Took the time to read through the post.
The worn retelling of the FSF/Stallman/printer fable and the excursion on communism-capitalism-authoritarianism aside, I think I understand where the author may be coming from. I’d group them very much with DHH and other writers who feel a strong need to separate FOSS from not-FOSS, to make it an exceptional, remote, and in some sense “pure” refuge from and foil to humdrum reality. I also put Yochai Benkler in that group.
Two common symptoms.
First, there’s the very rigid, binary, either-or relationship with any other approach to software:
When you try to pay for gifts, it turns the whole gift process into a transaction.
By this logic, all the projects offered as loss-leaders, marketing projects, and strategic market distortions—which the author is evidently aware of—aren’t gifts anymore. They’re transactions. I wonder if they’d also try to class free services exchanged for data, like Facebook and Twitter, as gifts? If not, what tiny part of online software or online software services actually counts as gifty Free Software?
Second, unsupported leaps in the area of psychology:
There’s research showing that, for example, financial compensation in a job is more likely a demotivator than a motivator (ie. if you pay me too little, I’ll work less hard or quit, but if you double my pay, it won’t double my output).
That generality does not follow from the specific studies, or the author’s summary of them in parenthetical. It’s also highly selective, skipping all the evidence we have on responsiveness to financial incentives, piecework, and the like. Similarly:
Ruin the giftiness, and you ruin the intangible rewards.
That might be a valid personal statement, but it clearly doesn’t hold for all. Is it really impossible to enjoy paid work through felt, intangible benefits? Do we simply not believe people who say they love their paying jobs?
So it is with free software. You literally cannot pay for it.
You most certainly can. And not just back in the day, for copies on physical media.
I react somewhat viscerally to this point of view, because it denies mine. There’s nothing unavoidably cut-throat, interpersonally barren, or theologically fallen about exchanging money, assets, or business benefits. Especially when exchange is fair.
I had great relationships with paying customers as a programmer. And I have relationships with folks I pay now that involve more than just a combative, arms-length exchange of $x for y. Those relationships happily and naturally inhabit continua. I don’t see or feel any reason to paint them pure black, as opposed to the pure white of “gift” or “open” or “community” experiences, to avoid having grey in my world.