×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Open Source Could Learn from Capitalism

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the don't-give-it-away-for-free dept.

385

ukhackster writes to tell us that Sun's Simon Phipps challenged many open source ideals at a recent open source conference in London. Urging the open source community to look to the lessons of capitalism, Phipps called for "volunteerism" to be replaced with "directed self-interest" and denounced the perceived legal issues surrounding open source. From the article: "Phipps took time out to take a swipe at some of the exhibitors at the conference who were selling professional advice on negotiating the open source 'legal minefield'. 'I disagree with those who say who say open source is a legal minefield,' he said as he threw from the stage a brochure from one firm of lawyers. 'If you think open source is a minefield you're doing it wrong.'"

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

385 comments

Missing the point (5, Insightful)

Cleon (471197) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623711)

Whether FOSS is "capitalist" or "communist" or "volunteerist" is completely irrelevant, and quite frankly I think anyone who constantly tries to hammer the FOSS square peg into one of those round holes is doing so for their own purposes.

FOSS is what it is. In some ways, it's capitalist, in others, it's communist, in others, it's volunteerist. That's really the beauty of the movement; you get out of it what you want to get out of it, and you put into it what you want to put into it.

Maybe that's anarchy. Or maybe that's just another way of saying "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need." The question is, why does it matter?

Re:Missing the point (4, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623727)

It matters because ideology trumps everything to some people, and they won't get involved in open source if they think it is in some way "communist."

Re:Missing the point (2, Insightful)

bcat24 (914105) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623754)

And that's a big problem. The Stallman-esque extremists who want to avoid anything that they think is in some way capitalist are just as bad, though. IMO, open source should be about writing software, making money or not protecting freedom.

Err, correction (3, Insightful)

bcat24 (914105) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623772)

I meant to say that open source should be about writing software, *not* making money or protecting freedom.

(O/T: You would think the Slashdot maintainers would eventually catch on and let people edit posts.)

Re:Missing the point (5, Insightful)

anaesthetica (596507) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623785)

On the other hand, there's something to be said for adopting ideals and sticking to them. After all, if you don't set out with a general direction, you may end up aiding something abhorrent in the end. Ideals, principles, ideology, world-view, ethics--whatever you call it, it can be useful in keeping yourself on the right track. If Stallman wants to avoid capitalism, so be it. If you want to avoid collectivism, again so be it. But I wouldn't take a stance that rejects all ideological positions prima facia. Instrumental pragmatism is just as bad, and in many cases worse.

Re:Missing the point (2, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623886)

Hmm, how about figuring it out for yourself rather than blindly adopting someone else's ideology? History tells us about plenty of folks who set out in what their ideology told them was a good general direction and ended up aiding something abhorent. I don't reject or accept anything, I entertain ideas: "Here little idea, come into my head. How do you like all the other ideas here? Let's ask them how they like you." This way, every idea, good or bad, contributes something. But I do it on my terms, not because someone told me it was the right thing to believe.

Re:Missing the point (2, Insightful)

anaesthetica (596507) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623943)

Hmm, how about figuring it out for yourself rather than blindly adopting someone else's ideology?

That's a nice idea, but it's not very practical. We can't all be Spinoza's and mathematically deduce an comprehensive framework of ethics in our spare time. Mathematicians reduce complex problems to problems that have already been solved. To illustrate:

When a fireman is asked how to put out a fire, if he is in a room with a bucket of water on a table, the fireman answers that he'd pick up the bucket of water and douse the flames. When the mathematician is asked how to put out a fire, if he is in a room with a fireman and a bucket of water on the windowsill, he answers that he'd move the bucket to the table. QED.

One need not go through life re-creating the wheel if someone has already done the work for you. There are a vast array of ideologies, world views, religions, philosophies, and ethical codes in existence. One can have a virtual smorgasbord of mixing and matching ideologies. The point is not to reject ideals and principles, but to be open to changing them or reconsidering them.

Re:Missing the point (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624010)

Ah, true, but one can not go blindly accepting them. One must still evaluate them and decide for oneself which to adopt, that's my point.

Re:Missing the point (2, Insightful)

superwiz (655733) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623971)

Sorry, but most of your actions (everyone's actions) are knee jerk responses. Sometimes, we all (some more than others) stop and rethink our actions. But most of the time responses to situations are emotions, i.e. knee-jerk. Rational is a human skill -- it is not a human natural state. We can train ourselves to try to think rationally most of the time, but again, approaching a situation rationally has to be a trained response to the type of situation that is being presented at hand. That being said, emotional responses are trained. And adopting a certain philosophy allows to train your emotional responses for the future situations that you may encounter. Your philosophy need not be someone else's. Your decision to act in a certain maner in response to certain situations may be entirely your own. But if you want to be able to emotionally respond to situations that you have not encountered before or do not encounter often, you need to familirize yourself with what type of emotional states you may enounter (some are very complicated -- this is what you observe in drama) and then decide on how you'd act in those states. The best solutions are often creative. You may often lack creativity to come up with the solutions that you yourself would find best if you knew them. That's why people study different philosphies of personal behavior. To understand the variety of available emotional responses in order to have a choice of responses to adapt.

Re:Missing the point (4, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624047)

I'll say the same thing to you I said above. You still have to evaluate and decide which systems to adopt as your own. How do you do that? What tools do you use to decide what tools to use?

