Re: [ox-en] There is no such thing like "peer money"
- From: Stefan Meretz <stefan.meretz hbv.org>
- Date: Fri, 11 Jul 2008 00:00:45 +0200
Sorry, Michel, you miss the point.
On 2008-07-10 04:05, Michel Bauwens wrote:
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 argument.
First, I was struck by Ian Skerret's comments,
(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?
Yes. It depends on what "established" means. Say, the big free software
project have committers doing singly free software development. That's
well known, and that's not a bad thing, that's a good thing. I always
Then, came my belated discovery of this study by the Linux
"*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
What I find a bit annoying is opposition of being a professional and a
volunteer: Most volunteers _are_ professionals (oops, do I destroy
another myth?), and most of them are paid (where ever). Ok, this is not
the point here.
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
/10, 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
But the 'bad news' is: money is an inevitable part of this new
system. That conclusion is simply inescapable.
No, that's too general, because money is an inevitable part of our live
in capitalism. This conclusion is simply inescapable, but it says all
and therefore nothing.
We are here indeed at a point, where "money involved" is a useless
statement. I always try to keep things simple, therefore I using this
money simplification too, but here it comes to an end.
We have to talk about economy and role free software plays inside
capitalism. Free software is free of value, it is not scarce, everyone
can take it for free (ignoring service and tux-stuff). Why should
companies pay developers developing stuff free of value? From the
narrow standpoint of a company this is burning money. But they are not
Free software replaces proprietary software and takes its market share.
In other words: A price-less thing replaces a priced thing. The
companies are doing this, because they can make their business on top
of this conquered market, while the conquered market itself delivers no
Citing your cooptation-post: "Linux creates value for the enterprise, it
lowers our cost of managing software, it increases peoples’ budgets for
hardware and services"
The first part is wrong: Linux creates no value, but only costs for the
enterprise [IBM] paying developers. Well, in a less rigid
understanding, one can say Linux _indirectly_ creates value, although
it consumes a lot of money.
Two indirect effects are adressed in the second and the third part:
Linux lowers some costs and increases budgets for hardware and
services. That's definitively true.
But what does this mean? In the last century IBM sold OS, hardware, and
service, now they pay for an OS, in order to sell hardware and service.
Great progress. -- For me, this is indeed great, because free software
freed some OS market share from OS being a commodity -- and IBM payed
Now, we have some background to understand what paying committers really
mean. By penalty of death IBM and many more _must_ burn money to rescue
their remaining markets. They must pay committers to guarantee, that
their specialities get supported, that their yet proprietary software
runs on top of GNU/Linux OS etc.
And this is a great situation for the developers, because they can earn
money doing a job which they really like to do. These salaries are
different from the salaries a developer in a proprietary company gets:
The proprietary developer has to produce things which have to be sold,
the paid free developer does not. The prop. developer works in far more
alienated environments (you described it) than the free developer.
However, free developers are not completely free, there _are_ paid,
they underly constraints etc. Thus the product is free, but the process
is not (difference between singly and doubly free software).
Using my criterion of having slim interfaces to the money world and
having money not playing an internal role, then this is valid for free
software projects with paid developers: you have a constant flow of
money into the project, but the money is not used to generate more
money by producing sellable products. On the contrary: There is no
money or product-to-market flow to the outside world. This is
essential, and this is my point!
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
Yes, "unconditional income" in some sense is good.
Fine, so we are not so far away from each other :-)
But be careful, the situation is different for projects producing
material goods. So don't be too fast with generalizations. The
generalization into the material world is the topic of Christians book.
Start here: www.meretz.de
Contact: projekt oekonux.de