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Of the powers we choose to lose

I used to be what is sometimes called a "Free Software purist". "Free" here refers to "free as in freedom" according to Richard Stallman's Free Software Philosophy. As such I was opposed to all proprietary software licensing. If a program doesn't come with a license that allows you those "four freedoms" (to run, modify and share both unmodified and modified versions of the program as you wish) then using it meant you don't care for your freedom and are choosing to be a "slave" to the developer. In turn I largely tended to agree that such developers are immoral to offer software under such licenses.

Needless to say that put me against the likes of Microsoft and Apple and even to some extent against certain Linux based offerings because they included certain bits of proprietary software in it. I joined in the fight against DRM which we called "Digital Restrictions Management" rather than "Digital Rights Management" which is its official name. I wrote articles in support of GNU General Public License which I saw as the best way to guarantee these four freedoms and protect them from being taken away. I chastised Linus Torvalds for choosing not to relicense the Linux kernel under GPLv2.

And then something happened, which was probably one way or another inevitable for me. I started talking with a friend about freedom and what it means which led to discussions that went beyond Free Software and into social organization and philosophy. As we employed critical thinking and questioning we were increasingly led deeper and deeper into individualism and recognition of freedom as a negative concept - freedom from something rather than freedom to something. Increasingly it was no longer about any particular set of freedom to do this or that, but rather about a freedom, a freedom from coercion. This single freedom ended up being a precondition to everything and an only way to hold a freedom-loving ideology that isn't self-contradictory.

If you are free from coercion then you live your life in complete freedom. Everything you do is voluntary. Everything you're subjected to is so because you agreed to it yourself and therefore subjected yourself to it. I could no longer see any real basis for the Free Software philosophy as such. If I agreed to particular terms of service before being provided it then I am still within my freedom. Proprietary software stopped being "immoral" and I could no longer identify with the Free Software movement.

Furthermore I could no longer identify with liberalism either which I probably was supportive of by default, even if I was never quite aware of it. Liberalism is all about freedom too, but it makes the mistake of thinking of liberty as "positive liberty" where you have freedoms to things; "right to free healthcare", "right to free education", "right to environment", right to this and right to that. All these rights turn out to be mere entitlements determined more by the emotion of the moment than critical study of human condition. Politicians promise these entitlements to gain votes and the public ends up embracing this idea of entitlement to something for nothing solely because they exist. Yet free healthcare, for instance, has to be provided by someone. It has its cost. There's no such thing as "free healthcare". Thus in order for them to have that "right", someone else must either be willing to work for free or be robbed at gun point.

Thus I rejected government due to its clear violation of freedom from coercion. Now I believe in the pure free markets, as something emergent from lack of coercion. Where there is trade there is no violence. One is fundamentally opposed to the other. However in a society so entangled with legitimized coercion it is hard to see where the market ends and government begins. It is hard to make out the effects of voluntary trade and the effects of coercion and violence. A lot of people call what there was in the USA as "free market capitalism" without paying any attention whatsoever to all the coercion that was still existent in it and creating its own effects. Thus they cannot distinguish between corporatism and capitalism.

Corporatism is capitalism regulated by the state, even if very little. It is a system which requires some or all businesses to register to the state in order to continue doing business and thus receive certain benefits from the state. The most obvious benefit is evident in such titles as "Limited Liability Company" (LLC) . Most people never see a problem in that. In fact they think of it as a necessity, yet what this essentially means is that a business is no longer 100% accountable to the market, to you the customer, and instead its liability is limited by the power of government. A government gives a corporation the power that would otherwise belong to you. That is the core of corporatism and carries within the sentiment that gave rise to large seemingly untouchable corporations which seem to have more power now than multiple states combined and are justly suspected of running the whole show by now.

It is the rejection of pure free market capitalism that created this situation. It wasn't too much free market. It was too little. It was the fact that it never was a 100% free market, even if it was 90%.