I am advocating a position of cynicism, in the ancient Greek school of philosophy context, not the modern context where it is closer to nihilism. Do not believe or disbelieve anything, merely weight the possiblities based on all the other ideas one has considered. Doing this, one can take the best parts from all philosophies and moral systems one encounters and discard the garbage.

Re:Missing the point (2, Insightful)

stinerman (812158) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623915)

I wouldn't take a stance that rejects all ideological positions prima facia. Instrumental pragmatism is just as bad, and in many cases worse.
In fact, I'd go as far as saying that Instrumental pragmatism is an ideological position itself. No ideology is still an ideology. Having no ethics is an ethical system. This is because one must make a choice as to the ideology they will follow (if any).

Isms abound (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623827)

People like isms -- if something can (even inaccurately) be called "communist" they can safely dismiss it and not have to do any analysis of it as a concept. But I feel I should point out that calling someone "extremist" is basically the same thing. If rms has suggested people avoid anything that "is in some way capitalist" I'd love to see a citation.

Ideology as an enabling technology (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623853)

But the notion is that the wrong ideology is like chains. They eeem light at first, and may appear to help you build muscle but the more you progress, the more they thicken and bind you to a course of action that steers you away from what it is that you originally wanted to do. The trick is to navigate the landmarks of right and wrong and they don't always leap out at you. And when they do, sometimes it's too late to keep from getting hurt.

Re:Missing the point (5, Interesting)

anaesthetica (596507) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623765)

you get out of it what you want to get out of it, and you put into it what you want to put into it.

Funny, because that statement alone could be interpreted as Christian, Marxist, and Capitalist all at the same time.

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is a slogan popularized by Karl Marx. It was derived from two parts of the Book of Acts in the Bible, Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:34-35, describing the system set up amongst the apostles. And in a more general sense, the statement comports with capitalist ideas of individual agency and self-interest.

Re:Missing the point (2, Interesting)

alcmaeon (684971) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623899)

"It was derived from two parts of the Book of Acts in the Bible, Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:34-35, describing the system set up amongst the apostles"

That is interesting and you are certainly right that the language is similar. I wasn't aware there was similar language in the Bible.

It's somewhat amusing that a Jewish Communist drew his rhetorical inspiration from the Christian New Testament.

Re:Missing the point (1, Flamebait)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623932)

It's somewhat amusing that a Jewish Communist drew his rhetorical inspiration from the Christian New Testament.


Certainly more amusing than what happened whenever somebody tried to implement his ideas without the faith-based component...

Re:Missing the point (4, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624035)

Yea, because we all know that religious states are models of tolerance, liberty, and peace.

The truth of it is, that the problems arise whenever someone tries to mandate a religion, be it christianity, islam, or atheism. The excesses you attribute to communisim are no worse than those found in many theocracies.

got that backwards.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15623904)

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." - grandparent

"And in a more general sense, the statement comports with capitalist ideas of individual agency and self-interest." - parent

I think you've got that backwards. The marxist statement looks like this:

those with the ability -> X -> those with need

where X = the communist state. Capitalism looks like this:

those with the ability = those with the ability
those with need = those with need


notice there is no transfer in the capitalist system. you get what you earn*.

*in general, on average... not talking about inheritance, explotation, etc

Re:got that backwards.... (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623962)

For some values of the word earn- if you scam someone out of his money, you've "earned" it by the definition of capitalism. Not by pretty much any other definition.

Re:got that backwards.... (2, Insightful)

anaesthetica (596507) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624029)

if you scam someone out of his money, you've "earned" it by the definition of capitalism.

This is incorrect. In microeconomics or Econ 101 or whatever introductory econ course you end up taking, you'll learn that one of the assumptions of an ideal capitalist system is something called Perfect Information [wikipedia.org] in which every consumer has correct and comprehensive knowledge of the product they are looking to buy. Scamming someone violates the idea of "perfect information" and is the reason we have anti-fraud laws on the books in every capitalist country.

Re:got that backwards.... (4, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624073)

Unfortunately, we live in the real world, and perfect information doesn't exist (which is one of many reasons why people talking about the free market need to shut up- without perfect information it can't exist). As such, real world capitalism doesn't really care wether you took advantage of a persons lack of information or not.

As an aside- anti-fraud laws predate Adam Smith and the idea of perfect information. SO no, its not the reason we have anti-fraud laws.

Re:got that backwards.... (2, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624031)

For some values of the word earn- if you scam someone out of his money, you've "earned" it by the definition of capitalism.

Which definition are you using, exactly? Here's one from the dictionary:

"An economic system based on a free market, open competition, profit motive and private ownership of the means of production. Capitalism encourages private investment and business, compared to a government-controlled economy. Investors in these private companies (i.e. shareholders) also own the firms and are known as capitalists."

And here's some help on the word "scam":

"A fraudulent business scheme; a swindle"

To defraud someone of a dollar is to steal it. Theft is theft under any economic system,, but it's institutionalized under socialism. So... where were you headed with that again?

you mispoke... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15624064)

Nope, you got that wrong.
What you're talking about falls under the *.


what.... you don't think communist governments have scams? explotation? etc, etc, etc

exactly

100% perfection in wrongness. (2, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623937)

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is a slogan popularized by Karl Marx ... And in a more general sense, the statement comports with capitalist ideas of individual agency and self-interest.

