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Stuart Jansen sjansen at
Thu Apr 7 09:49:06 MDT 2005

On Wed, 2005-04-06 at 20:14 -0600, Josh Coates wrote:
> i think there are some parallels to the OSS/proprietary software debate and
> political/economic systems, but i'm not sure you have them matched up
> correctly.  you'd have to expand on your reasons to convince me that OSS is
> more like capitalism and closed source is more like communism.

Communist Russia was a centralized command economy with some token
"competition". That's how I feel about proprietary software. I give the
company (govt.) my money, then sit back and hope like crazy that they
care about the same things I do. If it turns out instead that a
manager's son-in-law's uncle would get richer by using my money to add a
feature I don't need or want, hey what are customers (citizens) for if
not to be taken advantage of? Found a bug? Best of luck convincing some
low-level phone jockey (local party representative) that it actually
matters to the company. If I'd been using OSS (capitalism), I could have
just solved the problem myself, calling on the help of other users
(investors) if I needed it.

Don't point at my argument and say "you're wrong because proprietary
software is still subject to competition". You know as well as I do that
its often cheaper to live with problems than experience the disruption
and delays of switching to a competing solution. You might have had the
chioce of moving to communist russia or not, but good luck getting out. 

F/OSS expands and intensifies competition significantly with less
wastefull duplication of effort. Look at a XFree86 was
unresponsive and moving in the wrong direction, so was created.
Instead of starting from scratch, they could just build on XFree's
previous work. Disruption to users? Almost non-existent. Bad for
XFree86? Obviously, but they're the one's that mis-stepped. Good for
users? Undeniably.

> i mean, in a very simple way, if you just take the private property rights
> argument, then closed source is much more like capitalism, and open source
> is much more like socialism - though i think this view may be over
> simplified.

Very much over simplified. That's why I don't like the old "OSS is
communism" declarations. The issues are too complex. Just wanted to
point out that the argument goes the other way too.

Stuart Jansen                   e-mail/jabber: sjansen at

"XML is like violence: if it doesn't solve your problem, you aren't
using enough of it." - Chris Maden

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