Dear Mom, I Promise I'm Not a Communist

by chromatic

Related link: http://dangillmor.typepad.com/dan_gillmor_on_grassroots/2005/01/dave_winer_defe.…



Dear Mom,



I know you and Dad worry about me sometimes, making it on my own in the world. It can be tough being a parent, wondering if you raised your kids correctly, hoping that I haven't packed it all in and taken up motorcycle racing for a living.



In a recent recent news.com interview with Bill Gates, responding to a question about more and more people advocating patent and copyright reform, the man himself said:



There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They don't think that those incentives should exist.


You know that I have concerns that a copyright system in which nothing has passed into the public domain in nearly 80 years isn't really serving the public good. You also know that I worry that a patent system that elevates mere ideas--despite implementation differences or concurrent innovation--into legal mechanisms to attack competitors is bad for free markets.



Don't worry, though. I didn't buy the motorcycle and I'm not a communist.



The only person who can call me a communist without starting an argument is my friend Melanie and that's because she doesn't really believe it (also, she's a lot cuter than Bill Gates). I don't particularly want to own the means of production; I wouldn't know what to do with them.



In a comment on the Dan Gillmor weblog linked above, Stephen Downes responded with something I wish I had said:



If Gates came out and said, "Well, open source represents the preservation of private property and of open marketplaces," people would wonder why Microsoft campaigns so hard against it. But it it's 'communism' then it's something everybody can understand as evil.


Mom, I think an economic and political system that grants monopolies based on ideas and allows the holders of these virtual monopolies to use the full investigative and judicial force of the government to maintain that monopoly isn't exactly free market capitalism. Sure, it's not communism, but when I'm the one arguing for fewer government-enforced monopolies and greater competition, it's easy to see who actually favors free markets.



I'll call you and Dad soon. I promise.



Love,

your son



Have you called your mother lately?


9 Comments

menglis3
2005-01-13 15:49:42
You should have bought the motorcycle...
Motorcyclists and OSS advocates do have one thing common; the need to express their individuality. With 'cycles, it ranges from clothing to doing wild and craxy things with the bikes themselves.


Of course Che was considered a communist AND a biker.

TedWallingford
2005-01-13 16:15:43
Patents protect investors

I totally agree with you when it comes to getting government out of the markets as much as possible, except when you suggest that patents are a basis for federally-sanctioned monopolies. It takes more than seven years of patent protection to build a sustainable monopoly. Edison didn't corner the market on lightbulbs just because he had a patent. Indeed, he didn't corner the lightbulb market at all. The same was true of IBM, who failed to corner even the early PC market. Compaq was able to reverse engineer IBM's BIOS in order to legally build the first PC clone--even though IBM had patent protections.


Patents are a way of protecting a new idea's investors, be it a design for a space-age hover-car or a more efficient Velcro. The point is, luxuries afforded by a patent protect the smalltime investor from getting his butt handed to him by more powerful opportunists who have seen his idea. Patents reward hard work and innovation and penalize the kind of wasteful, get-rich-quick bandwagon thinking that is ultimately harmful to the economy.


Now--copyrights? Different story entirely. But I digress; maybe I can catch up with this thread later.

spaceman
2005-01-13 16:32:33
Gate is a Monopolist, not a Free Market Capitalist.
I believe in stopping the abuse of copyright and patents, and am a Capitalist.


Abuse of power is B A D for free markets. Period. Gates is no free market advocate... he's a wannabe evil dictator.


He's only a monocle and a shark away from being the villian in a James Bond movie, and we all know how trust worthy they are.

chromatic
2005-01-13 16:59:50
Patents protect investors

I had in mind patents on vague software processes, more algorithms than implementations, rather than the specific implementations of inventions. Seventeen years in software is a long, long time to build a monopoly if you have the force of the U. S. judicial system helping you strike down any competitor who does something similar however unwittingly.


Inventions are fine, but ideas are tricky. There may be a fine line between the two that I can't elucidate right here, but I remain convinced that the current system is nowhere close to that line.

Dunx
2005-01-13 21:13:54
Gate is a Monopolist, not a Free Market Capitalist.
Cross Bill Gates with Rupert Murdoch and you have the villain in "Tomorrow Never Dies", so if Billy boy decides to do more in media than he already is then he doesn't even need the fashion accessories.
flursn
2005-01-14 04:56:22
Eclipse Now Redux
Dear Dad,


I know you and Mom worry about me sometimes, making it on my own in the world. It can be tough being a parent, wondering if you raised your kids correctly, hoping that I haven't packed it all in and taken up cycle counting and tracing for a living.


In a recent keynote Marc Andreesen gave among twelve reasons for the growth of open source the following one:


Open source benefits from anti-American sentiments.


You know that I'm aware of the fact that a political belief system in the cause of which 100 million people have been murdered in nearly 80 years isn't really about the public good. You also know that I acknowledge the reasoning that a belief system that elevates mere ideas--despite human desire for getting things done or feeding their children with real dough--into legal mechanisms to attack competitors is bad for free markets.


So don't worry. I didn't burn American flags and I'm not a fifth-column terrorist.

Alkon
2005-01-14 08:10:33
Eclipse Now Redux
"You know that I'm aware of the fact that a political belief system in the cause of which 100 million people have been murdered in nearly 80 years isn't really about the public good. "


Your awareness is a naivety (to say it mildly). I think you like 100 million number because its big and round enough for the "absolute evil" in your cartoon world. It is the outright lie.. It is the lie you want to believe into.


Communists won over fascism, and you should thanks them. Communists never used nuclear weapon, as "democratic" Americans, the war criminals, did for indiscriminate mass killing of civilian population of entire cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki... Americans badly need a myth of "absolute evil communism" for themselves to look better on such mythical background. Exactly the same reason why Gates badly needs a myth about "open source communists".


Gates wants to protect his destructive artificial monopoly, and because of that he will say anything to discredit his competitors - he cannot compete where he used to litigate. But he has no chance - his time has passed...

Alkon
2005-01-14 08:39:53
Patents protect investors
Patents system is necessary, but it is very easy to abuse, and, because of that, dangerous. Some things, like algorithms and software, as well as air breathing, are inherently non-patentable. Software protection should be via copyright only. Like dangerous beasts, patents are good when they are confined to their natural areas, otherwise they do much harm.
The issue is that US patents system (as well as legal system in general) is heavily abused for rent extraction activities by monopoly companies and legal profession. In the US patents system you can easily patent the air breathing act and extort payments from your fellows. It is ridiculously corrupt. And it will backlash, sooner or later...
flursn
2005-01-14 08:58:47
Eclipse Now Redux
Sic!