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Open source and post-capitalistic society

(!) This articles has been revised - please read it here! (!)


There is a relation between technology and capitalism. And there is a relation between open source and free software movement and so to be called post-capitalism. What is post-capitalistic society and where are these relations?

Capitalism as the social structure was founded in order to support further evolution and development of human race, to support the innovation which was oppressed by the former system. It was brought up by the two industrial revolutions. The technology was obviously the main to blame for the outcoming capitalistic society. The new capitalism was more liberalistic promoting free trade and pushing globalization in order to support further development and growth of technology.

But, it seems like the technology has been pushed so far and so high that the now old capitalism formed to support it starts to act as it\'s oppressor. The world of software technology is the obvious example of it. The first signs of these events can be recognized far back into 70s and 80s when the software technology\'s started to emerge.
Now, the capitalism oppresses the further technology growth by oppressing the development of software. How? By making it proprietary, creating monopoly\'s. To capitalism, everything is property, including software. And that is where the problem is. The software cannot be considered as property, it is more like an information. It is simply too easy to copy it without ANY effort and that is what led to it becoming a commodity which is a reason more why it just cannot be proprietary. If it is considered proprietary and created and used in such manner, we are getting monopolies created, patents issued and other restrictions that do no good to the further development of software technology, but to oppress it.

Look at the capitalistic giant, Microsoft! Imagine that there were no free software movement and open source. Microsoft would be the ultimate monopolist, the whole world would be their empire. In such case, there would be no real progress and innovation because there is no force to drive it.
THAT is the very proof of capitalism being simply too old and incompetent to handle the new technology of today properly, in the information age run by computers and software.
The open source and free software movement are already taking steps further, outgrowing the limitations of the old and incompetent capitalistic system in order to create what may be called a post-capitalism, true liberalistic, society where the technology will be freely developed at the rates the open source software gets developed today.
More to this, open source and free software movement being the major sign is not the only sign of the sickness of capitalism and it\'s fall.
Simply look at the way things are going at this point in history regarding the major events. When there was a war in Iraq, masses of global and organized people, ordinary people like you and me, used internet to start the organized real time and worldwide demonstrations against the war in Iraq. The same happens with any other major event. There is a global network of people united in their fight for freedom and peace. It shows how the technology of today gives the power to the ordinary people instead of power being in hands of a few big shots. And those people, masses, globally networked masses, ask for one thing: FREEDOM!
Their (our) �enemies� are therefore everyone that anyhow try\'s to restrict the freedom and impose the control over them.
The entity\'s that fall into that category include:

the greatest corporations such as Microsoft and oil companies (imposing monopolies and restrictions in order to control as much as possible)
political entities such as USA and European Union (imposing wars such as the one in Iraq, pushing restrictions of freedoms to use and develop technology through software patents etc.)

And when we say �enemy�, we don\'t mean that the corporations, companies and governments as the organizations should be terminated in order for us to have the freedom we deserve nor we in any case mean to fight them with violence acting like terrorists. We should simply raise our voices using the internet and technology in order to change the way these entities function today so that they are no longer the oppressors of freedom, but it\'s supporters.

These global networked movements, such as open source and free software movement are actually forming a third industrial revolution which may crush capitalism as a social structure and finally bring the power to the majority and support the unrestricted growth of technology.

I am on the right side, are you?

NOTE: Everyone reading this should read Free software movement and post-capitalistic society instead as it is completely reworked, well researched revision of much better quality than this article which is more like a \"shouted out\" opinion. :-)

Thank you


Re: Capitalism, or new capitalism


Well perhaps we can just agree on software patents. I do believe in intellectual property, but only copyrights should be used to protect intelectual property. When it comes to software patents, its too hard to distinguish a good patent from a stuipid one. Capitalism is certainly not dependent on software patents. Patents are good for protecting insentive for developing technology, but when ordinary citezens can produce technology such as software in their own homes patents are not useful and are a hinderance. Patents are rules of specific "Implementaions" of capitalism and not of capitalism in general, so I don't see the need to be anti-capitalistic. My fear is that anti-capitalistic rhetoric, even if it is just in the scope of how it relates to software, will make people disdain capitalism in general.

As for the war on Iraq, I guess it really doesn't matter much to me if people in Europe agree so long as they don't interfere. I guess I should post any rants on that issue on a politically oriented web site.



This is a good example of the fact that marxism is as relevant today as it ever was. Very well done. About all the other comments: I have not seen a single thought through arguemnt, it's all just good old fashioned commie-scare.

Johannes Wilm

Re: marxism


I believe my comments were well thought out. I also believe that marxism in practise leads to everyone being equally miserable. Fair capitalism is the best economic model. In the USA there are few people who know what true poverty is, and that is because of capitalism.

Rowdy Riemer

Re: marxism


> I also believe that marxism in practise leads to everyone being equally miserable.

