ben> be delivered to all, regardless of who actually contributed.
    Ben> It does not matter whether we're looking for a handout, a
    Ben> limit to government interference, or clean air.  The social
    Ben> dynamics are the same.

Sure.  But Russ is right: if from the group's point of view it's worth
organizing to protect themselves, then they should, and normally will.
The fact that free riders benefit is of interest only to those who
habitually build walls around their gardens just to spite their
neighbors.  But the fact that you can look at my garden won't stop
_me_ from cultivating it.

There are four factors that are important to justify the (practically
important) conclusion you reach:

    (1) network externalities in consumption (the small group can't

    (2) transaction costs tend to dominate benefits of organizing
        large groups unless network externalities are strongly

    (3) competition (and thus shrinking the pie) from free riders

    (4) the dynamics of political organization are such that if we as
        a subset cultivate our gardens together, we will typically
        lobby the government for protection from "rose-eat-tulip"
        competition, and probably for direct subsidy as well.

(4) means that pure externality-generating "clubs" tend not to be
observed, even though they would work fine in many cases.

Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences
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.