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FOSS Development As Economic Stimulus

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the piece-of-the-action dept.

The Almighty Buck 365

heybus writes "Economist Dean Baker, best known for calling the housing bust and warning of the ensuing economic collapse, has just published his recommendations for how to allocate President-elect Obama's estimated $800 billion economic stimulus plan. Among other things, Baker calls for juicing the economy with $2 billion worth of government spending to support the development of free and open source software. Baker's idea is similar to the New Deal federal arts and writers' projects: the government would fund projects as long as they produce freely available code. In addition to employing programmers, 'the savings [to consumers] in the United States alone could easily exceed the cost of supporting software development.'"

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365 comments

Open Source (4, Interesting)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445201)

Open Source is the ultimate in re-usable investments in the area of computer technology.

Re:Open Source (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26445243)

open sorce on my ballsac

Re:Open Source (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26445339)

Linux is a UNIX-based OS, and my favourite distro of it is Macintosh OS X, because it has the full support of a major corporation, unlike other distros, which are all operated by maybe one or two nerds in a basement together. The last thing I want is for a level 5 dwarf (haha) providing me my OS

Re:Open Source (2, Funny)

stonedcat (80201) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445629)

I'm a level 80 Whorelock thank you very much... and the other nerd who release Wowbuntu with me lives in his own basement! So ha! ha! In your fase!!1

Re:Open Source (2, Informative)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445883)

OSX is built on Darwin, a particular flavour of UNIX. It's best not to call it a 'distribution', because you risk confusing it with a linux distribution, which are collections of similar software, artwork and (Very often) repositories of more software built on the same kernel.

I know you're two nerds comment was a humourous exaggeration, but I really think there are people who believe that about major distributions like Ubuntu and Red Hat.

Re:Open Source (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26445939)

I'm sorry to break this to you, but - and really, you seem like a nice fellow, but...

YHBT. YHL. HAND.

Re:Open Source (0, Offtopic)

dangitman (862676) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445363)

open sorce on my ballsac

Now everybody gets a taste! It's the gift that keeps on giving.

Re:Open Source (4, Insightful)

dj245 (732906) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445341)

I'm not so sure I agree. When you build a bridge or a dam, you get something tangible that will be with you for 30+ years. Its there, and you can use it until it is demolished or replaced. The Brooklyn bridge, the Hoover Dam, etc have been with us for a very long time.

When you write some software, the benefit is not so obvious over the long term. Things have a habit of being rewritten completely in relatively short intervals. How much of the code from Linux of even 15 years ago is in the current kernel? How much of AutoCAD 1.0 is in the current version? The code gets rewritten and forgotten. The programmers learn experience and gain skill, but that isn't something that we need stimulus packages for. If we're going to spend unfathomable amounts of MY money, lets have something to show for it that will still be useful in 80 years.

Re:Open Source (5, Insightful)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445405)

And that is exactly one of the benefits of Open Source/Free Software. You have the ability to change the software so that it will keep working in 15 years. With closed source/non-free software you have to rely on the software provider to keep their software updated while the runtime environment changed.

It doesn't matter if code is rewritten or forgotten. When you have the source you can always see it. If AutoCAD 1.0 does exactly what you need, then why would you want to get 2.0 or 23.0? Unless it's FLOSS, you simply have to, because 1.0 simply might not run on the replacement hardware. Software does not break because of old-age, unlike hardware.

Re:Open Source (4, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | more than 5 years ago | (#26446011)

Software does not break because of old-age, unlike hardware.

Addendum: In order for this to work, you need source-level access to the entire software stack from the OS upwards.

Re:Open Source (4, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#26446015)

It doesn't matter if code is rewritten or forgotten. When you have the source you can always see it. If AutoCAD 1.0 does exactly what you need, then why would you want to get 2.0 or 23.0? Unless it's FLOSS, you simply have to, because 1.0 simply might not run on the replacement hardware. Software does not break because of old-age, unlike hardware.

Try getting any piece of old software to run and you know it's a big pain. Hardware changes, APIs change, ABIs change, formats of choice change, they don't respect modern UI conventions, operating system hints, the anicent IPC means it doesn't talk to anything else and so on. FLOSS doesn't magically make it work on more hardware/environments, unless you're running version 2.0 or 23.0 of the open source software too. Yes, you have to pay the software provider for new versions but you're somehow assuming the FLOSS fairy would deliver updated code, but that work has to come from somewhere too.

The real advantage to open source isn't that there's less maintenance required, it's that without competiton there's no reason for a business not to gauge as much as possible out of their customers. Open source effectively caps what you can charge for a closed source "light" version, what you can charge for a closed source software or workflow because there's the option to go with open source, deal with or fix its limitations. Ideally, the most socially effective solution is typically to write something once - duplication is waste. Except we all know that is a real shitty solution if you got a selfish corporation gouging you for it.

A few open source implementations probably do more than hundred different attempts at making closed source clones to increase overall efficiency. Of course it'll suck for those people that are made superfluous but people are always needed elsewhere. Sure there's practical issues of unemployment and obsolete skillsets but ultimately we'll never have enough productivity. There'll never be a situation where we fundamentally don't need anyone anywhere. If we look a little past the current downturn, during the next 20-40 years most of the western world will have population stagnation or even retraction. The workforce will be less in comparison to the population than ever before. We *are* going to need every hour of work, better spent elsewhere than trying to clone some software that open source could have done once.

Re:Open Source (4, Insightful)

dvice_null (981029) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445493)

Just because you have to rewrite something doesn't mean that it doesn't help you. E.g. I recently joined an open source project which was very good because of what it did, but very poor because of its code structure. So I did a massive refactoring for it, making changes to hundreds if not thousands of lines. This took about an week, but it would have taken much more if I had written the application from the scratch.

Re:Open Source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26445779)

http://www.google.com

Just because you have to rewrite something doesn't mean that it doesn't help you. E.g. I recently joined an open source project which was very good because of what it did, but very poor because of its code structure. So I did a massive refactoring for it, making changes to hundreds if not thousands of lines. This took about an week, but it would have taken much more if I had written the application from the scratch.

it's cook

cooking

Re:Open Source (4, Insightful)

justinlee37 (993373) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445595)

lets have something to show for it that will still be useful in 80 years.

You're neglecting present value theory and opportunity cost; if we can save people money by developing free software over the next 10 years, the money they saved and spent elsewhere will improve other parts of the economy, which could have longer-term benefits.

Also, is ANYTHING still useful in 80 years? Cars, buildings, roads, all that stuff wears out and becomes obsolete after a long enough time.