How is this different from capitalism? You may be richer than you would be in a communist society now, but how rich will your children's children be? Both "fair" communism and "fair" capitalism will eventually be abused by an immoral few.

In the USA there are "few" people who know what true poverty is. Why are there any in such a rich country?

When capitalism goes wrong, the answer is not communism. We need something new. I think the author of this article pointed out very well that this new thing is evolving in the way people share information.

Information economy, gift economy... I'm sceptical, but open to such new ideas.


Re: marxism

As i understand, Marxism is the communism taken to extremes. But i'd say that true communism never existed. This is a failed ideaology and i don't know how good would it be to fight for it again. The communism as such seems to have a bad reputation in the world. It would therefore have a little chances of succes if it were pushed as an ideology. Capitalism seems to be failing in many fields, information technology being the strongest example of it. What we need may not be called communism nor the marxism, but the social structure that could be based on capitalism, but changed in manner in which it would handle the information technology properly. It is a logical step forward to base the future social structure on the failing existing one no matter if it fails because people just couldn't keep the original spirit and ideals of it, or it outplayed it's role due to the great technological evolution of humanity.
Something new, maybe similar to communism, but also in some manners similar to capitalism may be something worth fighting for.

I think that, free software movement and open source show the right way to the future in regard to information technology. Call it as you wish, but the founding ideals of these movements are the future. They represent more freedom to all people, and that's what matters the most. Freedom and power to all, and not only few.

Daniel Orsolic

Re: marxism

Just to add this to that sentence: "freedom and power to all and not only few": It is possible now, more than ever before, because of technology! That is why "liberating" technology for the ordinary people to use freely is what we need. Free software/open source movement does exactly that!

Daniel Orsolic

Re: marxism


There are two issues I'd really like to clarify here.

1. Please explain how patents are good for hardware, but bad for software. Please explain why the two are different, and in one case you have more ownership rights to the fruits of my thought, my labour, my effort than another.

2. For all of you Marxists out there: If I labour, and work (regardless of the form that work manifests itself) by what right do you claim ownership to my efforts? For the public? Who are the Public? For the common good of society? Who judges what is the common good and who are the society? Once you define these concepts with something a little more precise, then I might be able to offer an opinion, but as long as the "social collectivists" deal in non absolutes and undefineable terms, it is hard to base any reason based response on the fuzzy terms used.

3. I build myself a house. It is my house, you have no right to it! I build myself a bicycle from raw materials, you have no right to it, it is mine. These are the rewards for my effort, and my labour. People do not have a right to it based on need! I write software. What I do with that software is my choice, it is the result of my effort, no one has rights to except me and who ever I decide I wish to share it with "under my terms" if you do not agree to those terms then I will not let you use *my* software that I created.

To put monopolism into the context of the olympics I have included an extract from a paper by Robert S. Getman

Imagine an Olympics where--in an attempt to "level the playing field"--no athlete was allowed to score "too many" points or to win "unreasonably." Imagine, after the event, a winner being punished for having scored "too much"--punished, at the behest of his competitors. Imagine that the very definitions of "too much" and "unreasonable" were left to the whim of each referee. Such "rules" would not "level" the field--except in the sense of leveling it to rubble, rendering all the rules arbitrary and athletic achievement impossible.

For clarification one more story is that of the little red hen.... please think carefully and see if you recognise any parralells here:

Once upon a time, on a farm in Illinois, there was a little red hen who scratched about the barnyard until she uncovered quite a few grains of wheat.

She called all of her neighbors together and said, If we plant this wheat, we shall have bread to eat. Who will help me plant it?

Not I, said the cow.
Not I, said the duck.
Not I, said the pig.
Not I, said the goose.

Then I will do it by myself, said the little red hen. And so she did; The wheat grew very tall and ripened into golden grain.

Who will help me reap my wheat? asked the little red hen.

Not I, said the duck.
Out of my classification, said the pig.
Id lose my seniority, said the cow.
Id lose my unemployment compensation, said the goose.

Then I will do it by myself, said the little red hen, and so she did.

At last it came time to bake the bread.

Who will help me bake the bread? asked the little red hen.

That would be overtime for me, said the cow.
Id lose my welfare benefits, said the duck.
Im a dropout and never learned how, said the pig.
If Im to be the only helper, thats discrimination, said the goose.

Then I will do it by myself, said the little red hen. She baked five loaves and held them up for all of her neighbors to see.

They wanted some and, in fact, demanded a share. But the little red hen said, No, I shall eat all five loaves.

Excess profits! cried the cow.
Capitalist leech! screamed the duck.
I demand equal rights! yelled the goose.
The pig just grunted in disdain.

And they all painted Unfair! picket signs and marched around and around the little red hen, shouting obscenities.

Then a government agent came, he said to the little red hen, You must not be so greedy.

But I earned the bread, said the little red hen.

Exactly, said the agent. That is what makes our free enterprise system so wonderful. Anyone in the barnyard can earn as much as he wants. But under our modern government regulations, the productive workers must divide the fruits of their labor with those who are lazy and idle.

