Subject: Re: Questions about Symbolics lisp machines From: Erik Naggum <email@example.com> Date: Thu, 28 Mar 2002 07:41:51 GMT Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> * Thomas Bushnell, BSG | Nobody here has proposed removing the copyright statutes. But Kent | seemed to think that at least some people doing free software were | directly harming him in a way that was morally faulty. And you seemed to | agree, saying that it's *wrong* to write free application software. | (Forgive me if I've oversimplified; if I've misunderstood and correct | me--with politeness.) Please consider more carefullly the option of thinking more clearly about what people say before you ask them to spend the time and effort you have not to correct the consequences of what you have not done. In the city of Oslo, we have a rather curious arrangement. We have a fairly large number of taxicabs (1200) for our rather small population (about 500 000 residents, about 800 000 people who use city facilities daily). On weekend nights, between 03 and 04, the load on the taxis is enormous, and since most of them have fairly long tours out of the city center. So some politician got upset when he did not get his cab ride home from a late-night party one weekend, and concluded that more cabs where necessary. (Never mind that there are at least 800 unfilled cab driver jobs vacant at any time. Never mind that the cab owners cannot afford the generous sick leave that their employed drivers are entitled to.) So this political genius wanted "competition" in the industry, as opposed to the government-granted monopoly and the government-controlled taxi fares that had sustained the cab-owner-owned taxicab company. Now, there was a shortage of drivers, and the cooperative that allowed each licensed cab driver to have only their main car in operation in non-peak hours could no longer control the number of cars on the street. There were some obvious disadvantages to this competition -- startup costs for the new taxi centrals, for the new taxi owners, etc, so these brilliant politicians decided to use tax money to support the competition, just for the sake of having some "competition". Now one of these companies have, entirely unexpectedly, run into serious financial trouble. Even though the taxi fares have supposedly been liberated, they all charge exactly the same, now. The only difference is that because of this competition charade, which could never have been sustained without government grants and support, is that the contender is facing competition from people who are not risking their own money, who can go under without much loss, and the contender thus has a serious problem: Their ability to make money is artificiall curtailed by a political decision to install a "competition" for which there was no need or grounds: the shortage of drivers, the inability of owners to pay benefits for their employed drivers, the government control of their fares, _and_ the government control of the number of cab owner licenses to begin with. It should come as a surprise to no one that the number of cab drivers has declined after a brief increase (while the number of cab owners has increased), that those who are left earn less per hour, even after an increase in their fares, and that there are more cabs on the street competing for the same reduced market. This artificial competition was constructed by politicians who had a political agenda to force it to exist, but they were so stupid that they undercut the market by injecting it with free money which could be wasted away while the main contender lost its ability to manage the set of cab driver licenses in operation. All in all, it is a total failure with no redeeming qualities, and we have quickly become a city of first- generation immigrant cab drivers who do not know their way around the next corner who have driven the older cab drivers who had been driving a cab for 40 years and provided a very stable, welcome service to the many Oslovians who refuse to own cars in this country where 75% of the sale price of a new car is taxes, where 75% of the price of gasoline is taxes (while the diesel used by the taxicabs is way less expensive). The end result is that more people buy cars, clogging the already clogged road network of Oslo, more people drink and drive in weekends, fewer older people use taxis with immigrant drivers who do not understand where they want to go, nor are able to talk much with them, which was, to many older people (who get taxi rides at the cost of public transport as part of their benefits), provided a very welcome social contact. This stupid "competition" has basically ruined an extremely well-functioning service -- and what for? Some politician who believed "competition" as such would cure his inability to get a cab on a weekend night, so he gave away free money to people would not otherwise have gone into the business so they could "compete". Understandably, older cab drivers have found other ways to make money if they can, or have retired. Free software has the same effect: It skews the return on investment for some people to the point where they decide to spend their mental energy and their labor elsewhere, where it is more rewarding. This leads, in turn, to the inability of the moderately competent to get well paid, so they leave, and the average competence level drops, which hurts the ability to build safe and useful infrastructure, as well as hurting the ability of maturer programmers to communicate their skills to the next generation. The end result of this is the same kind of horizontal communication that afflicts teenagers who only communicate with their own age group and basically reinvent _everything_ they could have been told about or learned from the experience of their elders. Free software is already being produced by child labor, funded by many parents who have no idea what their kids spend their time on, but at least it is not drugs. | So here's the question: if I wanted to spend my money on giving as much | bread away as I could, and I started a movement to do that along with | other people, would that be wrong? Yes, because it would most probably mean that I could no longer buy the bread I want -- I already have to convince my grocer to stock it because he does not sell a lot of it, and for a while, I had to special-order it. It does not cost a lot more than the "standard" bread, but it tastes so much better. I dislike the "standard" bread intensely -- at home I always got freshly baked bread. Bread would become an irrelevant nutrient that I most probably would no longer eat. Bread would be the staple food of choice for the lower classes, and eating any bread would be seen as a lower-class thing as such, much like cheap, greasy hamburgers. Sweden has had such a damaging centralization of their bread bakers that they basically offer only "standard" bread -- and the consequence is that they have this dried, nearly flat bread called "knekkebrød", which, of course, is more expensive than bread, but which people buy in large volumes. Denmark has a very different culture, in which everybody drives out on Sunday morning to their baker to get fresh, hot bread or other wondrous bakery products. In Norway, bakeries are closed on Sundays. When I lived in Sunnyvale, CA, I found some variety, but basically the same kind of boring bread as in Stockholm. The only time I really enjoyed bread in the United States, was a brief stay with a girlfriend in the Italian quarters in Boston. My stays in Denmark have always been accompanied with excellent bakery products and friendly hosts who really enjoy showing off this great custom. Now, excuse me, I have a store-bought half-baked bread in the oven that should be ready. Would I have been happy to get it for free? Sure -- provided nothing else would change, but I know too much about how the world works to think that nothing else would change if you change such an important factor as price, and I do not want those changes to happen. I'd rather eat cake. /// -- In a fight against something, the fight has value, victory has none. In a fight for something, the fight is a loss, victory merely relief.