Robert White wrote:
> People want to receive "payment" for "work".
> Fine, true, and desirable.
> But the missing piece in the capitalist mindset WRT/software is that those
> self-same capitalists don't want to pay for the work of others.
Well, part of the process of accumulating wealth involves spending as
little as possible while earning as much as possible. If a capitalist
can get something for nothing, that's a wonderful thing.
Rule number 1: People are selfish.
Rule number 2: People are greedy.
This is not something you can change. It's only something that you can
exploit. If you can't find a way to use it to your advantage, then
you're going to lose. It's human nature, and pretending that it isn't
true is only going to get you into trouble.
> In point of fact, the common intellectual domain, in particular the great
> source/sink of free software *doest* fit the pay-for-value model.
> The problem is that the current business people don't understand that the
> "free software" "costs" the promise to return contributions. The system is
> resilient enough to withstand a huge percentage of parasitism, so each
> business wants to say that they might as well a parasite too.
I think you're missing one of my points. If you want to change people's
minds about something, the first step is to grok their perspective.
Know it, understand it, and identify with it. This is one of the
reasons that many organized religions aren't very attractive: they
refuse to see the perspective of the unbeliever. This is also why some
cults are often so attractive: the cult leader understands the mindset
of the unbeliever better than the unbeliever understands himself.
The key idea to understand here is this: You're describing a system of
barter, which also is alien (they would call it "primitive") to
capitalists. They use it as a last resort, such as in the case of
swapping patent licenses, but even THEN, they still put a monetary value
on what they're bartering so that they can judge that they're getting a
You cannot get a capitalist to NOT put a monetary value on everything
they encounter. Everything has its price, and every price is in Dollars
or Yen or Euro or whatever.
Once upon a time, money was an abstraction. Back in the days of barter,
people would look at "money" and consider it worthless, because it
didn't have any intrinsic value. Once the concept of money caught on,
people still judged it in terms of what kinds of goods or valuables it
represented. Even the US had a gold standard for a very long time; the
money didn't have value -- it was a voucher which represented some piece
of gold sitting in a vault somewhere. But now we don't have a gold
standard and money has taken on a life entire of its own. Money has
intrinsic value, even though most of the time, it's just signals on a wire.
There's an interesting parallel here: Because money is just bits, it
can be copied without deleting it from the source. But if we were to do
that, we'd dilute the value of money and ruin the economy. Similarly,
software can be copied without destroying the original, but doing so can
ruin the market for those who wish to profit from selling it. In both
cases, when you copy the thing, you devalue it in terms of its ability
to represent wealth.
Do you see why people want to charge money for software? They're both
things that have value only because people believe that they do.
> The simple fact is that when you return your modifications to the pool, the
> "lost cost" of the man hours and mental effort spent to make that
> modification, insignificant to the value you took from the pool.
I don't think anyone disagrees with this.
> When you return value to the pool, you have not "given away valuable
> property" you are paying (long due) bills for the larger type and number of
> works you have already taken possession of "on credit".
> Once you take that single step back you realize two things.
> 1) The total value you harvest dwarfs the total value you return (even in
> simple man hour payroll terms) so even if you spend a substantial outlay it
> is still a return on investment of remarkable proportions.
> 2) If software is the only thing you do, you are screwed because that
> immense return on investment is payment in kind so there is no "cash margin"
> from which to draw profit.
No, if the software economy changes so that you can't sell it then,
you'll be screwed. Until then, people see software as something which
can be sold, so they're going to do it.
> The final conclusion is that "free software" works for every business model
> *EXCEPT* pure software sales. Absolutely every other model (e.g.
> "<anything> and no software at all" and "<anything> plus software") lets you
> "buy" ninety-plus percent of your "software part" for pennies. The fact
> that "nothing but software" times "free software" nets zero excess cash
> should surprise nobody. Yet it did surprise the entire 1990's economy...
People are still selling software. No one is surprised.
> Irony can be so damn Ironic sometimes... 8-)
> There is no rational argument that this model "should somehow", in and of
> itself, with no further effort on your part, support you financially.
> Especially if you have decided that said support will come while you only
> fulfill the parasite role of taking what you will and returning nothing.
In the end, commercial and free software are going to coexist. For each
application, whichever has the greater value to the customer is the one
that will be 'bought'. Although they come from different work models,
they will both exist in the same market, and each will be judged on its
merits. If you NEED a piece of software for a specific task, and you
can't get it for free, you WILL pay for it, or you'll change your needs
There are some types of software that are very difficult to organize in
the bazaar fashion. Only a full-time, focused team can do the job in a
reasonable time period, if at all. Sometimes, free software developers
receive the necessary funding, but much more often, only a company which
is bringing in revenue as a capitalist entity would be able to succeed.
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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Jun 30 2003 - 22:00:25 EST