Should governmnet software be Open Source?

Derek J. Balling dredd at
Wed Mar 8 21:24:08 UTC 2000

At 04:13 PM 3/8/00 -0500, Rick B. Dietz wrote:
>The issue to the IRS was not that it was competing with commercial
>services, rather it was making interaction with an existing government
>beaurocracy easier for citizens for nothing over the internet.  Intuit was
>saying, wait a second, we like this ugly bureaucratic mess just the way it
>is because we profit from it as an unneccessary middleman.
>You seem to suggest that a bureaucracy such as the IRS should not try to
>improve its services in light of advances in technology.  That is an
>argument for greater centralization, inefficiency and stagnation.

No, but making taxes available to be done over the net is NOT what you 
said, you said they were going to provide software to do it. My contention 
there was "which platforms will the software run on, and more importantly, 
which platforms will not be 'officially sanctioned for doing your taxes on'?"

If we're talking about something in a web page, that's a whole 'nuther story.

>My main point is that Opensourcing gov't software will likely have the
>same impact as the gov't making software freely (0$) available.   It will
>improve gov't services and efficiency and threaten private interests which
>profit from the bloated and less than user friendly interface our
>institutions currently present.  If it threatens private interests with
>enough cash, opensource in gov't software won't happen.

Your argument seems to go something like "These guys profit on the bloat, 
so why not let the gov't make some software that will put the bloat-abusers 
out of business."

I would argue that idea is fundamentally flawed. You SHOULD be arguing:

"Get rid of the bloated system and replace it with a non-bloated system."

The government should not be competing with businesses just for the sake of 
competing with them. Where is the direct value to the taxpayer if 
additional tax dollars are spent developing and supporting tax-software 
that will create no extra revenue (to be potentially self-sufficient)? If 
you release that open-source, how do you train your support people to 
recognize the "pure" IRS version versus the one that Joe Geek hacked up and 
compiled himself (to make it BETTER, of course!), and do you incur extra 
costs trying to support every hacked version out there?

Two words: Logistical nightmare.  This is a case where the private sector 
and closed-source are a better solution (IMHO).


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