Man, that's a good one. Look, in a market situation, you may have abilities you don't feel like selling, and you may have needs you can't possibly meet (or, far more likely, a wildly distorted sense of the word "need" means - as in, "I really need that new Sony console.").

Any system that purportes to externally gauge what each person's abilities and needs are, and allocates according to that, is the farthest thing from a capitalist, market economy. What if you have an entire city full of people who have astounding abilities to perform ballet, but that's their only ability? That means you've also got a whole lot of skinny dancer types who also happen to have the need for food, HVAC maintenance, appendectomy surgeries, and so on. Central authorities that attempt to size up a situation like that and re-allocate people and resources in a way that doesn't cause friction end up... named Stalin.

Re:100% perfection in wrongness. (1)

anaesthetica (596507) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624051)

I think we got a bit mixed up. I didn't mean that Marx's slogan comported with capitalism. I meant that great-grandparent's statement comported with capitalism. I agree with you that central allocation is fundamentally opposed to a market system.

Re:Missing the point (1)

Cleon (471197) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623988)

That was kinda the point. ;)

And if you look at the FOSS movement as a whole, it really is composed of people from different backgrounds. You have communists, Christians, libertarians, Democrats, Scientologists, hell, dig far enough and you might even find a Republican or two.

Yeah, RMS is out there spreading his particular gospel, but he no more speaks for the FOSS community than I speak for the International Community of Fat Hairy Guys. I might count myself among their number, but that's not to say that my opinion speaks for, well, RMS.

Values (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623794)

I see this as a circuitous way of saying "FOSS types need to have different values." Replacing emphasis on "free" with an emphasis on "connected capitalism" sounds to me adopting the gamesmanship-and-dealmaking approach.


I'm looking in vain for something concrete that Phipps thinks FOSS "could learn" from capitalism... wish I had the complete text. Open source has always -- to me -- been about having more [badosa.com] capitalists

Re:Missing the point (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623823)

Essentially creating open source is work. One can do volunteer work or capitalistic work or work just for the fun of it. If I was to build a boat, couldn't somebody then take that boat and alter it, or simply use its plans to make another boat. No difference here, we just happily ignore stupid IP laws in the process.

Re:Missing the point (5, Insightful)

CptPicard (680154) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623894)

You are very correct. Why is it that some people are seeking to dogmatize some other people's way of doing things to fit their own world view -- so it could serve some "purpose" according to their ideals -- is beyond me. One shouldn't always seek to see everything through some-color-coloured lenses...

On broader terms, this sort of developments in society worry me in general. Certainly the market is good at some things, and people are at least partly motivated by self-interest, and it's fine with me. However, I am getting the feeling that more and more we are being shoe-horned into mandatorily self-interested behavioural models, simply because some powerful people believe that this is the way things "should" work. This kind of thinking can eventually become a self-fulfilling prophecy -- people will eventually forget that alternative models of behaviour actually EXIST, even though they may be perfectly viable choices. Thus higher ideals like altruism and advancing the general good get edged out "just because" and because you have to play by their rules if you want to play at all. This is nicely demonstrated by all the ad hominem attacks against co-operatively behaving people branding them as "Communists" who seek to destroy Western civilization. Soon basic decency is going to be a thought-crime as it reduces the competitiveness of a society and "is bad for the economy".

OSS is, to me, similar to the way science is done through open discourse. It's a joint, open effort to create something cool. No amount of money would actually help me do any better at writing the hobby code I write, because I don't believe that my talents and abilities increase with pay -- in the world of work it tends to be the other way around. The point is that most OSS people are motivated by the project they are involved, not the peripheral benefits they may derive from its commercial success... of course, this is beyond the grasp of all-monetizing bean-counters.

Re:Missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15623927)

Implicit in the Marxist maxim, "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is the requirement of an entity to determine the ``ability'' and the ``need'' of ``each''. Therein lies the trap of oppression from a Marxist government. Karl Marx was brilliant at constructing emotional support for his concept of government. He just sucked at constructing his concept of government. He was a better poet than he was a political theoretician. Either that, or he was a deeply evil man, take your pick.

Re:Missing the point (1)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623957)

That's really the beauty of the movement; you get out of it what you want to get out of it, and you put into it what you want to put into it.


I call shenanigans.

I'm not getting what I want out of FOSS, even though I've been putting in all I want for years.

Re:Missing the point (5, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623995)

I think what Simon is saying is Open Source needs to fit Sun better. But of course, the problem is that Sun doesn't fit Open Source well. Sun's forte' has always been systems programming, not hardware, and in their heyday they charged 70% margins for their hardware and could pay for all of the systems programming they wanted to do. No longer. Computers are commodities and Sun has to function in a commodity market that doesn't even like it when Sun differentiates through systems programming, because the customers don't want to be locked in by Sun's differentiation. On top of that, Open Source has driven systems programming into a commodity and thus killed whatever differentiation was working for Sun.

I don't see how Sun is going to survive this. My fear is that on the way down they'll become the next SCO, because they have been talking the way Caldera did on its way down.

Bruce

Re:Missing the point (2, Insightful)

Red Alastor (742410) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624024)

Whether FOSS is "capitalist" or "communist" or "volunteerist" is completely irrelevant, and quite frankly I think anyone who constantly tries to hammer the FOSS square peg into one of those round holes is doing so for their own purposes
There is a very simple reason why you can fit FOSS in those holes. Capitalism, communism, volunteering and so on are all about managing scarcity. In FOSS, there is no scarcity.