So we come, within the range of technology, to a world of Microsoft, Apple, IBM and other big corporations essentially shaping up the markets at will. People, same people who let the governments prop up these corporations through a series of small steps they took under a misled belief in "small sacrifice for the greater good", simply don't have enough of their own individuality and sense of self in them to require more power and more control. Thus they are easy prey to marketing that promises nothing but more convenience and more ease of use at the direct expense of lost control. And there is one company that are the masters at bringing you to into this mentality: Apple.

They seem to be the embodiment of this progression. Steve Jobs has merged the sensibilities of art with the function of technology to create an entire culture of people enamored by devices which seem more like magic than science. Magic, something you just can't and probably aren't supposed to know the inner workings of. This is a very dangerous thing to do within a culture of people so willing to give up their power whether for a vague idea of a "greater good" or for a little bit of convenience. When you have the love and trust of such people it's so easy to make them give up more and more and more, until you sell them devices that are almost completely controlled by you. Devices like iPhone or the iPad.

Reading that Cracked article and thinking about it made me, in a way, come full circle with regards to one thing. I used to have that extreme mistrust for people who sell you stuff you can't control and as the entire Free Software philosophy laid in ruins before my eyes as I turned towards the idea that if you agree upon something your freedom isn't lost I lost glimpse of a very subtle danger. It is easy to miss it in a world so duplicitous and ruined by this conflict between violent and voluntary interaction (government and the free market as it were).

It is the fact that the market will reflect the mentality and culture of the people. If the people are so easy to convince into giving up their power then they will do it in a multitude of ways. Perhaps buying an iPhone isn't as immediately harmful as voting for a law that creates a yet another victimless crime, but it is the reflection of the same mentality. They have gotten you so easily convinced that convenience must come at the expense of your personal power just as the government has gotten you convinced that security comes at the expense of liberty.

But it doesn't. Both are lies. One serves the profit of a multinational corporation at the expense of your power to choose and another the expanding power of your government over every aspect of your life.

Comments

 

I'm not clear on the conclusion, as you hit upon like a dozen topics here...

Is your conclusion that you're no longer in support of the FLOSS movement because it requires contribution back when changes are released to the public? That agreeing to use FLOSS, you're suddenly required to...what? It seems more coercive to me that you're unable to even modify the software from a closed-source, non-Free software distributor/developer. Coercive that you must prove your licensing for every change to a program or reinstallation. Coercive that you must use Software X to play File Y or control Hardware Z. FLOSS exists to allow people to use it, modify it, and distribute it if they wish. None of this is required (the user or sharing or modification) if you feel that non-FLOSS doesn't work for you.

In my deep thoughts, I've come to believe that "freedom to ___" is a common plan/goal in Democracy (Freedom of speech (aka to speak openly), freedom to vote), where as "freedom from ___" is a common defense of the centralized-planning such as marxism (freedom from poverty, freedom from hunger). I am not sure how any of this is matching FLOSS, however. Can you please clarify for us?

Re: Of the powers we choose to lose

lefty.crupps wrote:

Is your conclusion that you're no longer in support of the FLOSS movement because it requires contribution back when changes are released to the public? That agreeing to use FLOSS, you're suddenly required to...what?

No and none of that. Smiling I simply stopped believing in Stallman's four freedoms as a moral code. If I myself agree to certain terms of use and voluntarily obtain software without the source code then I am not being coerced. Doing something of your own free will is by definition the exact opposite of being coerced.

lefty.crupps wrote:

It seems more coercive to me that you're unable to even modify the software from a closed-source, non-Free software distributor/developer. Coercive that you must prove your licensing for every change to a program or reinstallation. Coercive that you must use Software X to play File Y or control Hardware Z.

But if you are the one who agreed to all these restrictions then it simply cannot be coercion. Someone offering you something under some terms is simply making an offer. If (s)he doesn't actually force you to download or buy his or her software by a threat of force then (s)he is not coercing you.

To claim that you are being coerced to obey terms you agreed to yourself is a pure and simple self-contradiction.

lefty.crupps wrote:

FLOSS exists to allow people to use it, modify it, and distribute it if they wish. None of this is required (the user or sharing or modification) if you feel that non-FLOSS doesn't work for you.

