boomberg bloopers

Jordan "Logos" Greenhall logos at
Fri Feb 16 19:54:23 UTC 2001

>From a public-policy perspective, the object should be that the public
is well-served.  In this sense, the criterion for judging the "threat"
of free software is whether an economy that includes free software
provides a public benefit equal to or better than an economy that
doesn't include free software.  If we were to assume that Allchin's
worst fears come true and that all proprietary software is displaced by
free software, the only public policy impact would be if this
environment were to create a world that was worse-off.  The fact that
the domestic software industry would have to radically change is of
secondary concern (albeit not inconsequential).  

So, would a world powered by Linux be worse-off than a world powered by


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Seth David Schoen [mailto:schoen at]On Behalf Of 
> Seth David
> Schoen
> Sent: Friday, February 16, 2001 11:45 AM
> To: license-discuss at
> Subject: Re: boomberg bloopers
> David Johnson writes:
> > On Friday 16 February 2001 02:20 am, Seth David Schoen wrote:
> > 
> > > If there were a big market for some kind of labor and a 
> lot of people
> > > began to do that same labor as volunteers, or as a hobby, 
> the people
> > > who did it for a living would see their livelihood 
> threatened, even
> > > though the activities of the volunteers or hobbyists are totally
> > > legitimate.
> > 
> > Bullocks! If I donate my time to a soup kitchen I am not 
> threatening the 
> > sandwich shop. And my letters to the editors do not 
> threaten the daily 
> > columnists.
> I probably should have been more specific about "that same labor".
> The reason these things don't threaten the livelihoods of the other
> laborers is that they are not good substitutes for what they displace.
> (If you want to write a daily column for free, and donate it to a
> newspaper, you do threaten the daily columnists.  If you want to run a
> sandwich shop as a hobby -- like the Internet cafe in my early example
> -- you do threaten the commercial sandwich shop.)
> Since I think free software is a good substitute for proprietary
> software most of the time, I think it is a threat to the livelihoods
> of many proprietary software developers, and the business of their
> employers.
> Maybe Allchin doesn't think free software is a good substitute for
> proprietary software, so he thinks it's not a threat.  Except perhaps
> he's saying that the public hasn't yet noticed that open source
> software isn't as good as Microsoft software?
> It's difficult (as other people have pointed out) to understand the
> exact nature of Allchin's concern.  If he doesn't think that the free
> software community produces a good rival product, he doesn't have a
> long-term reason to worry; but he is, he says, concerned.
> > > If you look at bottom lines instead of ethical or legal 
> principles,
> > > _any_ competition -- especially competition from competitors who
> > > experience fewer costs -- is undesirable and harmful. 
> > 
> > Bullocks again! Competition is an aid to an industry. A monopolist, 
> > regardless of your moral position on the topic, is prone to 
> poor quality and 
> > high prices, while even two competitors in an industry will 
> at least "raise 
> > the bar". Given that the competition is voluntary, and not 
> an artificial 
> > product of a court ruling, it can only be a benefit.
> The bottom line of a monopolist who can extract monopoly prices is
> still better than the bottom line of a competitor who produces a great
> product.  There are some exceptions to that (where competition led to
> innovation and growth in a market), but in the short term being a
> monopolist is much better for bottom lines (not for "an industry").
> > Of course, most, if not all, Open Source is "free beer" and 
> not sold as a 
> > product (although the shrink wrap, service or support is). 
> It is not in 
> > competition with closed source software anymore. That Open 
> Source has become 
> > a significant enough factor to make Jim Allchin sweat is an 
> indicator that 
> > least certain sectors of the closed source market are obsolete.
> I don't understand how you can say both of those things.  If those
> sectors are "obsolete" (because of open source software?), how is that
> open source software not competing with the proprietary software?
> > The profession of scribe used to be a lucrative trade. But 
> the invention of 
> > the printing press vastly lowered the producing copies of 
> books. The 
> > profession of scribe didn't go away, it just had to find 
> new market niches. 
> > I'm sure the Jim Allchins of those times accused Gutenburg 
> of Uneuropean 
> > activities. In the same way, digital meda and networks have 
> vastly lowered 
> > the cost of producing copies of software. And the public is 
> starting to find 
> > this out. It won't take the closed source industry out of 
> business. But 
> > closed source will have to find new market niches besides 
> the "one size fits 
> > all" niche they've been in.
> I agree with this -- but I emphasize the part that any particular
> scribe may go out of business, if the changes are really dramatic
> enough.  So it makes sense that they worry, it makes sense that they
> gripe; it just doesn't make sense when they say "There is no real
> competition here".
> -- 
> Seth David Schoen <schoen at>  | And do not say, I 
> will study when I
> Temp.  | have leisure; for 
> perhaps you will
> down:   (CAF)  | not have leisure.  
> -- Pirke Avot 2:5

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