Freedom (4, Insightful)

nadamsieee (708934) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623717)

Free Software is about securing freedom [fsf.org] ; keeping yourself free is a self-interest.

Re:Freedom (1)

bcat24 (914105) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623780)

Open Source, on the other hand, is not. So just what is FOSS anyway? Something that's either open source or free software?

Re:Freedom (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623863)

I think free software is a subset of open-source software. The four freedoms just can't be provided to a user unless the source code is, too. Freedom is the goal. In the "open source" movement the goal is just good software. It turns out that allowing some or all of the four freedoms has a tremendous positive impact on software quality... as things stand. I suspect that if times were different, and it were easier to create good software by tightly controlling the source code, this group would do exactly that. Hard to imagine such a situation, though... maybe a network-less world...

Re:Freedom (1)

cswiger2005 (905744) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623950)

Basicly, yeah. People use "FOSS" to refer to the combination of software which is "Free" per the FSF/GNU crowd, and "Open Source" per the OSI definition. Pretty much, "free" software is a proper subset of Open Source Software...

Re:Freedom (1)

Mprx (82435) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624049)

Then FOSS is a useless word, because by that definition it is identical to Free software. I think your definition is false, and FOSS is really a FUD word designed to confuse people and make them think freedom is not important.

Indeed O/S can learn, and have a long way to go... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15623718)

... I mean, where's my open-source anti-virus and anti-spyware for my Solaris box? Or my Redhat box? That would help complete the open-source experience.

Are you serious? (4, Informative)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623755)

If you are, you haven't looked hard. ClamAV for antivirus. As for spyware, there isn't really any written for Solaris or Redhat, so no need for anti-spyware. There are a lot of security auditing tools, though. Do your own research.

Re:Indeed O/S can learn, and have a long way to go (1)

cswiger2005 (905744) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623888)

You mean, something like ClamAV, http://www.clamav.net/ [clamav.net] ...? Works just fine on both Solaris and Linux, although the vast majority of malware it detects is for the Windows platform (of course).

stick it up betwinxt (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15623731)

stick it up betwinxt my butt cheeks

Whining capitalist .... (5, Insightful)

willtsmith (466546) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623735)


Any good capitalist will trumpet their value based on supply and demand. Then when someone decides to give something away they'll cry like babies. Remember the banks suing the credit unions.

Yes absoluetly people have the right to make free software. And as long as dedicated hobbyists are willing to give it away for the sake of personal satisfaction and being able to control their tools, the corporate guys are going to have to work harder.

Re:Whining capitalist .... (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623784)

As a fanatical anti-capitalist myself, I approached the article in the same way. However, I think he was honestly just trying to promote open source to a particular audience, one who presently equates it with some kind of communism.

I'm not anti-capitalist ... (1)

willtsmith (466546) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623917)


I'm not anti-capitalist. I'm a "fair trader" who believes in a refereed marketplace where rules are maintained in order enforce basic ethics and preserve the "multi-producer"/"multi-buyer" model (the only way capitalism can work).

What disgusts me are these coyotes who eat other peoples lunches like crazy claiming it was there brilliance. Then when someone comes along and says "I can do that for free" they run to the courts and Congress and attempt to create regulatory barriers (that they previously decried) to protect their own interest against free commerce (something they previously trumpeted).

I don't think commercial software will ever disappear. But I do think that "trivial" software that commands exorbidant fees (Oracle ... Tivoli) will. If you want to maintain value, you have to do something better then what a bunch of volunteers can produce.

Re:I'm not anti-capitalist ... (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623991)

Hehe, I said anti-capitalist, not anti-free-market. I would love to see a system such as you propose. But I'm no lassez faire free market fanboi, either. There are some areas where government regulation is needed. Such as keeping the markets free, regulating natural monopolies, and dealing with externalities.

Re:Whining capitalist .... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15623826)

The thing about Supply and Demand is that the marginal cost of a piece of software is trivial. Moreover, the supply can be incredibly inelastic. The result may be something close to a vertical Supply curve at $0.

Which makes for an interesting little equilibrium. There's a lot of consumer surplus to be had... not so much producer surplus. And a lot of positive externalities that result from the creation of free software.

Re:Whining capitalist .... (2, Insightful)

anaesthetica (596507) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623900)

Any good capitalist will trumpet their value based on supply and demand. Then when someone decides to give something away they'll cry like babies.

I don't understand, are you calling him a bad capitalist, or are you saying that a capitalist wouldn't give away the source code? Because neither is the case. Capitalists give things away all the time--sales, promotions, loyalty rewards, bonus miles, etc. Open source is just one more way of involving your consumers. Think Darwin and Apple. This highly successful capitalist corporation open sourced parts of its operating system. As a result, the community got involved, people got interested, and lots of geeks returned (or tried out) the Mac platform. Apple won by giving something away, and the community got to see some source. Capitalism and open source side-by-side, no one "crying like babies."

Re:Whining capitalist .... (1, Interesting)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624082)

Capitalists only give things away because they expect to make more in return. OSS does work that way, but only in terms of the intangibles that capitalism is quick to scorn.

True capitalism is greed based. You make something, and then you guard it jealously, never letting anyone see it, so you and only you can make money off it.