Of course. If I choose not to use it I don't have to. Same exact thing applies to other software. I personally do prefer FOSS however for obvious reasons.

lefty.crupps wrote:

In my deep thoughts, I've come to believe that "freedom to ___" is a common plan/goal in Democracy (Freedom of speech (aka to speak openly), freedom to vote), where as "freedom from ___" is a common defense of the centralized-planning such as marxism (freedom from poverty, freedom from hunger). I am not sure how any of this is matching FLOSS, however. Can you please clarify for us?

Well my article above should be evidence that not only marxism speaks of "freedoms from" since I am definitely not a marxist, not even close believe me. Smiling I don't even think this is what marxists actually believe. If they speak of "freedom from poverty" or "freedom from hunger" I think this is simply rhetoric. You can often flip specific freedoms to something into freedom from something. For examples, freedom to clean environment -> freedom from pollution, freedom to free healthcare -> freedom from illness and so on.

But I don't think you can flip "freedom from coercion" like that. How would you put that in a positive manner? Freedom to not be coerced contains "not" in it, therefore it's still "freedom from coercion", still a negative liberty. You could say "freedom to liberty" I suppose, but that's like saying freedom to freedom.

The connection between this (my belief in freedom from coercion) and FLOSS is this: as I realized that freedom from coercion is the fundamental freedom and that entitlements ("freedoms" to things) usually lead to a self-contradiction I could no longer see Stallmans "four freedoms" as anything morally relevant and fundamental. They're just more statements of entitlements. In short, I stopped believing in baseless entitlements which "four freedoms" of Free Software philosophy are and therefore I stopped believing in them too.

Just to be clear about one thing however. What I am criticizing in this article is choosing to give up certain powers. However while I think this is often a bad choice and we do it too easily I don't think it is immoral. If you choose to buy an iPhone with full knowledge of its restrictions neither you nor Apple have done morally wrong. BUT, you did make a particular trade off, a kind of trade of I am warning people of in the article.

If we do such trade off too much it could eventually lead to a situation where something immoral does happen, like someone actually threatening force against you if you don't buy from them and you thinking it's all ok because it's convenient. In that case you no longer had a choice, but were so used to giving up some power yourself and so used to not thinking about what you're getting yourself into that you could almost sell yourself to slavery without fully realizing what you're doing.

This reasoning, while it doesn't make proprietary software immoral, does prop Free Software up as a better choice if you wish to give up less power and maintain more control over your computing as well as if you wish to be more aware of what you're getting yourself into with your choices.

Hope that helps. And if you wish to discuss further about the merit of "freedom from coercion" vs all other freedoms and why I think it is a necessary precondition for everything else, feel free to say. Smiling

Cheers!

Re: Of the powers we choose to lose

 

stallman and most of the computer specialists, free, open, proprietary or commercial, academic, community-oriented, politically acitivistic, have not come to the conclusion that freedom to collaborate encompasses the essential freedoms, and that is the itch i want to scratch. they paid for their computer smarts, in tuition, in kowtowing to the hierarchy, in working their way up the ladder, in humbling themselves before the forebears. free speech and responsible speech are indeed the crux of the issue.
long live foreign language comments in the source code. and long live free education in all languages.

Re: Of the powers we choose to lose

 

When I need to weigh the pros & cons of my current choices, in most given circumstances, it helps me to consider what options exist, on my path, by thinking about it like this;

Choose life and one has more choices,
choose death and one has no more choices.
Given the decision before me,
what road should I take now?

I probably wouldn't mind being locked into proprietary software today, but later, as the only certainty is change, I may not want that lock-in, but it would be too late to change. The software movement is evolving. I have not so much an issue with free / paid software, but what I definitely do want, is open source. It feels good to share and it feels closer to my perception of freedom.

I'm a big believer in "failing to plan, is like planning to fail". However, sometimes, it's better to be spontaneous and see where the chips fall. There is a growing cultural movement spreading across the globe, centred around open source (no longer limited to just software). I trust in nature, and in its spontaneity that relies heavily on all kinds of freedom. I would be most unwilling to stifle it, so early on, by stereotyping it with labels and loaded meanings.