Re:Open Source (4, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445783)

Also, is ANYTHING still useful in 80 years?

Investments in education.

Re:Open Source (2, Informative)

quickOnTheUptake (1450889) | more than 5 years ago | (#26446129)

Well, I'm in Rome right now and 90% of the city is 300+ years old, with some buildings in continuous use well over 1000. In the States, Hoover dam is getting close. So yeah, 80 seems manageable if you are actually building things to last and not just random crap that gets people on a payroll.

Re:Open Source (3, Interesting)

xaxa (988988) | more than 5 years ago | (#26446151)

Also, is ANYTHING still useful in 80 years? Cars, buildings, roads, all that stuff wears out and becomes obsolete after a long enough time.

I use plenty of structures that are over 80 years old. I regularly use a bridge built in 1886, a railway (and associated bridges) built in 1838 (and a subway opened in 1889). It's harder to find dates for buildings, but they last hundreds of years if they are built properly and maintained. Many of them were built by private companies, but the economics of the last 50 years means no one wants to build a railway any more, but I expect the ones built by the government to still be useful in 80 years -- even if the track is useless, the clear routes through cities may well be useful.

(Admittedly, the current stone bridge was built because the previous wooden bridge (built 1729) was obsolete, and wooden bridge was built because there was too much traffic for the ferry, which was running a service at least as early as 1086, and probably a lot earlier.)

The expensive part of buildings, roads, railways, bridges etc is the construction (and land), if they're useful maintaining them isn't a problem.

Re:Open Source (4, Insightful)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445653)

"When you write some software [...] Things have a habit of being rewritten completely in relatively short intervals."

When you write *privative* software, you meant. Privative software suffers from the "broken glass" problem: for the most part is redo what already was done, both among competing products and between versions of the same product (well, version shifting is more to add featuritis and in cases of dominant products both for vendor lock-in and to maintain third party/competing products at a distance). This is not usually the way with open source software.

"How much of the code from Linux of even 15 years ago is in the current kernel?"

Taking into account Linux is barely 15 y.o. not much, true. But there's indeed quite a lot of code that has been there for long years. And even then, you forget that even shifting code it there to allow third parties to cooperate.

"How much of AutoCAD 1.0 is in the current version?"

Privative software: at the very least one of the major differences among versions is changing file formats for lock-in and disallow competing products to stay at path. Not much benefit on this work for the users.

"The code gets rewritten and forgotten."

It is not. Minix is still used as a learning platform as it is with older versions of *BSDs. I bet that code from ls cp or a lot of basic Unix-related commands haven't changed for ages.

"If we're going to spend unfathomable amounts of MY money, lets have something to show for it that will still be useful in 80 years."

Nobody can forecast the future but, certainly, you will optimize your bets if such a software is open sourced.

Re:Open Source (0)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445729)

"When you write some software [...] Things have a habit of being rewritten completely in relatively short intervals."

When you write *privative* software, you meant.

Oh Jesus Christ. Have you just invented a new derogatory term for closed source software in your rambling (but soon to be +5 Insightful) slashdot post as to why Open Source is good?

You, sir, are the cancer killing slashdot.

Re:Open Source (1)

Bwian_of_Nazareth (827437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445787)

You probably should not measure utility by how long it will last. Build a huge block of concrete and stick it in the middle of nowhere. There you go, will outlast you for your money.

Re:Open Source (5, Insightful)

raju1kabir (251972) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445795)

I'm not so sure I agree. When you build a bridge or a dam, you get something tangible that will be with you for 30+ years. Its there, and you can use it until it is demolished or replaced. The Brooklyn bridge, the Hoover Dam, etc have been with us for a very long time.

The roadbed and surfacing on the Brooklyn Bridge have been replaced countless times. It has been reconfigured to deal with a changing balance between road, rail, cycle, and pedestrian traffic. It has been repainted and seen the replacement of untold bolts, cables, struts, stanchions, gimlets, and both left and right phalanges.

In the same way, software is gradually upgraded and remodeled and renovated over the years, but much of the underlying code that powers what we do on our computers today is still more or less verbatim from decades ago.

So I really don't see the difference you're implying.

Re:Open Source (2, Insightful)

tacocat (527354) | more than 5 years ago | (#26446119)

This proposal is flawed. Especially if you compare it to the New Deal.

The infrastructure developed from the New Deal provided a tangible product which could be openly used by other segments of the economy and benefited far more. Roads affected the Automotive Industry and eventually the suburban sprawl and housing. Electrical networks, and others. And that's there the SuperHighway comparison ends.

But the current idea of FOSS will be replacing software that generates a billion dollars in revenue from other companies. So the lobbyist will be full power to block this one. You aren't creating a new infrastructure, but creating a replacement infrastructure. You will have to be very sure that the FOSS software savings will stimulate the economy more than the software industry collapse will hurt it. And understand that the damage will be highly localized.

You might be more effective at a internet boom if you actually put the US on top of the internet technology list by improving the infrastructure of internet service. If the US guaranteed connectivity to every house at a minimum speed sufficient to actually use the internet (9600 dial up is not it) then there would be some interest in more computers and more computer technology development. But you can't make 100% computer solutions when only a fraction of the people in the country have access to the internet on a practical basis.

Since I first got on the internet, prices have increased upwards of 5X to maintain a declining service level in a market of high saturation and high volumes. Both of these should be lowering costs rather than raising it.

Obama might be more inclined to apply a fixed rate regulation on internet services and push internet connectivity like the Rural Electrification Project. All I want is a static IP address, DNS server to access, and a fixed up/down speed. I don't want portals, email, or anything else for that matter.

Definition of Open Source? (1)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 5 years ago | (#26446043)

Watch the definition of Open Source getting brutally molested if there's government money available to subsidize its development.

I would not be surprised to see a Microsoft "Open Source" license which requires use of Microsoft APIs or development tools, and/or restricts use to specific versions of Windows, and/or forbids building for or porting to non-Windows platforms, and/or forbids use of code excerpts under any other type of license. In other words, an OSS license which is the very antithesis of Apache or BSD or GPL or MIT, and is open only in name.

2 billion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26445215)

Whoa, whoa, whoa - spend 0.25% of the stimulus package all in one place? That sounds excessively bold.

Re:2 billion? for "free" stuff? Are they nuts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26445581)

Stupid ass is stupid does

"Called the housing bust" (4, Insightful)

rachit (163465) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445255)

I mean who didn't realize housing was in a bubble, besides paid economists with special interests or complete morons? It was blindingly obvious since 2005.