OSS doesn't work that way. You make something then put it out into the system, where a lot of people can use it, some to make money, and others just for fun, and in return some of those people put code back into the system, which you can use for whatever. Money can be a part of it, but it's not the driving force behind it all.

Re:Whining capitalist .... (2, Insightful)

tiocsti (160794) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623977)

Opensource is, in reality, a very capitalistic system in the sense that demand (or popularity) of a project determines, to a large extent anyways, the supply of development cycles. Popular projects get developers, unpopular ones do not -- this is very capitalistic in nature.

However, the problem with opensource allocation of scarce resources (developers, artists, whatever) is that it is not keyed off demand directly, but off of what the developers, et al are interested in producing. There is a strong correlation between what they are interested in and the demand in the market place.

While imperfect, open source is probably closer to a true capitalist system than most economic systems, since it is pure. The only impurity (from a capitalist perspective) is the loose correlation of dev interest and consumer demand.

Re:Whining capitalist .... (2, Insightful)

Mr. Flibble (12943) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623985)

Any good capitalist will trumpet their value based on supply and demand. Then when someone decides to give something away they'll cry like babies. Remember the banks suing the credit unions.

You are maliging capitalists here unfairly. In a free market, if someone wishes to release something free of charge, they can. Anyone who whines and cries out for "regulation" or about "unfair competition" is not really into capitalisim. However, what you illustrate by that example, is not capitalists crying foul, but people just acting in their own best interests, and that is patently human.

For a better reference check out Milton Friedmans "Free to Choose" it is a very good documentary on the free market system and Economics.

Open Source is not communism (5, Insightful)

jdavidb (449077) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623744)

Last time I checked, many open source people were pretty capitalistic. I guess the rumor keeps floating around that everybody's a commie or something, but it simply isn't true. I'm a laissez-faire capitalist, and therefore I love open source.

Phipps called for "volunteerism" to be replaced with "directed self-interest"

When you really get down to it, there's no difference. People "volunteer" because they get something out of it, whether it be financial, utility, entertainment, or the satisfaction of simply "making the world a better place."

Re:Open Source is not communism (5, Insightful)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623858)

Even if OSS was "communist", I don't think most real capitalists would have a problem with it. In fact, if free OSS is good enough to draw people away from commercial software, then the commercial software has to offer something above and beyond what OSS does just to compete. That makes all consumers better off.

Also, there's nothing about Capitalism (a term made up by Marx, BTW...) that says people can't do things for free or out of the goodness of their hearts. In fact, in Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith says that beneficence is an important aspect of a successful free market environment. Currently, the U.S. has a mixed-economy that a lot of people like to call Capitalism, but is actually much closer to the Mercantilism that Smith was writing against. In a free market society, you're welcome to live on a commune if you choose, but you're not free to buy & sell as you wish under Communism...

Re:Open Source is not communism (1)

killjoe (766577) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624030)

Bill Gates the richest man in the world, the guy who helps millions of babies all over the world called you a communist. You think that hasn't sunk into the conscienceness of America? To many americans Bill Gates is a hero to be admired. If he says you are a communist then you are one.

Re:Open Source is not communism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15624041)

When you really get down to it, there's no difference. People "volunteer" because they get something out of it, whether it be financial, utility, entertainment, or the satisfaction of simply "making the world a better place."

Or credit, for your community service project... or with open source, credit for a contribution, something to put on your resume, to show off your skills...

Scratching an itch... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15623751)

...does not qualify as directed self-interest?

Re:Scratching an itch... (1)

daniil (775990) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623871)

In these days of Open Source fanboyism, nobody's scratching an itch anymore; they're all masturbating.

"Directed self-interest" (5, Insightful)

ThousandStars (556222) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623758)

Phipps seems to misunderstand OSS on a variety of levels, as other posters have pointed out, but I'd focus on how he divides volunteerism from "directed self-interest." Most OSS projects are created out of "directed self-interest" in that someone needs to do something (run an OS on esoteric hardware, word processing, whatever) and then writes a program to do it. In return for making it OSS, the original author collects feedback from the community and may ultimately attract patches, other maintainers, etc. If he wants his program to become better, it's often in his "directed self-interest" to make it so.

The same applies to companies - Sun didn't make OO.org open-source out of the goodness of its heart; it did so to strike back at Microsoft.

There shouldn't be the firm line Phipps draws between volunteerism and "directed self-interest" - they're interelated. They always have been. They probably always will be.

Re:"Directed self-interest" (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623814)

You are obviously not a member of his intended audience. He was talking to the Suits in Suitanese. He's just pitching open source to the kind of people who shoot their wad when they hear the word "profit." As distasteful as that is, he may actually be on to something.

Re:"Directed self-interest" (2, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623893)

Nah. I'd approach those sorts of people from the classical "Stallman needs to keep the contributors happy" dilemma. The contruct allows for ground rules that tend to equalize all competitiors and prevents any one of them from taking advantage of the rest. If you are in a position where you feel that you might want to co-operate on some bit of infastructure that's not a part of your competitive edge, then you can do so with Free Software secure in the knowledge that it's set up to prevent your competitors from screwing you.

It's a contract that enforces co-operation.

Contractual detente should be easy enough for suits to grok.

what is this guy talking about? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15623760)

I couldn't understand a single thing he was talking about???

