Governance and responsibility

Ian Jackson ijackson at
Sun Sep 25 12:16:35 UTC 2005

Eric S. Raymond writes ("Re: License Committee Report for September 2005"):
> The OSI Board makes policy.  The license-discuss list advises the Board, 
> and I promise you we do listen very carefully.  But when we have 
> made a policy decision, your responsibility is to either assist us in 
> implementing it or recuse yourself from the process.
> You knew or should have known those rules when you walked in.  [...]

What's really going on here is that the OSI Board are a self-appointed
bunch of people who reckon that they've got the moral authority to
tell other people what to do.  You say that this is OK because those
other people can always choose not to do as you say.

But of course you must know that many important decisions in our world
are not made by (a) competent people or (b) the people whose work and
lives are affected - including the decision to follow OSI's
recommendations about licenses.

For both this reason, and because self-interest ought to suggest to
the OSI Board that they want to retain people's respect, it is
important that the OSI Board do more than pay lip service to the
idea of open consultation and consensual, community-based

Whereas, in fact, the apparent official position of the OSI Board is
_opposed_ to consensual, community-based decisionmaking !  They won't
even pay lip service.  Board members are explicitly rejecting the
notion that they have any responsibility to behave - in this public,
governmental role - as we the people expect them to.

Russell and ESR and perhaps others may live in a world where OSI is
just a private bunch of people (perhaps because in their libertopian
nightmare world everyone is just a private person), but out here in
the real world OSI is one of the institutions of governance.  The
clear and repeated denial of the corresponding responsibility to have
open (participatory, not just consultative) processes is outrageous.

Standing there and saying `and if you don't like what we do you can
set up your own body' is one of the best ways of encouraging people to
do so.


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