I only credit anyone for calling exactly when it would completely implode. That took brains.

Re:"Called the housing bust" (2, Insightful)

DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445275)

I only credit anyone for calling exactly when it would completely implode. That took brains.

Or luck. After all, every day SOMEBODY wins the lottery. With 6.7 billion people in the world, the "1,000 monkeys randomly pushing typewriters" analogy becomes a lot more relevant.

Re:"Called the housing bust" (5, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445459)

I only credit anyone for calling exactly when it would completely implode. That took brains.

It was rather obvious to anyone who understands the fundamentals. I called it on Downside [downside.com] in 2004. I expected trouble sooner, around 2006. But the Fed cut rates, which merely postponed the inevitable and made it worse. Note that Baker also started predicting trouble in 2004.

This stuff isn't really that hard. There are certain ratios that are grounded in reality. A house is worth about 2.5x to 3x annual income. Stock in a stable company is worth about 10x to 20x earnings. Whenever prices get above those upper limits, they can be expected to go down, and when they get way above those limits, it's a speculative bubble. All speculative bubbles eventually burst, because the supply of "greater fools" who will buy overpriced assets in hopes of selling them for even more is finite

"The job of the Federal Reserve is to take away the punch bowl just as the party gets going. -- William McChesney Martin,, head of the Federal Reserve from 1951 to 1970.

"I still do not fully understand why it happened." Alan Greenspan, October 2008.

Re:"Called the housing bust" (1)

rachit (163465) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445559)

When I meant exactly when it would implode, I really meant to the accuracy to the quarter. Plus or minus a couple of years doesn't count :)

I started shorting the market late 2006 because house prices were already starting to clearly drop nationwide, but the craziness continued and the market continued to rise into late 2007. Luckily, I held onto them for long enough.

"The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent."

Re:"Called the housing bust" (1)

DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445885)

I'm friends with a guy who works accounting in GM headquarters. The funny thing is, he knew basically, to the quarter, when the nation was going to start receding. Of course, he couldn't really come out and say this, as being an accountant he could easily get charged with insider trading or another white collar crime.

Re:"Called the housing bust" (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26446007)

I had a pretty good idea that the housing market was going to collapse, just looking at the housing prices and the ratios, like you described. What I didn't realize was the extent to which it was being propped up by the finance industry through mortgage-backed securities and subprime loans.

For that matter, how many people outside of the finance industry even know what a mortgage-backed security is in the first place? Of course, the economists should have seen that something was fishy.

Re:"Called the housing bust" (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445781)

With 6.7 billion people in the world, the "1,000 monkeys randomly pushing typewriters" analogy becomes a lot more relevant.

Same goes for Open Source. Just take a look at some of the rejected patches.

Re:"Called the housing bust" (1)

raju1kabir (251972) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445827)

I mean who didn't realize housing was in a bubble, besides paid economists with special interests or complete morons? It was blindingly obvious since 2005.

CEPR (the thinktank of which Baker is a co-founder) was stalking the housing bust many years before 2005. His co-conspirator was trying to make a believer out of me back around the turn of the millennium when I lived in DC.

Possible Concerns (5, Interesting)

DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445257)

I like FOSS, I like it a lot in fact. However, I still have some concerns about this.

1) Would the overhead of allocating funds be greater than the reward? (always a question in government bullucracy)
2) How would we be sure the right people get the money, and not 'fakes'?
3) How do we make sure projects continue to be free after they stop getting government funding?

Maybe these issues have been addressed, but most people will (or should) ask these questions, about ANY government subsidization/awards.

Re:Possible Concerns (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445763)

1, Shouldn't be, providing the software written is general enough... You wouldn't want people writing really niche stuff.... Speak to companies and individuals and find out where they spend most money on software, how they could save by using free software, and what they perceive as the barriers (ie missing features etc) to using the free alternatives.
2, Pay people after they have achieved noticeable results... Especially if they contribute to existing OSS projects, have the existing developers judge the worthiness of the new contributions.
3, This is what the GPL is for... Release the software under the GPL or a similar license to ensure future versions continue to be available under the same terms.

Re:Possible Concerns (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445793)

Would the overhead of allocating funds be greater than the reward? (always a question in government bullucracy)

Government spending is third parties (bureaucrats) spending other people's money (taxpayer's money) on still other people (beneficiaries) with little or no regard to profit or loss. This is the most wasteful and inefficient type of spending there is. The left likes to say that corporations don't do any better, but they ignore the main difference. If a corporation always loses money then it eventually folds (at least when governments don't bail them out, but that is a whole different gripe) and goes under. Governments can tax, spend, and print money and never go bankrupt (at least in theory, although Zimbabwe is testing the practical limits of hyperinflation as we speak and the results are NOT encouraging). It is fear of loss and motivation of gain which keeps corporations and individuals sharp and alert. Without those elements, we might all be as bad at spending as our children and our government.

How would we be sure the right people get the money, and not 'fakes'?

That is a tough one. I don't really have a good answer. However, I DO know that I DON'T like the idea of the government picking winners and losers. Perhaps they could ask Slashdot maybe and we could moderate the project bids?

How do we make sure projects continue to be free after they stop getting government funding?

Licensing (ala GPL) ensures that. Use of licenses from an approved list and mandatory distributions could be a prerequisite for receiving funding.

Re:Possible Concerns (4, Insightful)

Nietz2000 (1452445) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445915)

The US Government has been the primary investor in general research since WW2 and I would not consider it wasteful at all.

They even pick the winners and losers. They allow the universities and academies to publish to the public and allocate spending where it will be most beneficial.

The Government has done this because private corporations are not willing to pay for something you just give away free to the public, especially if that can be copied indefinitely (like research or software). Sure, it will grow the overall economy but the private company will be at a disadvantage.

In this case, Government quite often is more efficient at growing productivity because everyone gets to use it. Private research is often secret or even intentionally restrictive.

When will they "get it" (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26445279)

I voted for Obama primarily because he seemed intelligent. The thing that brings us out of this recession is jobs jobs jobs. I would really appreciate it if there was tax credit for companies that offered a tuition benefit or on the job training for those people needing to transition to different careers. As it is now, companies that are hiring do not want to spend one hour on training for straight forward tasks and would rather leave the job open.

Handing out money to banks that won't lend it, or tax cuts to billionaire investment bankers who buy expensive art, or paying of state debt, or giving tax cuts to corporations that give dividends to shareholders, or construction projects that build bridges to everywhere but no one can afford to drive over them, all do little to replace the jobs that are being lost.

