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Re: [ox-en] New pages in the introduction

On Thu, 9 May 2002, Stefan Merten wrote:

I added some pages created by Benni and Lutz to the introduction

Enjoy it and correct my English where I'm wrong. Other comments are
also welcome of course :-) .

One comment, but a long one... Probably a long-dead topic on the german 
list, but now we have the excellent english 'blotter' (??!) I can ask
the english-speakers what they think :-) 
Re: the section 'Free software is not a commodity'. I have no problems
with this, in itself. It is not a commodity, has no value, etc.
I do have a problem with the idea that this is something special about
free software and not true of all software, though. This idea is not
explicitly stated here, but I think it's implied, and I'm going to argue
against it. 

Commercial software is not a commodity, and has no value. It has no value
in the sense that it has no price (you cannot buy software, and eg.  
Microsoft's EULAs always say 'you have not bought this software'). It has
negligeable value in the classical and Marxist economist's sense of labour
value, since the costs of creating the original are a fixed cost, like the
design of physical objects, and the labour involved in reproduction of
software is almost (not quite) zero. It has no value in the neoclassical
sense that the marginal cost is zero in the limit. However you look at it,
it has no value. So, it is also not a commodity, at least not in the 
Marxist sense in which it's used on the 'blotter' page, any more than free 
software is.

If you are charged money to use software, it is not because of its value,
but because the law says that someone owns it and can set what conditions
they like for its use.

Why is this important? If commercial software has value, like physical
goods, then if free software disappears (say patents are applied to all 
software, or rising nationalism leads to the internet being shut off - 
insert favourite nightmare here) everything carries on much as before.
Just one more utopian possibility that didn't get fully realised (I don't
think this is remotely likely).

But if commercial software has no value, and technology continues to lead
to more things being digitisable and so also having no value, then
if free software disappears we do not end up where we were before.
We end up in a society not based on value, but on law-based ownership. 
Since this conflicts with all the ideas of freedom present in capitalist
society, we also end up with a drastic loss of freedom.  

If I'm right, saying 'free software is not a commodity' does not
distinguish it from commercial software, which is also 'worthless as the 
air we breathe'. One possible conclusion from that is that all software
should be free, as should all formulae for medicine, all genetic
knowledge, etc. etc. (as opposed to having to create an equivalent,
special 'free' version of all the existing commodity knowledge).

Ok, that's quite enough... thank you for your patience ;-)


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