US Economy

Michael Halcrow mike at
Fri Apr 8 11:52:23 MDT 2005

On Fri, Apr 08, 2005 at 11:39:00AM -0600, Josh Coates wrote:
> >Let's start with a micro model.
> i was waiting to see if anyone noticed that michaels well thought
> out micro model has two fundamental flaws.
> flaw #1: "ex nihilo"
> in the first model, the word processor was created with time and
> effort.  in the second, OSS model the word processor was effectively
> created "out of nothing".

It's not latin, but here it is: ``strawman,'' or misrepresenting the
opponent's argument in order to make it appear weaker, and then
attacking the watered-down version of the argument.  I call attention
to this portion of my original argument:

> Lots of people who enjoy writing software in their free time / a
> corporate sponsor who paid a one-time fee to a developer / a
> government agency / whatever:
>  - Traded their time and effort to write a word processor (this is
>    where the micro model gets a little hairy, but dang it, it's
>    working this way already today)

Not exactly ex-nihilo.  And I did admit that it's hairy.  But I also
point out that it is working out this way already.  In this case,
there can be a zero-sum exchange between the corporate sponsor and the
coder to initially produce the code.  The coder could, of course, be
Bill.  The corporation will, based on rational behavior, decide to pay
the up-front costs of the software development, as soon as those costs
are less than the costs to the corporation to do its business
*without* the software.  What then happens with the software after
that point does not change the fact that the corporation saved money
by paying the up-front costs for the software development.  Which
leads to your observation regarding low-cost reproducibility; that's
where things really start getting interesting, and that's where this
whole discussion with regard to the impact of Free Software on the
economy should focus.

Furthermore, if a software product is the by-product of entertainment
(there are some sick people in the world who think this way), then it
is the best form of entertainment, since it results in value to the
economy.  And marginal additional landscaping jobs do equate with
marginal expended time and effort, while marginal additional software
copies do not, so I'm sticking with my point that the world with Free
Software really is wealthier than the world without.

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