Equality and Free Software (was: Re: [ox-en] Germ of a new form of society or germ of a new form of business?)
- From: Stefan Merten <smerten oekonux.de>
- Date: Sun, 08 Feb 2004 23:08:17 +0100
Hi Martin, Mako, list!
4 days ago Benj Mako Hill wrote:
On Wed, Feb 04, 2004 at 06:14:55AM [PHONE NUMBER REMOVED], Martin Hardie wrote:
This point of Niall's deserves further discussion. The source is
useless if you haven't got the skills to use it. The result is that
the free in FLOSS in this respect is free only to a technical elite.
I agree completely. It's clearly a major problem and one that's close
to my heart.
If I understand correctly the basis of this point is the demand that
all people should be equal. Right? The way you put it means that all
people should have even equal abilities - which is a more concrete
version of this demand.
I recognize this demand as one of the basic bourgeoise demands which
the upcoming capitalist classes set up to eradicate the differences
between people in former feudal societies. At this time it was a
radical emancipatory demand. However, if I understood correct it was
mainly meant as being equal before law - less so being equal in each
aspect of life including abilities.
In particular left wing politics also likes equality. Left wing
poltics often strives to create more equality and the better attempts
try it by providing equal living conditions. However, left wing
politics as any politics today is deeply rooted in this capitalist
system and consequently is isn't much of a surprise that it embraces
If I now re-think the concept of human emancipation in the Oekonux way
- i.e. with a strong Selbstentfaltung in mind - I more and more wonder
whether being equal can add anything useful to an emancipatory vision.
Actually I'm having a hard time to imagine
* how equality of several million people could be possible without
*massive* brain-washing methods
In other words every such setup I can imagine needs application of
exorbitant force to prevent people choosing to be *not* equal to all
others. Particularly if an individual decides to specialize in a
How is this compatible with Selbstentfaltung?
* how a mass of all equal people could be interesting in any way
IMHO boredom is a severe limit of Selbstentfaltung.
In particular if even all the abilities should be equal then I wonder
* how anyone could learn from anybody else
This would be the most boring life I for one could think of.
Definitely nothing I'd welcome.
So I more and more think equality is a nice thing to have in a mass
society based on scarcity like capitalism but it's anti-emancipatory
in a society based on Selbstentfaltung and affluence.
Unchecked, Free Software will recreate, and reinforce, old systems of
Inequality, yes. Because Free Software is a highly complex thing which
as any highly complex thing can not be grasped in an afternoon. This
is a feature of the thing with very little influence from society.
But why should it? I think it is perfectly ok when people who decided
to not specialize in software can use it if they like. They do not
need to understand it. Or to put it differently: For the very most
people it is totally sufficient to know how to switch a TV on and
switch programs. It adds nothing to their Selbstentfaltung if they
know exactly how that TV works internally.
Where do you think Free Software recreates injustice?
Along with access to source code must come
the ability to manipulate it.
No the ability is up to the individual.
I'd agree if you'd say the potential to manipulate it. This means:
Clear design, speaking identifiers, comments where necessary (and only
Advocacy of software with certain
freedoms without advocacy for a program to give users the ability to
take advantage of those freedom, or easily learn how to do this, is
Well, I'd say: It depends. If you think software knowledge is a basic
cultural technique such as reading, writing, or maths then I'd agree.
If you consider it a special technology people may use without
understanding it then I'd not agree. In this case I'd say it's up to
the individual whether s/he wants to learn programming as much as it's
up to the individual whether s/he wants to learn cooking or prefers
eating pre-cooked stuff.
However, I guess in the up-coming information age programming ability
might be seen as a basic cultural technique and thus programming
ability should be forced down the throats of children ;-) .
Mit Freien Grüßen
PS: I'm catching up here ;-) .
Unread: 251 [ox], 46 [ox-en], 261 [chox]