Obama, we are going to learn if you really are intelligent right out of the gate.

Just the idea is enough (4, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445281)

Simply establishing the idea that a source code base is like physical infrastructure will benefit open source projects even more than the actual investment.

Having that reality as a frame of reference would make it much easier to push for the growth of that source code infrastructure.

What about Microsoft? (3, Insightful)

fyoder (857358) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445307)

In addition to employing programmers, 'the savings [to consumers] in the United States alone could easily exceed the cost of supporting software development.'"

Sure, but what about Microsoft, or Adobe, or various other companies that make software? Won't this be competing directly with them? It's bad enough that they have to compete with FOSS as is, but FOSS supercharged with two billion government dollars?

Surely the sensible thing to do would be to give the money directly to Microsoft and Adobe and the like. You wouldn't bail out the auto industry by giving money to custom car builders, nor the banking industry by giving money to loan sharks.

Kidding, of course. But I'll bet there will be corporations that won't be thrilled by this.

Re:What about Microsoft? (2, Interesting)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445431)

I would say the money could be much better spent on R&D. Buying patents and opening up technology to the public to use.

FOSS projects might create... I actually don't have any idea what area they could invest in which would be useful... but opening up patents on the other hand allows both FOSS projects and commercial projects create jobs with a lot less overhead.

Let's say I open up a patent on an algorithm that's sitting idle. Now that' it's open you have people putting their own money on the line to in the hope of being the company or open source group which garners the most money. Instead of paying for the employees directly with federal grants you created an opportunity for people to create jobs from their own cash reserves. Leverage entrepeurs to kickstart the economy.

If you were really concerned about kickstarting the US economy specifically the US Government could license the patent to any US citizen whose operations and employees are local. (Ditto if you're in the UK, India, China France etc... nationalize patents and license them for free to your citizens.)

Re:What about Microsoft? (1)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445445)

There will always be corporations/people that won't be thrilled by the [lack of] an action.

Also, Microsoft and Adobe do not make a lot of software for the consumer market. Most of their software is way to overpowered for consumers. You don't need Photoshop for drawing or photo editing. There are enough gratis products that can do all that an average consumer wants to do. Same thing with MS Word, most people don't get any further than some text, an image, and maybe a table or two.

Re:What about Microsoft? (5, Interesting)

rlanctot (310750) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445463)

"Sure, but what about Microsoft, or Adobe, or various other companies that make software? Won't this be competing directly with them? It's bad enough that they have to compete with FOSS as is, but FOSS supercharged with two billion government dollars?"

Isn't capitalism supposed to be based on a free market economy? I'm sure that the government hires Adobe and Microsoft to work on software projects they don't readily talk about, doesn't that compete with FOSS software? Seems to me corporate America is all for the free market economy except when it's not to their favor.

Re:What about Microsoft? (4, Insightful)

kaizokuace (1082079) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445715)

Seems to me corporate America is all for the free market economy except when it's not to their favor.

Since when does corporate America follow some sort of ideology? It's in favor of business to never play fair. Being unfair is inherently to your advantage!

Re:What about Microsoft? (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445867)

Being unfair is inherently to your advantage!

Spoken like someone who has never owned a business, but this can be shown to be false even in abstraction. Consider the iterated prisoner's dilema [wikipedia.org] game where the optimal strategy is actually tit for tat and NOT always being unfair. Business is like the iterated prisoner's dilema, if you constantly screw over every customer, supplier, and even competitors then you will be retaliated against until no longer in business. If what you said was true then the world would be completely run by the biggest assholes which, despite present appearances and common perceptions, isn't really the case. It's like Bob Marley sang, "You can fool some people sometimes, but you can't fool all the people all the time."

of course, because an ideal market has no profit (2, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#26446003)

In a perfectly efficient, competitive market, profit goes to zero. Obviously companies don't want that, so it's in their interest to work against the establishment of a free-market economy.

Re:What about Microsoft? (1)

Xiroth (917768) | more than 5 years ago | (#26446061)

The fact is, it's impossible to beat the government in competition, because the government doesn't need to make a profit. This is why government corporations always need to be stimulatory, filling a niche that no private company will fill, or filling a natural monopoly market (where the advantages of capitalism disappear).

Publicly funded FOSS might work, but it should be carefully guided - rather than directly competing in fields with already decent competition, grants would need to be issued in fields where either there's no existing software or there's insufficient competition - otherwise the grants may end up being counter-productive economy-wise.

Re:What about Microsoft? (1)

jesterzog (189797) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445529)

For what it's worth, both Adobe[1] [adobe.com] and Microsoft[2] [microsoft.com] work on a variety of Open Source projects (for some definition of open source), which I'm sure they could convince the relevant people are worthy of funding under whatever scheme might be proposed. And if they get government money to fund their open source labs, I guess they can potentially divert more of their open source lab money into closed source projects.

All of this would depend upon the terms of which a grant is given out, though, and none of the detail has really been specified here. If something like this ever happened, don't be surprised if, by the end of it, there were clauses to either channel most of the money to corporates through some kind of absurd requirements, or to make sure that nothing being funded would directly hurt corporates.

Re:What about Microsoft? (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445543)

Nothing forbids Microsoft and Adobe to get government money for developing FOSS

Re:What about Microsoft? (1)

Faluzeer (583626) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445675)

Nothing forbids Microsoft and Adobe to get government money for developing FOSS

...and given how easily politicians are bought via campaign donations the companies would probably be able to get the money for supposedly doing open source development whilst actually doing nothing...

Re:What about Microsoft? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26445667)

When it comes to research or infrastructure, the US has always relied on Government paying for the service and giving it away to the public.

This strikes me as something very similar to that.

Re:What about Microsoft? (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445853)

These companies are based around the goal of harvesting a large amount of wealth and locking it up in a small place... In the case of something so easily written and distributed as software, combined with intentional anti-customer actions like creating lock-in means that this is actually very bad for everyone but the original company.

The government has a duty to all of it's people, and if you can't suit everyone (which is virtually impossible) they should aim to suit the majority. Of course, money talks and governments are universally corrupt to varying degrees, so it often looks like the government is simply working for these major corporations and against it's people.

Cars are a very different prospect...
Auto makers don't benefit from the ability to lock their consumers in like software makers do, and as a result the auto market is far more competitive.

Cars also require significant resources to produce each unit, and a large up front investment in equipment to perform the manufacturing process.