Here's the facts on capitalism. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15623766)

In the last twenty years, the real wages for college educated US workers have barely
kept up with inflation. Outside the US, the situation is even worse in the majority of cases in those countries that have followed the so-called free market solutions to economic and social problems. Meanwhile, as the majority hang out to dry, the profits for those involved in capitalism proper, eg capital instensive ventures, have doubled dozens of times over. The only lesson capitalism seems to offer is that under a capitalist system, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. How long does it take this guy to get that lesson?

Re:Here's the facts on capitalism. (1)

bcat24 (914105) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623801)

True, capitalism is no silver bullet. I do think it's the best compromise, though.

Re:Here's the facts on capitalism. (2, Insightful)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623810)

Yup, life is competition, which means losers. To believe otherwise is to deny humanity.

Life is what you make of it (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623914)

Most people I know would prefer a world of cooperation rather than competition, if it were possible. They don't necessarily have to take your word for it that it's impossible (the argument "didn't work in Russia" basically implies "if Stalin can't do it, no one can!") It's insulting to the dignity of human beings to suggest that they cannot affect how the world works -- especially the world of societies, which were created by them in the first place.

Re:Life is what you make of it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15623986)

"Most people I know would prefer a world of cooperation rather than competition, if it were possible."

Jesus, did you people ever play a freakin sport? fuckin pussies...

why don't you go ask those people from failed commuist states how much they like cooperation, puuuuleaze.

Goverments need to be formed around the human condition.... and the human condition is NOT cooperation.

Re:Life is what you make of it (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623994)

Most people I know would prefer a world of cooperation rather than competition, if it were possible.

And I think most people, of whatever stripe, don't mind if you desire that for yourself. Where we start having problems is when people like you force everyone else to live in a world of "forced equality" (generally via the government forcibly taking from one person and giving to another, without benefit to the whole). Everyone should have the right to work to improve themselves, regardless of how high they end up relative to everyone else.

Re:Here's the facts on capitalism. (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623926)

Yup, life is competition, which means losers. To believe otherwise is to deny humanity.

And not only humanity but life by itself, it is the food chain and the basic rule of life to survive by eliminating others. I have always thought how this so called "reasoning" beings are the ones that kill for other things than self preservation.

Re:Here's the facts on capitalism. (2, Insightful)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623942)

If too many people consistantly end up being losers though they tend to revolt and kill the winners. Especially if the winners are 'rigging' the game to their advantage. That's also human nature.

Re:Here's the facts on capitalism. (1, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623958)

Life is not just competition. Our ability to cooperate gives us an edge over animals that don't. Your cells cooperation in making you what you are is a prime example, as is the whole ecosystem of helpful creatures you have living in and on you, and without whom you would be unable to digest things or fight off infections nearly as well.

Competition destroys intrinsic motivation. People are motivated to do things for personal reasons that have little to do with competition. When competition reigns supreme, this intrinsic motivation is weakened and people start doing things for reasons that conflict with their innate self.

Competition duplicates effort. When industries compete, they duplicate each other's effort and waste time, brainpower, and materials. Find me one example of a large and successful corporation that is run internally on competition rather than cooperation. Corporations know that cooperation is the only viable strategy, because they have actually tried the alternative and competition failed miserably.

In short, competition is not what nature is based on, and it is no good model for effectiveness in human society.

Re:Here's the facts on capitalism. (3, Funny)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623998)

Our ability to cooperate gives us an edge over animals that don't.

So what you are saying is we need to keep an eye on those damned bees.

Damn! I knew it! All that buzzing and fuzziness is just a front!

Re:Here's the facts on capitalism. (2, Interesting)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624034)

Yes, bees and other eusocial [wikipedia.org] animals are a great example, not only because they cooperate, but because of the genetics involved. If evolution is about survival of the fittest individual how do non-breeding individuals such as drone bees ever evolve?

Re:Here's the facts on capitalism. (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624009)

Yup, life is competition, which means losers. To believe otherwise is to deny humanity.

One might as well say, "Life is co-operation, which means collaboration. To believe otherwise is to deny humanity."

Of course, that would be equally stupid, at least if you took it to mean, "Life is only co-operation..."

Is life competition? Are you sure about that? (1)

ahfoo (223186) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624019)

I couldn't disagree more with the common misunderstanding that life is somehow naturally focused on competition.
        Let me give you one example of which I could add thousands. Let's look at the food pyramid. This is a classic example because it's probably where you're thinking your argument finds its strength. In fact, the food pyramid proves that competition is insignificant in the big picture.
      Measured in calories, where do you think the vast majority of the nutrition on the Earth comes from? That's right. It comes from plants --annuals in particular. Where do the annual plants come from? They come from the previous generation in the form of seeds, spores and shoots. Where do those seeds get the energy to grow? Do they fight each other for it? No, they get it from the sun. If the animals that eat those plants fight over the plants, will the result be more plants? I don't think so.
        It's not to say that competition doesn't exist. It does even in the plant world. A certain group of plants in a given area might compete for sunlight. So, the point isn't to deny that there is such a thing as compeition. What I would hope to teach you is simply that a wise person ought to consider the larger picture of how before the world works before assuming that competition is such a central focus of life. It simply is not. That's a fact.

Facts? I Think Not (2, Insightful)

tabdelgawad (590061) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623946)

Wow, an AC posts completely unsubstantiated 'facts', condems a system that:

- made the US the sole world superpower
- made the West's standard of living what it is
- is responsible for almost every useful innovation of the last 2 centuries
- is lifting 100s of millions out of poverty in China and India
- is the single explanation of the vast economic chasm between North and South Korea
- etc and so on

*and* offers no alternative, yet is already at +4 Insightful.

