And a Randian Take

Interesting polemic against FSF philosophy, from an avowed Objectivist. A few tidbits:

So why does “freedom 0” include the phrase “for any purpose”? If the purpose is to use a program as an instrument of unjust power, wasn’t that what we were trying to prevent with the whole “free software” concept in the first place?

All four of the FSF’s “freedoms” are premised on the idea that the developer of a software program has no rights.

What if the developer doesn’t want to freely license his program to genocidal dictators, while still freely licensing it to others?

So “freedom 2” (in conjunction with “freedom 0”) turns the developer who falls for it into a slave, unable to require a price for his work and forced to give it away for free.

The “free software” philosophy is pure collectivism.

Unlike coercive slavery, Free Software slavery is all “in your head”.

The author seems to have had experience dual licensing with a noncommercial public license in the 1990s. The blog post was published on a site dedicated to their concept of “Open Software”. They originally published a license that preserved a clear right for the licensor to revoke permission at any time. It seems they’ve since moved to a license that blacklists entities involved in various nefarious behavior:

a) Criminal entities involved in the violation of individual
   rights, and any associated entities, including the members,
   owners, collaborators, beneficiaries, employees, contractors
   and affiliates of such entities. The term "criminal" in this
   context refers only to actions and entities that violate
   individual rights, not to those that are legislatively declared
   "criminal" by a government but don't involve the violation of
   individual rights. For a comprehensive explication of the
   concept of individual rights, refer to "The Ethics of Liberty"
   by Murray N. Rothbard.

b) Government entities and wholly or partially government funded
   entities, and any associated entities, including the members,
   employees, contractors, affiliates, and net beneficiaries of
   such entities. This includes Corporations or other entities
   (including individuals) that hold contracts with government
   entities or government funded entities, and all associated
   entities, including the members, owners, employees, contractors
   and affiliates of such entities.

c) Entities engaged in the advocacy or propagation of ideologies
   that are inimical to individual rights, including socialism,
   communism, fascism, racism, feminism, Marxism, collectivism,
   and statism; and any associated entities, including the
   members, owners, collaborators, beneficiaries, employees,
   contractors and affiliates of such entities.

I’m enjoying catching up on some reading list items with analysis from one angle or another. I’m not a libertarian or an objectivist. But I can put together a nice composite list of criticisms from their blog posts!

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I think pointing out the tradeoff between developer rights and user rights is worthwhile, and the weaknesses of “for any purpose” are not hard to see. This post also is emblematic of the individualist vs collectivist tension in the philosophy of FOSS, and it’s self-aware enough to name that explicitly.

That said, invocations of Rothbard are, I’ve found, almost always precursors to complete hogwash, and this is certainly no exception. The hyperbolic description of non-slavery things as slavery was where I really started to roll my eyes, and I can’t say I’m surprised by the list of bad things including communism and feminism alongside fascism and racism. This is your brain on anarcho-capitalism.

The first handful of paragraphs are mostly fine, but once Rand and Rothbard are mentioned it all goes irretrievably off the rails. I doubt there’s anyone out there who has asked “what would the Hippocratic License be like if it were written by anarcho-capitalists instead of progressives”, but now we have an answer, I guess.

(Also, amusingly, a friend points out that the original Artistic License 2.0 forbids modification, and so the “Open Artistic License 2.0” is arguably violating that copyright in and of itself.)

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This was an interesting contrast from the usual FSF puff
piece. That said, in the “meta” it has very similar issues I think. You start from a debatable worldview, and extend it in debatable ways, never fussing about the soundness of either one because obviously it makes sense to you.

The whole bit about free software being socialism is even an interesting analogy, but the “here’s why socialism and therefore this policy is bad, kids” is left as an exercise to the reader. In precisely the same way that the inherent value of freedom 0 is an exercise to the reader, they all rest on some sort of gut assumption you should already have rather than a real argument to persuade.

IMO what’s missing from the entire conversation is empiricism. Nobody measures if they are really more or less free in an ecosystem over time, and in so doing defines what that means in a way that applies to the real world and could be tested. They just imagine how idealized people would be according to an abstract model. But humans are terrible at modeling.

Empirically, there are a lot of high-profile license changes lately all across the stack. But the entire conversation is around denying that it’s happening or trying to scare people out of it on some trumped-up charge. Vs understanding why it’s happening or finding common ground with people doing it.

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Its quite interesting that an objectivist critique of the fsf suite of licences can come to similar conclusions to a collectivist critique, albeit mutatis mutandi the perspective of the critique…

“For any purpose” is the canker at the heart of the fsf ideology, so its presence in this screed is unsurprising. There is, accordingly, a plausible commonality in both viewpoints.

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RMS is in fact a socialist

:yawning_face: whuuut now?

RMS is in fact a socialist



The reported death of Free Software is no tragedy… it’s a farce.

When Hardin [Tragedy of the Commons, 1968] asked his readers to “[p]icture a pasture open to all,” he was referencing an ungoverned open-access regime from which nobody could be excluded. Yet by calling the resulting collective action problem “the tragedy of the commons,” the notion of common property became conflated with the lawless (or law-free) condition of open access.

Yet confusion on this point has yet to be fully eradicated. Recognizing that nearly all “private” property is actually owned (or at least used) by groups, such as households or firms, offers one way around this blind spot. These everyday examples of non-tragic commons lead us to ask not whether common property is feasible at all, but rather under what circumstances and at what scale.

Fennell, L., 2011. Ostrom’s Law: Property rights in the commons. International Journal of the Commons 5, 9–27.

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I really appreciated how you put that.

It wasn’t the reason I went back and read these blog posts. It wasn’t the reason I bookmarked them in the first place. But it was definitely a takeaway from turning back to them all at one time.