Software on the other hand, requires very little equipment, a computer that people would have anyway, and some development tools which can be acquired for free... The results can be duplicated infinitely and distributed instantly over the internet. The only significant input is development time, and unlike physical goods, the results from this development time can be reused infinitely.

I think this is a great idea, the government creates jobs for programmers, who write code that everyone can make use of. Millions of taxpaying individuals and companies can save money by using the resulting free software and a competitive market is opened up for third party organizations to provide ancillary services such as support and installation services based around the government sponsored code.

The only losers are commercial software makers, who make up a tiny minority of the population, and frequently operate anti-consumer policies such as promoting or forcing lock-in to their products.

Re:What about Microsoft? (2, Interesting)

silentcoder (1241496) | more than 5 years ago | (#26446063)

By that logic, the government should stop funding cancer research by universities because it may directly compete with drug companies ?

New Deal? (2, Interesting)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445311)

or should we just call it the "Great Leap Forward". I mean, the Federal Gov seems to think money and wealth can be created with the stroke of a pin and all will be well. Right? Nevermind the fact central planning will lead to another "bridge to no where" on a colossal scale!

Re:New Deal? (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445893)

or should we just call it the "Great Leap Forward"

Well, we aren't being forced to wear identical Mao jackets or being marched out into the countryside to grow basic foodstuffs with hand tools and ox carts while cheap loudspeakers shout slogans like, "Twenty years progress in a single day!". So it hasn't exactly reached the dire level of an American Cultural Revolution, at least not yet anyway.

only if you create some decent criteria (3, Insightful)

PhantomHarlock (189617) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445319)

How would you decide who gets the money? Would you need to demonstrate suitable skill in coding first? There should be some sort of filtering criteria so the money isn't thrown away, especially since you are redistributing other people's wealth.

Perhaps some type of competition format for ideas would do best. Various private companies such as Google have done this, I believe.

Re:only if you create some decent criteria (1)

Alyeska (611286) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445509)

The competition angle has been pretty successful for DARPA, too....

Re:only if you create some decent criteria (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445865)

Have people contribute towards existing well known projects, have the existing developers judge the submissions, including assessing the quality of the code to judge who is worthy of being paid to write more.

The last chance for sane gov't is local gov't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26445345)

Why feed this beast?
Feds take us to war
Feds break social security promises
Feds are incapable of disaster recovery

Don't think because you're guy is now in charge, he/you can control this monster. Come see me in 4 years, I'd love to be shown up. I fear that hubris, not naivety, best epitomizes the left in America today. You say government can be an agent of good? I say evil is an emergent property of large systems. Evil trumps good. Evil must be confronted.

Let's slash, cut, burn, tear down, destroy the federal government - make it as small as we can. Focus on government that makes a huge difference in your daily lives and has a hope of spending our money better: your local and state government (outside of CA).

Oh, and by the way, local gov't is also the government that's close enough for you to drive to and actually participate in once in awhile. And that's nice to actually matter in the process, you know? Yes, smaller scale than the federal gov't, but you can actually play a role!

Makes too much sense to ever happen (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445353)

I have faith that something so logical could be implemented, in this day and age. Those with the power to support this simply won't be comprehend the simplicity of such a plan. I mean, seems like the worse case scenario in said plan would be a set of coders end up spending way too much money of soda, video games, and geek toys.

The Limbaughs and O'Reillys of the world... (3, Interesting)

Alyeska (611286) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445369)

...would just use this as a wedge issue, further "proof" of Obama's "socialism," and Obama has been going out of his way to avoid wedge issues. I think he knows that he can rule, but can't be effective, with a 51% majority.
As much as I love the entire open source movement, I don't think it would ever fly, politically, in our current culture.

Re:The Limbaughs and O'Reillys of the world... (1)

fretlessjazz (975926) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445449)

Sadly, I have to agree. Furthermore, I think that it would be very difficult to concoct a mechanism that dictates which FOSS project receives more money than another. Would it be need-based, or dependent upon the amount of capital that a project could inject into the economy?

It would become to politically charged and too biased before it got off the ground.

Re:The Limbaughs and O'Reillys of the world... (2, Interesting)

Temposs (787432) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445571)

I think there are a couple ways to decide which projects to fund:

1) Applications for which there is no adequate solution yet(including those that have only adequate proprietary solutions)

2) Applications that would directly benefit various government projects(including improving security of government through code transparency)

3) Specific projects that have the largest user or developer base(objective metric for measuring attractiveness of the project)

Well, they're not great, but I don't think most decisions made by government are done much better...

Re:The Limbaughs and O'Reillys of the world... (2, Insightful)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445877)

Or do it the standard government way...

Most money goes to the project who offers the biggest "incentives" to whoever is responsible for making the decision.

A good idea, but... (1)

fretlessjazz (975926) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445387)

This sounds awesome, but let's be realistic. How can we determine who gets funding? If the government treats the appropriation of funds for FOSS projects similarly to the bail-out of financial institutions, the only projects that would qualify are the ones that are ailing. At the risk of being a troll (albeit a realistic one), can you justify taxpayer dollars for projects like OpenOffice?

Clearly, the government cannot treat FOSS projects in the same as financial bailouts. Therefore, what system could be put in place that determines which projects receive stimulus funding?

Re:A good idea, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26445535)

what's wrong with OO.org?

Re:A good idea, but... (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445897)

Why not? Companies spend billions on proprietary products, improving OpenOffice would be hugely beneficial to millions of companies and individuals.

What's more important tho, would be for the government to take a stand against proprietary formats and protocols... If you level the playing field, OpenOffice would improve far more rapidly on it's own anyway.

Right but not stimulizing (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26445413)

As free software conquers more and more areas, funding will become an issue. I think the government will play a crucial role there; in the end, a large part of the software industry will have to be socialized.

However, free software can cause whole industries to implode (call it a positive side effect). So the net effect of funding free software is more and better software solutions for the citizens but also more unemployment and lower salaries for the software developers.

So unless you find enough freeway construction projects for unemployed software developers, free software has the potential of lowering the GDP in the short term. Also, the government generally doesn't want to compete directly with private industry. The society is gradually coming to an understanding that health care and the Internet should be government functions, but it is still a long way from accepting that software should be done by the government as well.

Re:Right but not stimulizing (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445961)

Software is a key part of the Internet....

The government should ensure that there is a fair and competitive market, but i wouldn't go so far as to say they should enter it themselves. If the government took actions to outlaw anti consumer lock-in practices, and forced vendors to comply with existing standards or fully open up their own if nothing else yet exists, then it would create a far more level marketplace encouraging innovation and free market competition.