One always has the choice of suicide, but one would be most unwise to take it.

Re: Of the powers we choose to lose

 

On a philosophical stand, we often see that a struggle for freedom could be called not-conventional. This non-conventional stance is a kind of non-conformism.

However, there are two types of not conventional people:
those who are PRE-conventional
and those who are POST-conventional.

I see both sides in the linux "shop"

PRE-conventional people just want freedom because THEY themselves want it for themselves only. PERIOD!
This can be called narcissist. I see them often in my classes where i teach linux and security. These are the people interested in using Backtrack "for fun". They are not even interested in learning IP-addressing, they just want to spy on others. These people don't respect the rights of others. They don't respect the right of the musician to make a decent living. These people would not build a society .

POST-conventional people like to interpret a law/rule limiting freedom for the good and for all. These are the people seeing that software patents will produce less creativity. They are interested in linux because it gives them a wider scope on computing in general. They see the benefits for society and for a better world.

Pre-conventional people have a very limited outlook. Their consciousness is limited to themselves and their immidiate surroundings.

Conventional people are integrated in society and accept its rules. The play their role in it, but nothing more.

Post-conventional people are also integrated in society, but they want to make it better, and more encompassing.

Pre-conventional freedom is doing what i want to do, regardless.

Post-conventional freedom is doing your thing, whenever it doesn't hurt others. It's about creativity and perspective.

bert

Primitive attempts at Political Thought detected

 

Once in a while you get them.

People who think about politics and the way society "ought to be put together" without the benefit of either systematic background knowledge of how politics worked out in the past or simple economics.

People like that are able to blithely ignore thousands of years worth of experience, plus contemporary evidence, which shows that mankind (a) really doesn't consist of saints (b) shows an amazing amount of social behaviour, (c) must allow for individual sparks of contrary genius to progress and (d) isn't very good at charting progress beyond the blindingly obvious even at the best of times.

If such people are also programmer types, they easily drift into extreme positions. As in: they see something they object to (often on the best possible grounds), and then start tracing the whole issue back to one single "cause". Which they then take issue with in a forceful manner. Like proprietary software for example. Or (software) patents. Or copyright.

For example, Karl Marx was one of those. It wasn't that he was particularly wrong about the issue he saw: far-reaching exploitation of have-nots by the rich. It wasn't that he was particularly wrong about the societal mechanisms that caused and enabled it: inertia and short-term thinking (or no thinking at all) on part of the have-nots, religious structures, laws of ownership, division of political power in the hands of those that stood to benefit from maintaining the status-quo. Those were all accurate observations.

Where he went wildly, fundamentally, and spectacularly, wrong is both in his recipies for improvement, also known as "Socialism", and the way in which he overlooked the effects of feedback on the situation, plus the resulting effect of increased health, wealth, and power on part of the have-nots. Indeed, trying to radically implement his recipies as proposed has proven a sure and certain road to ruin, where allowing the for-profit motive and admission (either in moderate or more moderateways) of individual property caused nations and societies to thrive. For which individual freedom really isn't a necessary precondition. Just ask the Chinese.

I see some parallels between Marx and Stallman. Both clearly recognised a problem when they saw it. Both analysed its root cause and came up with programs for improvement. Both ignored the perennial shades of grey that characterise society instead of the pure black-and-white terms in which they viewed things.

The slow reflection on part of the author caused him to first espouse the idea of "Free Software" (on emotional grounds devoid of understanding). Then totally reject it for reasons of the most basic and elementary economics (somebody has to do the work, and that somebody needs to be paid for his work) dressed up as imperfect "freedom".

What follows is a headlong dash into a naive "Down with government 'cuz it's not free from coercion" line of thinking.

What makes the author's piece interesting is his clueless parroting of the ever-popular "We need more free market" fairytale.

Obviously overlooking the basic fact of life that coercion,violence, and oppression are all very much part of the market and that you need Government unless you wish to join the ranks of "failed states" like e.g. Somalia and Afghanistan.