Nice.

Re:Facts? I Think Not (1)

killjoe (766577) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624055)

And all of that comes at the expense of the environement. There is no such thing as free lunch and there isn't an infinate amount of anything in the universe. Every dollar created comes at the expense of some natural resource without exception.

If the rate of wealth increase in china and india keep up and come within 30 to 40 percent of the US we will see global catastrophies. Can you imagine every chinese with a suburban house and an SUV? Every Indian? Can't happen.

Re:Here's the facts on capitalism. (2, Insightful)

2nd Post! (213333) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623975)

In the last twenty years, the real wages for college educated US workers have barely
kept up with inflation.


Except that is not capitalism. College educations provided by the state is a type of socialism. Wages, especially minimum wages and the inflation that inflicts upon the rest of the wages, is another type of socialism. Inflation is another beast entirely, an effect of economics and technology as well as interest and growth.

Outside the US, the situation is even worse in the majority of cases in those countries that have followed the so-called free market solutions to economic and social problems.


Well, if the problem is higher wages, the solution is not capitalism, socialism, or any other kind of dogma. Wages and income are a function of value and productivity, which themselves are products of science, technology, ingenuity, and research, among other things. Capitalism is the solution for a totally different problem. Capitalism is about competition, profit, and growth, and towards that end it has succeeded.

Meanwhile, as the majority hang out to dry, the profits for those involved in capitalism proper, eg capital instensive ventures, have doubled dozens of times over.


As they should, because that is how capitalism works. If you want people to earn more, they need to engage in capitalism; given their resources, offer a service or good worth many times the raw resources, at a price that the market will bear, and prosper (or fail).

The only lesson capitalism seems to offer is that under a capitalist system, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. How long does it take this guy to get that lesson?


No, the only lesson capitalism offers is that under a capitalist system, only capitalists get rich, while everyone else will coast along on the engine of growth generated by the capitalist. The capitalist increases profit by increasing efficiency and reducing waste, and paying people is technically a waste if it is unnecessary. That is why you see wages stagnating.

Re:Here's the facts on capitalism. (2, Insightful)

anaesthetica (596507) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624000)

In the last twenty years, the real wages for college educated US workers have barely kept up with inflation.

In the last twenty years there has been a significant increase in the number of college-educated U.S. workers. As the supply goes up, the price of their labor (i.e. wages) goes down. Only because demand for college-educated works has also gone up has their real wage level remained constant.

Re:Here's the facts on capitalism. (1)

killjoe (766577) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624074)

I will quote Jesse Jackson.

"Capitalism without capital is just another ism".

Re:Here's the facts on capitalism. (1)

acklenx (646834) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624085)

"doubled dozens of times over"

_dozens_ as in with an s, so that's at least two dozen right?
so 2 to the power of 24 times whatever they were making before, say $1.00 per year == $16,777,216.00
guess it's time for me to move outside the US and get invovled in capitalism.

it's not about capitalism (4, Insightful)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623781)

It's about freedom, and yes it's about liberalism. Although it might be clear for most people I'd like to stress that the threat to open source software is not capitalism but corporatism, and the state. They're responsible for patents, the DMCA etc.
Now the kind of pressure found in a market economy completly apply to open source. Developpers will migrate from one project to another as interest and popularity shifts etc. There is an evolutionnary process very similar to the one found between businesses in market economy, only it is much faster and smoother due to the conditions guaranteeing freedom. Indeed capitalism could learn from open source.

Re:it's not about capitalism (2, Interesting)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624011)

Developpers will migrate from one project to another as interest and popularity shifts etc

That gets the developers what the developers want. No project, commercial or free, is going to gain much traction if there isn't a commitment to maintain it for an acceptable amount of time. Also, any need that isn't popular among developers may simply be ignored because there's no incentie. I think the OSS movement could use more "bounty coding", though I don't know if that's going to get quality code or not, because implementing a feature so that it works on some minimal level is easier than polishing it and making sure it is solid, reliable code.

Re:it's not about capitalism (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624053)

Exactly that's why most of the successes in open source are in tech related tools... however some developpers are interested in developping for popular projects, this creates a more need base effort that is currently driving the development of linux for desktop.. bounties are definitely going to become very hot in the next years.

Sun Could learn some lessons from capitalists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15623796)

I don't know FOSS learning from capitalists, but from Sun's market performance they
definately need some capitalist schooling.

Is this a revelation? (2, Informative)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623820)

So Phipps says the future of open source is in companies (and individuals) cooperating and each one preserving what is of value to it. He says it's not about altruism but about self-interest. Is this news? Do a Google search for "scratch your own itch" [google.com] and you end up with a whole bunch of references to open source. Hardly original thinking on Phipps's part.

He may be right (4, Insightful)

stinerman (812158) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623890)

This comes down to which side of the F/OSS coin you're on. Do you use GNU/Linux, *BSD, OpenSolaris, etc. for ideological purposes or because you like it better? Do you define success of F/OSS as having many users or simply having many free software libraries and programs to choose from? (yes, that question is not an either/or)

The open source people are pragmatists. They actually do, for the most part, rely on self interest to get the job done. IBM doesn't really care about the politics behind free software; they just care that it does the job at the lowest cost. There is nothing wrong with this.