This should be true for any market....

And agreed wrt healthcare and internet, and other similar markets where infrastructure constraints will create unavoidable monopolies... For internet/telecoms i would say let the government own and maintain the physical infrastructure, while allowing private companies to rent access to it on an equal footing... If everyone has the same costs, then competition will emerge with value-add services...

Healthcare, and especially development of treatments should definitely not be operated by for-profit companies... Such companies primary duty is to their own profit, even if that comes at the expense of the patient's health. Someone who suffers for years with an unpleasant disease, but has drugs to mitigate the agony is far more profitable than someone who can be cured. Similarly, a disease that affects millions on an ongoing basis is far more profitable than wiping out a disease.

The US won't get the benefit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26445435)

Who will benefit from all the free code?

China, India , Europe, the list goes on and on.

But America won't be on the list, because with its' relatively high employee cost it won't actually see any money coming back in from support contracts or consumer hardware.

It's nice to support OSS, but nobody should kid themselves that the US will benefit.

Re:The US won't get the benefit (1)

oever (233119) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445551)

Think of all the money the other industries can save by reducing the cost of software. Also code literacy will go up when the code is more visible. A population the knows how to program well, is very useful and can benefit other industries. Right know you know about computers when you know where to click in a windows user interface. When more people use FOSS, it will be easier for them to fix code and improve it to do as they want. When this mindset takes hold, it will become more normal to be able to code.

Re:The US won't get the benefit (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445999)

Software development is an extremely small industry, which is made to look bigger by the excessively high profit margins that are possible when it costs nothing to produce and sell infinite copies... The same is true for other similar areas, like production of movies and music... How many currently active musicians, actors and ancillary support staff there are? Now compare that to the staff working to produce a car... Don't forget those who mine and refine the raw materials, and not just those working for the big car companies but also those people working for all the thousands of smaller companies who supply parts.

Ah ha! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26445491)

I'd fantasized about quitting my job and spending all my time working on my little hobby projects that I keep in an svn repo.. Now if this gets enacted I can get the financing to do it!

Sure, lots of free software consists of large projects organized similarly to how you'd see at a proprietary software company. But then it can be some guy working in a basement. In college I wrote some programs to solve problems I had, put them online and then randomly saw them included in distros and translated to languages I didn't speak. But somehow I don't think I could have fed myself doing that. And I feel like getting the government to do it for me would have been cheating. :-)

How would you distinguish between some "important" project and the basement dwellers? Do I quit my day job and apply for a grant?

The Government already funds most basic research. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26445505)

To those who are asking how the Government would decide how funds should be allocated... isn't this what they already do for research spending?

They use Academies and Universities to evaluate the value of any proposal and they determine priority.

They also make decisions like this in nearly every corner of society. The FDA have the experts on food safety, the EPA on environment, etc. There is a reasonably good system for evaluating drug testing and approval in place... but they cannot do it for OSS?

This is a bad idea (4, Funny)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445515)

FOSS software increases productivity. It reduces overhead and costs. The evolution of free software reduces the demand for programming and support labor in the long term.

This is not good for the economy. Our economy is hopelessly reliant on unskilled twits who can barely keep our infrastructure running; who spend many hours increasing the problem rather than diminishing it, and who get paid a good wage doing that so they can buy the latest Plasma TV and show off to their friends their XBox skillz in HiDef. If everybody converted to Linux and BSD in the server room, there's another quarter million MCSEs out of work. Imagine all the servers that won't need to be updated on Patch Tuesday and Surprise Thursday! It'll be utter anarchy! Some servers won't be rebooted for months.

This is bad... for Obama.

Re:This is a bad idea (2, Insightful)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445553)

FOSS software increases productivity. It reduces overhead and costs. The evolution of free software reduces the demand for programming and support labor in the long term.

That all sounds incredibly politically correct, and yes, you can repeat it ad nauseum and it will become one of those myths that people just repeat and repeat because it sounds , oh so good and logical. However there is absolutely no scientific base that confirms (or refute, for that matter) these claims, so please stop stating this as the holy truth. OS and commercial development both have their strong and weak sides and none of them is intrinsically better than the other, OS is not a magic key that solves all problems and cure cancer.

Re:This is a bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26445585)

I don't know if OSS is better than CS... but isn't FREE software going to increase productivity?

The distribution is much wider, and companies that would normally have nothing now have something. There's nothing stopping the CS software from being purchased if it is better, so that is not taken away.

Re:This is a bad idea (3, Interesting)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445621)

An anecdotal case: I am the author of a pretty successful freeware (as in beer) program. After 9 versions I was tired of maintaining it: thousands users screaming for new features every day, etc for years is not an easy task for a single programmer. So 3 years ago I decided to open the source of the program and put it out on SourceForge (the place where 98% of the programs are put to die). And yes, a bunch of people picked it up and began developing a new version. After 2 years nothing new happened. So I decided to create a new closed source version myself, again, and guess what: it is now out and kicking stronger than ever.

I am not telling you that all projects are the same, but you listen every time about a few successful OS projects: mozilla's thingies, linux thingies, etc, but nobody actually talks about the million of OS projects that actually DIE a painful death. And they are many: just visit SourceForge and you'll see.

Re:This is a bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26445907)

What you need to do, is to develop it as an open source project and add "help needed" signs. When you receive a bug report or feature request, reply by saying "this needs to be fixed, but I don't currently have time to do all the work, if you can, please submit a patch". It is very important that you write a comment like this, as then a person will know that if they write a patch, it will most likely get accepted.

Sooner or later you will get patches. Small mostly. After you receive several patches from one person, ask the person if he/she would like to join the project. Slowly that person will learn to do bigger tasks, but it won't happen over night. You have to be a teacher.

Re:This is a bad idea (3, Insightful)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 5 years ago | (#26446081)

But you can actually *see* the open source projects that die, and potentially make use of them in the future, and if you were already using them you can continue to do so.

What about all the commercial projects that die, many of which never even reached the release stage.

One such example, is PostPath (http://www.postpath.com) which used to be advertised frequently on slashdot, they used to make a mail server which was a drop in replacement for ms exchange, while outperforming it by a huge margin... We had their demo version and very much liked it, it would have freed us from several niggles we have with exchange 2003, while costing significantly less than 2007 would while not necessarily fixing the issues we have.
However, PostPath were bought out by Cisco... Their existing mail server product is no longer available, and future versions won't be developed... The company will in the future, as part of cisco, be doing mail as a service - which is completely unacceptable for us, as we need to maintain control over our own email for legal (not to mention performance - don't want large attachments going over our slow wan link) reasons. So now what? Our planned migration had to be cancelled, had we already completed it we would have been stuck with an ageing product that would never be updated....