For clues on just how much violence is inter-related with, and part of, the "free market" just look at the history of the mob in the US (waterfront trade unions, liquor running, the numbers racket, protection money, gambling, prostitution), and contemporary drugs trade). Those are all "free markets" of the most fundamental kind: lawless except for laws enforced by participants (individuals or groups) ... with violence.

In this light only the most cluelessly naive or recklessly ignorant can pound on the dogma of "total freedom"

And then that gem about "Microsoft, Apple, IBM and other big corporations essentially shaping up the markets at will". Perhaps the author has never heard of mainframe / mini companies like Sperry Univac, Control Data, Burroughs, NCR, and Honeywell ?
Well ...they either went out of their core business or they went out of business. Because the (market !) demand for their wares evaporated. And yet they were "big companies". For all that they were also one-trick ponies. There is nothing mystical about "big companies". They are just agglomerations of money, people, and control mechanisms that emerge because they are at least as good at serving market needs as any competitor. And they usually dissolve when they no longer are. Of course such concentrations of interest wield political power. Especially in the US. But they can't immortalize themselves.

Take Microsoft for example: the great bugbear. It wouldn't exist if people weren't prepared to pay for their wares. And it will rapidly cease to exist if people prefer other people's wares to theirs. Don't take my word for it, take Bill Gates word. He was always acutely aware that Microsoft needed to stay on top. Which is why he turned his entire company on a dime when he caught on to the importance of the Internet, and why he adamantly refused to open up file formats of e.g. Office, or document client-server protocols. He understood the deadly threat of Open Source software to his company's business model. Unless Microsoft can come up with something really compelling in the next 4 years, it will start to slide. Its main competitive advantages in the marketplace right now are: inertia, patents, organization, marketing, and money.

In 20 years time there will be no more market niche for Microsoft Windows or Microsoft Office (its main cash cows and hence pillars of its structure). Simply due to slow dissemination of knowledge and code. So why worry?

Generally speaking, people who are worried sick about "things they can't control" and dream about "total freedom" have a problem. A big one.

Because, you see, every last one of us is wholly dependent on society (read *other people*) for his (or her) most basic needs. Like: security, food, shelter, medical attention, and knowledge. Unless you turn Robinson Crusoe, and even then you're at the mercy of the first punk with a gun that happens to pass your way.

So why doesn't the author what he's good at? Like coding (I hope). Political or economic thought sadly aren't among them.

Re: Of the powers we choose to lose

 

Yes, you came full circle, and in the way just revolved arround the center of the matter. What is freedom?
Freedom cannot be cohertionlessness, because we are not pure wills, we have needs and live in a World that is constantly cohering us. Thus, what really is it? I have come to the conclusion that It's a promise we, social animals, make to each other. We promise not to mess with each other lives more than it's strictly necessary for common survival. That's freedom. Nothing more, nothing less.

Re: Of the powers we choose to lose

 

It's an interesting chain of thinking, though with some weak links and some utopian thinking that just show your background. Not bad, but you should go our some more and see the world.
I'm pointing specifically at that illusion you call free market, and "where there is trade, there is no violence". Show me a place where there is a weak government and opportunity to trade, and I'll show you a corporation with the best guns money can buy, and with the intent to use them on the name of free market. Adams' "invisible hand" has proven to be a finger in non-sancta areas in any all cases where it has been left to its own.

Re: Of the powers we choose to lose

 

Interesting article. Coercion only covers the use of force and authority. How would you see freedom from manipulation in this?