And they all lived happily ever after, including the little red hen, who smiled and clucked, I am grateful, for now I truly understand.

But her neighbors became quite disappointed in her.
She never again baked bread because she joined the party and got her bread free.


Re: little red hen


Both capitalism and communism assume everyone is equal.
Capitalism assumes everyone is equal in their ability to work (and if you happen to have a handicap, bad luck for you, you lazy bastard).
Communism assumes everyone is equal in their will to work, which is not true (like in this nice little story).
People are not equal in any way except that they should have "equal"/"fair" rights. The problem is that everyone has a different opinion about what is "fair" (cause we're not equal!).
Please stop rehashing the ages old communism vs capitalism discussion. Both systems suck, in different ways.

Back to topic... Could someone tell me why the new world order of which free software is the first sign will be any better than what we have now? How will it prevent an immoral few from forcing everyone else to do what they want? As far as I can see we can just write the software that we want and talk to who we want to talk to. Wow! Great! That's new!


Re: little red hen


1. When speaking of hardware i refer to all goods that are made of raw material. Software on the other hand is not made of any material, but of compiled textual codes. Why are hardware patents more acceptabale than software patents? Because hardware cannot be easily copied and re-distributed, as well as it require much more investment and effort in order to create it. That is why a certain amount of time should be given to the innovators to get credit and payment for their work, before someone else is allowed to copy, modify and improve it themselves. In software world it is different. Software is easily copied and redistributed in a blink of an eye and once the software developer creates it, he will instantly be able to sell the first copies, get the credit for it and even get payed for his work. In open source/free software world, it can do all of these things. If he patents the program or algorith he innovated he would automatically be given too much time of a monopoly, because any allowed time of monopoly for the certain software innovation is too much, because software can spread like crazy through the net in one month. And that is actually less than he would wait in order to get his patents submission approved. Software not only doesn't need's patents to make the developers effort worthwhile, it can only make harm bringing chaos into the software world and restricting freedoms for other developers to use certain algorithms in their programs just because it has been patented. The chaos, because you will never be sure if the algorithm you just came up with has not been patented already.

2. First of all, i can't officially say i am a marxist nor a communist nor anything else. Why should people always be titled as some -ist. Let's only call myself a supporter of the free software movement. And i don't care under what name you may put that movement (marxism, communism or whatever). If you'll refer to the post-capitalistic society brough by that movement, you freely call it post-capitalism. Smiling
Now, on the labor and social rights to the product of your labour. First, i am never saying that society should be able to freely use and redistribute the product of your work if it is "hardware", that is, made of raw materials. If the nano-technology comes, and we'll be able to "replicate" things, that will be a different story. Technology advancements always require a change in a way we handle it. That is the very case with software. You labour, such as hours and nights spent on working on certain software application should be payed off somehow. Every effort must be payed somehow. There is no questioning about it. But, now think about this. How much effort does one needs in order to create five same wooden chairs?? And now, how much effort does one needs to create 5 copy's of software application?? Think about it! For making five chairs you would put five times as much effort as you would for making the first one. In making five copies of software you'll only have to put the effort of creating a first copy, no matter of how many copies you will create out of that one. Logically, the one that makes chairs should be payed 5 times more than the one that makes software. But, then egain, both should be payed.
So, how does open source/free software developer get's fairly payed for his work? By charging for providing the very first copy as internet download or on cd's. But in reality, he will have a great chances to earn by distributing many more copies this way. And you should understand this one. He charges for distribution, not for number of copies sold, but number of distribution transactions made through him. Now, look at the proprietary software developers. They require every single individual to pay before having full right to use the his software. Does it really have the ethical right to charge for using thousands of copies that haven't even came from him, but were copied by others. I don't know about you, but that is what seems immoral to me. The proprietary approach clearly supports dominations and disrupts the fair balance between the developer rights to get payed for it's work, and users right to use it which creates a case where software developers can control the users, restrict their freedom to use the technology of today.
And if you understand this, you probably don't need me to comment on the vivid story of the little red hen.
I hope that this clears it up more precisly for you. Eye

Daniel Orsolic

Re: little red hen


I am afraid that immoral few would always exist. But that is why we have licences such as GPL which should be respected by everyone in order to have the "system" working properly. These licences ensure that the developers have the credit they deserve and that they can get payed by selling support and charging for the distribution, and users to have the freedom to copy, share, modify and of course, run the software. These licences are the regulation.
I must say i don't actually understand your..


How will it prevent an immoral few from forcing everyone else to do what they want?

question too well..
How could those force everyone else to do what they want? In such free and open world as the free software society would be there is no place and much chances where the few could force "everyone else" to do "what those few want". Or if you meant that in a manner of "someone forcing others to anarchisticly break even the rules of free software licences". I don't see that anyone would have that need since everyone would already have all the freedoms they need.

Please clarify your question.
Thank you!
Daniel Orsolic

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