If it had been open source and abandoned on sourceforge, then not only would we still be able to acquire it despite the original developers having lost interest, but there would be a chance of new developers picking up the project.

If i want to create an updated version of a dead sourceforge project, i can use the existing code as a base... If i want to create a new version of a dead closed source project i have to start from scratch, and may have to spend significant time reverse engineering binary formats or such.

Re:This is a bad idea (4, Insightful)

dangitman (862676) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445659)

there's another quarter million MCSEs out of work.

Simple solution: Soylent Green.

The only problems is (2, Funny)

amiga500 (935789) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445527)

all code must be written in ADA.

Really... (1)

scjohnno (1370701) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445573)

Top Tag: fascism? Really?

Fingers Crossed (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445599)

Paying good programmers to develop Open Source software would be a brilliant and very, very effective use of taxpayer dollars. You get "the gift that keeps on giving", because people who want to work on a project for nothing after the funding phase is over can keep making improvements. For example: project Dogwaffle isn't PhotoShop, but it's pretty damned good, and it's not going to cost you half a grand every time you want to get the next version. It would also be possible to mandate software that runs efficiently on systems that are considerably less than state-of-the-art.

If there's a down side, it's that as our computing needs grow and change, we either let poor and otherwise-disadvantaged people start falling behind, or fork out more bucks to ensure that whatever the new killer ap happens to be five years from now is Open Source.

Re:Fingers Crossed (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 5 years ago | (#26446105)

Dogwaffle isn't open source... They make a commercial version, and offer a crippled free version without source code...
Gimp would have been a better comparison.

troolkore (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26445625)

every chance I got fucking confirmed: His clash with 880 w/512 Megs of Session a8d join in centralized models

Open Source is Socialism (4, Interesting)

crf00 (1048098) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445639)

Notice how open source is supposed to work the same way as scientific research does? Both of them requires socialism economics in order to work well.

Look at scientific research for example, you pour a large amount of money into it, but you can't sell the results of your research. You can only see the impact of your research, if any, a couple of years after some companies see the commercial value of your research and decided to use it.

Look at LHC for example, is there any commercial value for investing such large amount of money for the research? No. How about research on nature and species in a certain natural ecosystem? Other than probably selling the video to few people who are interested and willing to pay, I don't see much commercial value in such research.

So then think about it, why on earth can such research still exist today? If the world is under pure capitalism, nobody is going to spend any money to support these research. Instead, you need a socialism model to support the research.

The current socialism model to support research is to gather a pool of fund from a large group of people, and distribute the resource to everyone in a centralised way. Our pool of resource may be from university, which is paid by university students or sponsored by government. Or the resource may be directly from government, which acts as a pool of fund from the taxpayers.

Hence in some way, everyone in a nation contributes a tiny fraction of money to the research institution. The results of the research would then get contributed back to the society and benefits everyone.

In fact, tax is a kind of socialism that solves problem of requiring tiny fraction of resource from huge amount of people. A country with 100% socialism is just meaning a country with 100% tax.

So compare this with open source, what's the different? If you divide the cost of development with the number of people who benefit, everyone is supposed to pay a very small amount of money.

The current difficulties of open source is that there is actually no way to collect this small amount of money from everyone, and thus open source projects usually require small number of people to donate for most of the cost, while all other people becomes freeriders.

I believe that in order for open source projects to grow in a healthy way, a socialism model for open source has to be established, and we have to have a pool of fund to support the projects. And currently, the only kind of pool of fund I can think of is from the government.

Re:Open Source is Socialism (4, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445805)

As a matter of fact I think open source is a triumph of Socialism. Hitherto, compilers cost a fortune, UNIX distributions even more. You had to buy such software from a capitalist - or more likely, be employed by a capitalist who could afford it. The GNU project put the means of production in the hands of the workers, allowing us to enjoy the fruits of our labour ourselves.

Insanity! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26445647)

Uh... This seems like insanity.

1) Shouldn't fiscal stimulus be targeting the hardest hit? The job market isn't terrific for IT but it's a whole lot better than construction or car manufacturing or, gulp, finance.

2) US companies dominate in the IT space and have carved out nice, evil little monopolies. This means more jobs for US citizens. Why give up this competitive advantage during a time of massive economic pain?

3) Are the hardest hit consumers really going to care if they can buy a computer loaded with ubuntu rather than windows? I doubt they'd waste their dollars on either. A cheap wii, sure, but a computer? ha!

Re:Insanity! (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 5 years ago | (#26446165)

2,

These monopolies are built on shaky foundations, the idea of keeping consumers locked in (effectively holding them to ransom) rather than keeping them wanting to buy your products based on them being better than the competition... Sooner or later the customers will come to realise how bad this is for them, and try to break out of the cycle, once this happens the monopoly will collapse and you will have another financial crisis.

3,

The hardest hit consumers will likely keep their existing hardware rather than buy new, if they can breathe new life into their existing hardware for free by putting an up to date version of linux on it instead of an ageing unsupported version of windows then absolutely they will care.
You can also buy new computers for less than the price of a wii these days, and old ones even cheaper...

Not good (1)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445651)

It would be a pretty bad way of stimulating the economy. If you're pouring billions of taxpayers money into developing software that's then provided for free. This would put a lot of small software houses out of business. Why should a company pay for your software when this government produced piece of software had 10 times the budget and is available for free?

If a supermarket that's vital for a community is struggling and at risk of closing, forcing it to cut back on staff, you wouldn't help things by opening a temporary, government subsidised store opposite that, thanks to the tax dollars behind it, can undercut the struggling store's prices.

The supermarket will close and the community will be left with the unviable government store that's chewing through the town's budget.

It's all well and good providing a vital service and short term employment but it has to be done in a way which won't drive other companies out of business.

Re:Not good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26445705)

The reason is pretty much that a lot of people hate proprietary software. With a passion. They will never be happier than the day every software company has filed for bankruptcy and programming is done communally.

It's a bit like how people hate McDonalds in Europe. McDonalds is unhealthy? A grillion kebab stores opened in the last ten years are substantially less healthy. McDonalds pollutes? Their packaging is less than kebab stores. McDonalds buys rainforest meat? No, they are far more traceable than kebab stores. McDonalds destroys cultures? Why is it in any conceivable way worse that McDonalds opens stores in Pakistan, than that Pakistanis open stores in the Netherlands?

