For a capitalistic market to work all the things should be available in scarcity. Then, only those things get a selling value. Supply and demand rules decide that. If there is more of something or a greater quantity, you will get less per item (lower price). If a thing is abundant, then it will not have any value. Example that’s common is air. (I cannot write water because we’ve polluted it so much that nowadays clean water is scarce. Soon, air will also become like that).
Selling abundant things
We cannot copy physical things. But software is not physical. It’s a digital, virtual thing. You can create it once, then it is there. Copying makes it abundant. Because it costs nothing to copy software. So it has no intrinsic value.
But software programs are very important and a critical creation. How can a capitalist leave it as free/commodity when, as the whole, the nature of capitalism is all about putting a price tag on everything possible and trying to expand to make a profit? With surveillance capitalism they are selling our private experiences and emotions too.
So, to put a price on software you need to stop copying. Naturally you can’t quite do that since laws of physics don’t allow it. Copying is natural. What else they can do? They made laws that made copying a criminal act. Simple. People will have to go to jail if they copy. Recently, a person named Eric Lundgren completed his jail sentence just for copying and distributing Microsoft software which is available for free in their website. So copying is a very big political issue.
Free software politics
This is the place where Free software begins. It is a political movement to defend the right of a user to own and control the software.
Free software is not too bothered about how software is produced at the first time/in the first place. You can do it with one hand, or with two hands, or while blindfolded or with a single individual or with a larger group, or with a 100% women group, or with a 50% women group, or with old management or without new management, or with object-oriented methods, or with structured programming methods, or with waterfall model, or with agile model, or with 500
while loops, or with 159
if conditions… you name whatever way suits you. It doesn’t matter. Free software doesn’t care.
The Free software movement is only focuses on things done after the production of software. It’s about how software reacts to the users or to society in general; only after the production. All other issues (happening before its release) are general issues specific to that particular person or a group or a company. It should be and will be addressed by the government and the society.
Citizens’ role in Democracy
There are lots of definitions for democracy. Most popular one may be Lincoln’s – that democracy means the government of the people, by the people and for the people. It is a system that’s supposed to work for the people. Is it like that anywhere in the world? Can you tell where or give an example of a country? None. Nowhere is it working for the people fully.
For example, there is this study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page of Princeton University. They found that 70% of all the decisions taken by the American government are against ordinary citizens, which means means the 99%. So, we can say that the government is working for the top 1% and people are voting against their self-interest. WHY?
Simple answer may be, the people are not in power. They are distracted and divided and fighting each other over silly issues. So the minority took power and controls everything. WHY?
People are not dictating or exercising their power over the government. Sometimes you can see people coming to the street and chanting “this is what democracy looks like!” But this happens when they become too frustrated about the situation. They are not united. They easily get caught in the traps the ruling class puts. Anti-Iraq war movement, Occupy Wall Street movement etc. are just some of the examples.
Users must dictate the Free software movement
Free software freedom is for its users. They should be in power. They should dictate. But our system does not let it happen so easily. You always have to fight for freedom. You have to be vigilant. Otherwise the rich minority will take it (since it’s profitable for them). They are not bad people. It’s happening like that because the system is designed in that way.
So, in order to make the software users-subservient (serving its users), users must act; they have to demand that. But there will a time when all the people in this world might live in peace, harmony and enjoy cooperation. At that stage nobody will need to do any extra activism. But ’till that time, users must dictate Free software’s agenda/movement. It is the duty of Free software activists to empower the users to feel involved at such a level.
Written by: Jagadees.S
Nullius in verba
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