Re: [ox-en] There is no such thing like "peer money"
- From: "Michel Bauwens" <michelsub2004 gmail.com>
- Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2008 09:05:25 +0700
[Converted from multipart/alternative]
I thinking I'm slightly revising my notion of the role of money in peer
production, based on the actual evidence. So bear with me as I develop this
First, I was struck by Ian Skerret's comments,
http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/community-and-corporation/2008/06/22 (read the
whole post if possible), who said:
*It is a myth that committers are volunteers. The committers for the
established open source projects are nearly all paid by companies to commit
code to open source projects.
I was wondering, is this really true?
Then, came my belated discovery of this study by the Linux Foundation.
again, I recommend reading the whole post)
Tom Slee writes:
On April 30, the Linux Journal
an important question: *Is Linux now a slave to corporate masters? Does it
matter who pays the salaries of Linux kernel developers? If so, how much,
and in what ways?*. This question was prompted by a report from the Linux
on the characteristics of those working on the Linux kernel.
Tom Slee has summarized the
"*One of the highlights: "over 70% of all kernel development is demonstrably
done by developers who are being paid for their work". 14% is contributed by
developers who are known to be unpaid and independent, and 13% by people who
may or may not be paid (unknown), so the amount done by paid workers may be
as high as 85%. The Linux kernel, then, is largely the product of
professionals, not volunteers.*
STEP THREE: What can we conclude from this ...
My own conclusion is the following: leadership is indeed crucial for most if
not all peer projects. The question then is: since such leadership requires
a lot of effort, how is that effort sustained? One answer is: between the
interstices of the current economy: because you have a paid job with extra
time, because you are a student supported by the family and the state,
because you have unemployment money ...
But what happens if a project wants really to be successfull? The core needs
sustainability and this comes through more regular salaries and patronage.
Now the good news is, if you read the discussions on this I mention in
that this patronage, more often than not commercial, does not seem to
negatively influence the open development models, in other words, the work
itself does not seem to become hierarchical, the distribution of labour
remains, it does not become a division of labour, the voluntary
contributions, the participatory direction setting, the commons oriented
licences, all remain, though of course, it is a fair bet to expect that the
direction of the work itself is going to be more closely reflecting the
corporate needs and priorities.
But the 'bad news' is: money is an inevitable part of this new system. That
conclusion is simply inescapable.
Now of course the question is: what does that money do, and my answer is: it
sustains the core leaders of the project, the ones that are involved nearly
Now of course, it is easy to imagine projects in which leaders are not paid,
as in Linux, by corporations, but rather as the early Linux, by leaders
living from the interstices of the system. But as a project becomes strong
and established, it is inevitable that it can ally itself with an alliance
for patronage, which more often than not will be the ecology of businesses
profiting from that particular commons.
But notice I use patronage. The reason I call it patronage, and not a wage,
even though that is what they are formally getting, is that it seems quite
clear from the evidence so far, that open development, i.e. the own internal
logic outside of hierarchical commands and allocation, is preserved
So those businesses, support the commons strategically, by giving in a way
some kind of 'unconditional income' to the maintainers. It is not totally
unconditional (they indeed need to contribute to the commons, but not in a
precise directed manner). So it does ressemble patronage and a basic income
more than it does traditional wage labour.
On Wed, Jul 9, 2008 at 7:58 PM, Stefan Meretz <stefan.meretz hbv.org> wrote:
On 2008-07-09 11:55, Michel Bauwens wrote:
I think we'll have to do without money from the very start,
otherwise the transition simply won't take place.
From the very start?
This means you are going to outlaw the use of any money, and use
dramatic coercion to achieve that effect.
I'm sorry, but that sounds like a Polpot-ian scheme, and I believe,
Uhh, big misunderstanding.
It is simply not possible "to outlaw the use of any money", we all need
money to reproduce our lives. This is a fact, and *this* is coercion.
The question is: How do we conceptualize our projects? Do they base on
money, market success, and exchange or not? Free software does not.
Yes, there is a lot of money involved, but free software by its core
functioning does not base on it. This is the dialectical property of
free software: it bases on selbstentfaltung and also supports making
money, but it does not function by making money (the contrary is true:
is replaces proprietary only-made-for-money production).
Next question: How can a project making no money survive in an
environment, where things are bought with money? Here, it is useful to
distinguish between internal project relationships and the
relationships to the outside world: Inside a project the relationships
should be free of money and exchange, while it may not avoidable to
have money-based relationships to the outside money driven world.
Again Christians peerconomy model. We don't have that peereconomy based
society yet. How can we start? If we want to create a peerconomy
project (or better a bunch of), then the project need things from the
capitalist world which we cannot produce self. Thus you need money.
Now, this need of money *must* be decoupled from the internal
functioning of the project in the sense, that, say, products from the
project can not be "exported" to the money world, in order to finance
the project. The "money interface" should be as slim as possible. For
instance bounty-based. Or by fixed contributions by the members. Or, as
Christian proposed, bringing money into the project is viewed as
a "task" and accepted as a "contribution" (in the special meaning of
his concept) like other tasks done are contributions. Etc. Assuming
there are more peerconomy projects, then the relationships
between these projects must be as money-free as the project-internal
relationship are. Ok, I stop here -- this needs a careful discussion
and a lot of new ideas.
Conclusion: We'll have to do our projects without money from the very
start in the sense, that money must not be part of the project core
principles. Perform this test: If you beam the project into a
peerconomy society, then generally the project have to work the same way
as it works being an island in the capitalist ocean.
I resonate much more with this approach:
"In a highly specialized, technological society, most of us need to
perform exchanges to live. To do so we need a medium of exchange –
money. Some people, noting this inescapable fact, can see no
alternative but to return to a primitive society, to undo the
millennia-long course of civilization, which they quite
understandably view as an enormous mistake.
Outch, I don't want to read more of this crazy stuff. It declares
exchange to an intrinsic human property, it identifies money with
civilization, it lifts capitalism to heaven and so on.
A negative-interest currency is a step toward the gift economies of
No, this is money botching. And these Gesellian approches are *really*
Start here: www.meretz.de
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