For the most part, this distinction doesn't really matter. Those of us in the free software movement who work towards the volunteerism and ideals can work in harmony with those who are directed by self-interest. The only thing that we need to agree on is the license the code is using. The license doesn't require you to buy in to any politics to use the code. Stallman doesn't make you buy into his rhetoric before you get a copy of binutils. This is the great thing about F/OSS; anyone can contribute for any reason, and we all gain from the contribution.

'If you think open source is a minefield (2, Funny)

0x20 (546659) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623891)

... you're doing it wrong.
i.e. stepping on mines?

Phipps could learn from real capitalism (2, Interesting)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623903)

The guy is way overpaid, with a salary more than 200 times that of the average worker in his firm, not even including his unwarranted pension, benefits, protection from lawsuits for criminal actions, and stock options he backdates for the best strike price.

Hey, don't ask for capitalism if you can't live under it's rules yourself.

Linux is capitalistic (4, Insightful)

riversky (732353) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623916)

I switched my small consulting business to Linux for very little cost, can expand rapidly, don't have licensing fees, and can find low cost IT labor....This means MORE PROFIT for me and my investors....Low cost input, high value output, nothing is more capitalistic.

The Pollylog uses open source (1)

IamLocated (977754) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623933)

The Pollylog ( http://pollylog.com/ [pollylog.com] ) uses an open source form of Digg wich is pretty cool although Pollylog doesnt display advertising so I guess it depends on one company being capitalistic (being digg) and another not.

The Battle for Merit as self interest (1)

delire (809063) | more than 7 years ago | (#15623940)

Isn't software development with an opensource context already innately 'self-interested', where the supposed 'meritocracy' translates as a selfish need for recognition within a competitive technical arena?

Open Source could learn from Capitalizing (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15623987)

As well as proper spelling and punctuation.

We seem to be forgetting ... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15623993)

We seem to be forgetting a fundamental lesson we learned a long time ago. If people share information, everybody is better off. In the middle ages, people jealously guarded any information they had. If you were a doctor or a stone mason, you didn't share with anyone who wasn't in your guild. The result was that society as a whole didn't progress. Everyone was poorer.

Once scientists started to share information by publishing it, technology took off. The capitalist idea of hoarding information and patenting everything and suing everyone is just backward. As another poster noted, it helps the rich get richer but it makes us all poorer.

As long as people are willing to produce foss, it will out-compete proprietary software because the benefits of openness far outweigh the supposed motivational advantage of trying to make a profit.

FOSS does what you want it to (2, Interesting)

aoporto (964515) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624012)

I believe that FOSS can serve many purposes. It seems that any stakeholder can spin the purpose of Open Source to their needs and proclaim that all other methods need not apply. The truth is that capitalists and idealists can all take part. One big variable people keep forgetting about is what license you use. We released our software ListRing http://listring.com/ [listring.com] under the BSD license simply because we want as many people as possible to try this new way of sharing information. We think it is innovative, others may disagree, but anyone who wants can get it with the code. At some future date we will provide added Enterprise features based on what our customers are willing to pay for.

the iteresting thing about open source (1)

Budenny (888916) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624020)

The interesting thing about open source (politically, not technically) is that the phenomenon should not be possible if the Marxist account of capitalist societies is correct. What OSS shows is that self interest is a more complicated thing than the traditional left wing models allow, and that it manifests itself in more varied ways than they allow. So we have for instance Sun with OO, acting assuredly out of perceived self interest, yet in a way that would be inexplicable in traditional Marxist terms. I have often wondered why left wing academics seem wedded to MS, and unwilling to even try OSS or find out about it. Perhaps it would be too disturbing. A bit like finding that the Lord does not in fact strike you dead if you eat pork in a cold non-desert climate, and are not a pastoral nomad. You start to wonder if the problem might not be the Lord's view of pork, but some rather specific ecological aspects of pig rearing, hot deserts, pastorality and nomadism. And that is really really scary. Similarly the discovery that self interest can motivate large sections of a community to act in apparently non-proft maximising ways, to the benefit of society as a whole, and in a capitalist society at that. Well, that is a truly terrifying idea. If that is possible, whole lives can have been wasted in devotion to false ideals. Yes, they have been. And masses exterminated as well. In fact, what Western societies have discovered, and OSS is an instance of this, is that freedom to follow one's beliefs, and the means to do it, leads people to act in very interesting and varied ways, which benefit their fellow man in ways Marx never dreamed of.

Business advice from Sun (1)

m0llusk (789903) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624044)

How to respond to business advice from Sun? Laugh, cry, both?

Perhaps they could reach this happy medium by auctioning off the process of opening sources for projects. Start with a high initial bid and reserve and see what the market will pay to have source code opened up.

Directed Selfishness (3, Interesting)

boyfaceddog (788041) | more than 7 years ago | (#15624080)

Let's see. I think it would break down like this:

1) Someone gets paid some money by some group or project to write some code.
2) Another person who also wrote code for the project but didn't get paid says "I want mine!"
3) The whole project folds as some idiot starts equating pay to the number-of-lines-written multiplied by the moeny-per-line-of-code of the first person.

People, if you want to write software for money, get a job. If you want to write software because you think the project is neat and/or worth you while, donate your time.

Same goes for volunteering in other things. The world could use our help - for free.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...