Communism and the GPL

People run around screaming "Communist" like it's a threat to democracy. It's really not. Among other things, Soviet Russia suffered under Stalinism, not communism. True communism is really not much different than Capitalism, except for the fact that the profits are more evenly distributed to the workers, and management gets minimum perks from their position (at least in theory).

Fact of the matter is that that's really not far from the way that capitalism was meant to work under Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (considered by many to be the godfather of modern capitalism). Under his view, big multinational corporations were (are) no different than big government -- both result in centralized decision making which warps local economies.

The GPL doesn't force people to use it. People choose to use it because it provides them the most value and efficiency. It's much like the Barn-raising of the old colonial days -- each person provided their own unique expertise and energy to the project, knowing that the ultimate profits would be coming back to him/her in the long run far beyond the effort being expended. People were free to stay outside of that system, but doing so meant that they also missed out on most of it's benefits.

What the GPL does is it pushes decision-making back down to the local levels and prevents any big company from controlling the entire market by force. This is actually far closer to real free-market capitalism than Microsoft's market-warping monopoly is, and far closer to capitalism than it it is to Stalin's market-warping communism.

It's also far more intrinsically democratic than either.

So, the next time Gates & company starts screaming about the 'communist GPL', respond

It's not communism. It's financial democracy

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Stephen Samuel (

Sat Jan 29 15:43:32 PST 2005