Yet the hate is towards McDonalds, even though it's illogical and stupid, and what replaces it will be worse.

Bad example. What about the NIH? (3, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445707)

The NIH has driven all the drug companies and medical equipment companies out of business, hasn't it?

Your example is bad. A supermarket is a consumer, not a producer. Now let me give you a real example, one I know something about.

Years ago, there were many companies making marine engines. They were typically very bespoke and very expensive, and though they were very solidly built they were not terribly reliable. Then what happened was consolidation. Volume manufacturers appeared who produced limited ranges of engines that were much cheaper and, because R&D was amortised over high volume, much more reliable - companies like Kubota, Mitsubishi, Mercedes, Volvo. So the small manufacturers went bust, didn't they?

Of course not. They simply absorbed the high volume engines into their product range. They took the core engines and used their marinising parts to provide a range of options for different applications, which they could now do more cheaply. They focussed on services and added value. Because they did not have to have lots of capital tied up in core engine production, they had lower financial risk. The reduction in cost is one reason for the explosion in the powerboat market.

Same thing for software. Most small companies do not run by making core services. They survive on supplying special markets. Common core software allows them to focus their expertise on the added value in those markets. Because the vertical market software now has a lower cost basis, more people can afford it. The market grows. The company has a more diversified customer base so it has to do more customisation. This absorbs the resources that were once trying to maintain the invisible code.

Re:Not good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26445947)

> This would put a lot of small software houses out of business.

They (or their employees) could write the software and get the money for writing it. So it would not create unemployment.

I do a lot of open source programming and one reason is to gain better skills. So what if you consider this money as investing into education?

This would be the real benefit for the US if they did this.

But in addition, the whole world would get the R&D benefits from the developed software.

Microsoft will NEVER let that happen (4, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445677)

There are no limits to what Microsoft, companies like Microsoft and their supporters would do to prevent that from happening.

I have often wondered what sort of chaos would ensue if the plight of the "big 3 auto" were shared by Microsoft. It could upset employment at all levels of the economy. The ripples of the effect would be global. But in the end, I believe people and business would simply work around the issue if Microsoft simply failed and ceased to be. I think that perhaps the overall effect would be somewhere between three and four times as annoying as the latest daylight savings time changes. But people would move off of Microsoft Windows because the platform would just be too unsafe to work with.

One way or another, people will eventually find that Microsoft isn't as "necessary" as they currently believe. Ultimately, when you break down computing and data processing to what needs they serve, it is easy to see that just about anything will do. The biggest problem is getting over people's natural fear of the unknown. Microsoft is all that most people know and so anything else is to be feared and avoided. But when shoved into the water, people will swim.

Publicly funded F/OSS software projects would show the world that Microsoft isn't as necessary as they currently believe. Microsoft would pull no stops in preventing that from happening and I would even go so far as to say they would collectively hold the value of no single life above the interests of their business and business model.

nope (4, Interesting)

nicklott (533496) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445785)

the savings [to consumers] in the United States alone could easily exceed the cost of supporting software development

Capitalist economics doesn't work like that. Money that consumers don't spend doesn't contribute to GDP, but money they do spend does, and GDP is the magic number (remember, we're all happier when the numbers go up).

This highlights why OSS won't be a pillar of Obama's spending spree. Microsoft sell software made by developers they pay and these developers then spend their pay on other software (say). This moves money round the economy continuously and makes the GDP look great. Paying a developer to create a free piece of software is effectively a one off payment and doesn't contribute to GDP much (it mainly increases coffee consumption), in fact all it does really is inflate government spending/borrowing.

The end result for the user is clearly better in the second case, but better for the "economy" in the first. If you want the government to choose what's better for the user at the expense of the "economy", well, I guess you'd better move to Canada or one of those other commie countries cos it won't happen in the US of A.

Re:nope (1)

digitaldruid (756476) | more than 5 years ago | (#26446147)

A common solution to get out of an economic crisis is investing in building roads and other infrastructures. When the government spends to build a road, do you pay to use that road afterwards? It works because the workers get the money (they increase coffee consumption as you say, and that's exactly what increases GDP the most..) and the industry gets better infrastuctures so that they can reduce costs and compete better.

As if the New Deal was successful, it wasn't (3, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445859)

Why all these comparisons to the New Deal? It didn't work. If it wasn't for WW2 we would never have gotten out of it. All we got in eight years was government debt and unemployment did not change. Sorry but this use it for FOSS is simply pie in the sky type crap. Why? Because those who actually implement it will not have any relation to those in the community. It will simply route money to schools, after all they can do this just fine and they need the money as well as the computers.

No, instead of spending the money by the government why not let those who actually earn it decide what to do with it? Give all those who pay income tax a tax holiday. This will do two things, one is to allow the working American to spend his money where he wants thereby focusing the bailout on businesses that matter to the earners as show them just how much a burden the government truly is.

Re:As if the New Deal was successful, it wasn't (5, Insightful)

Nietz2000 (1452445) | more than 5 years ago | (#26446073)

WW2 was the New Deal on steroids. The Government quite literally quadrupled spending and took full control of the economy, even to the point of regulating wages and dictating output. If you want to argue WW2 pulled the US out of the Depression, then you're just saying the New Deal was too small.

The GI Bill created the most educated workforce on the planet and paid for 60% of all University graduates. Poverty among the elderly was reduced by 80%. Home ownership and the middle class was created in just a few years from the New Deal. It was a huge success.

You're also ignoring the rest of the world. As each country implemented Keynesian policies, their economies quickly recovered. The US was just one of the last to join the party.

There are no mainstream free-market Austrian economists anymore... they died out. Even Bush's economists are New-Deal Keynesians.

Complete misunderstanding of Democaracy 2.0 (1)

supersnail (106701) | more than 5 years ago | (#26445959)

He may be a clever guy with a good idea but he totaly misunderstands how democracy 2.0 works in hte U.S.

Voters are largly irrelevant in Dem 2.0, The suckers vote for whoever has the best TV adds.

Therefore what really matters are the campaign contributors so you can by better and more TV adds than your rivals.

The best contibutors are big businesses and the people who own big businesses. So if you get elected you need to keep these people happy and ensure the funds keep coming your way. MS, Oracle etc. are all big campaign contributors -- it would be electoral suicide for a government to fund a open source initiative which ate into there revenues.

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