Re: Of the powers we choose to lose

 

This is a fairly typical US "Libertarian" stance. I see two basic claims here.
The first is about the nature of freedom. The thesis is that the nature of freedom is purely negative and indeed that there can be no real discussion of this. This is not an uncommon stance, and it's defensible in a way, but I find it deeply unsatisfactory--it amounts to a retreat to the ideal in the face of the real. One problem with any kind of ideal definition when it comes to a concept like freedom is that freedom is a social concept--it isn't like "gravity" or even "truth", which hold their meaning pretty much independently of people. So what is the worth of a concept of freedom which can be satisfied without any actual people actually being particularly free?
If I'm living in a country, like many countries, where most of the money and ownership are in the hands of a very few while most other people are poor, and if there are no schools available to me, so that I must remain ignorant, and if there are only a very limited variety of jobs available to me and they all pay very badly and entail very long hours of work, but I will starve if I do not take one--just how free am I? How many choices can I in fact make? I might be a genius, but unless the particular kind of genius I have includes mastery of social manipulation, the only real choice I have is to work 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, until I die of disease or old age. But theoretically, nobody is coercing me. I am "free". I can work at any job I want (as long as it's one that's on offer). I can get any education I want (as long as I can get to where it is, which I can't, pay for it, which I can't, and take years off work without starving to death, which I can't).
The best take on freedom I know of in the modern era is based on the theories of John Rawls. Rawlsian Justice Theory says that we should push for that society which we would choose if we were to look at the different possibilities and choose not knowing *where* we would end up in the society we chose. Rawlsian justice theory accepts those limits on theoretical freedom which result in increased actual freedom on average--such as limits on freedom to commit murder, or limits on freedom to deceive in commercial transactions. Such limitations reduce the freedom of those who want to do such things, but reduce the effective constraints on those who would otherwise be their victims. In effect, that part of the Free Software movement which advocates the GPL takes the same stance. The GPL, unlike the BSD license, reduces your freedom to use GPL software to exploit others, in the interests of retaining the freedom of the next people using the software. The BSD license believes in complete specific freedom at the moment, possibly at the expense of freedom for others or later on.
And the author's stance with respect to proprietary software is similar--he opposes coercing, or even forming moral judgments about, producers of proprietary software in the name of their freedom to do things as they wish, and feels that as long as they do not actually coerce the buyers of their software the fact that those buyers have less actual, real-world freedom in terms of what they can and cannot do with that software than if they had acquired Free software doesn't matter. The theory, to memenode, trumps the substance: As long as a choice was made, that is freedom, no matter what reductions in freedom may flow from the choice. I can't accept this kind of Platonist approach.

Another problem I have with the author's stance on negative freedom is that it seems like he only cares if people have the *potential* for freedom. As long as a perfect person, who read all the Eulas in detail, never made a purchasing error, never misread the markets--as long as that paragon would be able to make all the right choices and be free, that's good enough. If anyone loses freedom because they're dumb, or careless, or not savvy enough to see through confidence tricksters' claims, well that's too bad--they don't really deserve freedom, do they? Freedom in this reading is for the elite, for the few, the proud, the independent, the unusually intelligent, the well educated, not for the "sheeple", or for the poor who couldn't get educated. Seems to me people should be free because they are people, that each person should be treated as "ends in themselves and not as means to an end". Putting up lots of conditions before you can be considered worthy of having freedom kind of devalues it as a fundamental ethic. How fundamental can it be if it doesn't matter whether most people actually get it?

The viability of the author's ideas depend to a fair amount on the second claim.

The second claim is about the nature of free markets, and more broadly about the consequences of absolute negative freedom. It claims that truly free markets would result in freedom for all and that such markets are incompatible with violence. In this kind of world, there is no contradiction between maximum theoretical freedom at one moment and real-world freedom on an ongoing basis. Maximum theoretical freedom to each individual leads to maximum real-world freedom for all in this world.
Unfortunately, this second claim is not defensible, it is utterly spurious. Really, there are so many factual and theoretical bases for breaking this claim that if it were not useful to rich people it would have no defenders at all. On the theoretical side, this is an appeal to the theory of efficient markets. The theory of efficient markets is a set of math which says that if the world behaved according to certain assumptions, markets would clear with optimum efficiency and, basically, good outcomes for all. Unfortunately, to make the math work, the assumptions required are so far from reality as to be ludicrous; more recent economists have found that as soon as some of these assumptions are relaxed, markets stop being efficient or optimal. Some of the assumptions: An infinite number of small firms, each unable to set prices. Perfect, cost-free knowledge about the entire economy on the part of every person in it. So, no advertising. Every economic actor motivated entirely by maximizing monetary gains. Reducing returns to scale. Yes, you read that right--efficient market theory depends on larger firms finding each unit *more* expensive to produce than the last. That's how the theory imagines firms will stay small. And finally, no time. Efficient market theory math only works in a timeless present, or at most in a future about which everything is already known. It's easy to see this has little to do with the world.

From a more real-world perspective, the fact is that "markets" are not some magical thing which would be unleashed if only government interference disappeared. To the contrary, markets are a social construction which requires institutions such as government in order to exist. A poster above referred to Somalia, another to the behaviour of markets unregulated because they are criminal. Very apt. Someone has to enforce norms of behaviour, create something like a currency so everyone isn't stuck bloody bartering, and so on. It can be done privately, but it can't be done without some degree of coercion. If the coercion is done by one group with no input from others, there will be problems, so it's better if the coercers represent the whole society. In short, when market regulation starts to work, you find this is because what is doing it is some form of government or state. But the question of market regulation has never been a question of "whether". It's been a question of "for whose benefit?" Current "intellectual property" doctrines, for instance, are certainly a constraint on "free markets", and yet they are sold as part of "free trade" agreements.

Meanwhile, "free markets" and "capitalism" have never been that closely related. This is a confusion that is peculiarly modern and most common in the United States. You can certainly have markets without capitalism. And you can probably have capitalism without markets--actually, the US military procurement system pretty much is capitalism without markets. Markets are about voluntary or sort-of-voluntary exchange of goods using prices. Capitalism is about wage labour. The point of capitalism is that someone owns something like a factory or a mine or a set of printing presses and related equipment. For anything to happen, someone has to work in these places, producing the stuff (iPods, coal, Hustler magazine). Capitalism is a scheme where one person or persons own the production sites and take the money generated by sales of anything produced. Out of that money, they pay the workers wages. Any extra they keep, or invest in improvements to this production site, starting up new ones, or buying other existing ones. Or, nowadays, buying Collateralized Debt Obligations, betting on their value at the casino and getting bailed out by the public if they bet wrong.
So say these factories, mines, printing presses are instead owned by the people who work in them. They decide how much to pay themselves, and how much to invest in plant improvements or what. The stuff they make could still gets bought and sold in markets, but it would not be capitalism. Capitalism is defined by the distinction between capitalists owning the places and workers working in them for wages. If the government, or the workers, or the priesthood own the places it stops being capitalism no matter how free the markets might be.

And the history of capitalism is a history of coercion and violence. It's also a history of markets which are "freer" (for sellers, mainly, as opposed to buyers) or "less free" based on which the richest think at the time will make them more money. Capitalism doesn't have a fundamental attachment to "free" markets, whatever the official line might be just at the moment. It's always had an attachment to markets done "our way", and has enforced that attachment at gunpoint the world over, whether on inconvenient governments or on striking trade unionists or on ordinary people who preferred a bit of hunting ("poaching") to working for ten cents an hour.

For capitalism and markets to work at all well for people in general, it has to be kept on a leash by a government controlled by those people. As popular control unravels, the system stops working well and you end up with freedom for monopolies and bailouts for financial giants but harsh bankruptcy laws for individuals. Remove government and regulation entirely and you wouldn't have no rules at all, you'd have rules imposed by those who could hire guards with guns.

So. The author's ideas about free markets and the implications of complete formal negative freedom are simply false, and indeed amazingly naive. Given that falsity, it's clear that the adoption of his Platonic ideal notions about the nature of freedom would lead in the real world to serious reductions in freedom. If you're committed to freedom, you have to be committed to actual freedom for actual people, and that requires more than lip service to technicalities, it requires building it at the level of practice and institutions. Free Software in the Stallman conception is concerned with building up situations which allow people to actually have freedoms they can actually exercise, on an ongoing basis. Freshman Libertarian pseudo-philosophy does not make a serious challenge to this approach.

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