5) Funding for Writers/Artists/Creative Workers
In the New Deal there was both a federal arts project and a federal writers project. These programs employed thousands of young artists and writers. A creative stimulus package can extend this idea for the Internet Age. Suppose that President Obama made $10 billion a year available for state and local governments to support various types of creative and artistic work. This could include music, movies, writing books, even journalism. The one condition for support is that all material be made freely available in the public domain. (Better yet, it could have copyleft protection.)
This funding would be sufficient to employ 200,000 people a year at an average of $50,000 each. This would put an enormous amount of creative work in the public domain that people all over the world could download at zero cost. In the first year or two, we could have this program administered through public agencies, but in later years we can have people choose for themselves which work they want to support through a tax credit. The cost would be approximately $10 billion a year.
6) Funding for the Development of Open Software
In the same vein, the government can spend $2 billion a year to develop open source software. This money can be used to further develop and simplify open source operating systems such as Linux, as well other forms of free software. The payoffs from this spending would be enormous. Imagine that every computer buyer in the world would be able to get a computer for which the operating system was free, as was almost all the software that they would ever use.
This would surely save consumers an average of at least $200 per computer. With sales at close to 20 million a year, the savings in the United States alone could easily exceed the cost of supporting software development. Adding in the benefits (and presumably some contributions) from the rest of the world, we will be way ahead by going the route of publicly funded open software open software. The cost would be $2 billion a year.
Slashdot makes mention that he predicted the housing collapse and current economic issues. Well la-de-da. That’s like congratulating a 12 year old for being able to tell the difference between a blue circle and red square. Baker is hardly an economist I have much faith in. His work, The Conservative Nanny State, was an abomination in regards to solutions for proclaimed problems. He sees some of the problems… some of the truths in the modern conservative movement but just wants to rearrange things how he’d like to see them rather then looking for economically viable and efficient solutions. That is supporting private property and the free market.
This story particularly annoys me because being that I’m both an ancap and a big supporter of FOSS this guy was so off in his understanding of the FOSS culture and human tendency in general. In chapter 4, Bill Gates — Welfare Mom, How Government Patent and Copyright Monopolies Enrich the Rich and Distort the Economy, he says:
Copyrights on computer software vastly increase the cost of computers, and make many software applications quite costly, when they could be transferred at no cost over the Internet. Can there be mechanisms for publicly financing software development that allow new software to be distributed cheaply or free? There would be enormous gains to the economy if software were freely available and the price of computers was no longer inflated by royalties on operating systems and applications. The savings from eliminating copyright and patent protection on software would be in the neighborhood of $70 billion to $100 billion a year. In addition, the process of software development would almost certainly be more efficient if all software was placed in the public domain where anyone was free to work on it. As with publicly financed prescription drug research, a large body of public domain software would eliminate the incentive to make duplicative programs and applications that were not qualitatively better than existing programs and applications.
This guy has obviously not looked into FOSS at all. There is more duplication in FOSS then commercial software. Everyone has their own itch to scratch and their itch often isn’t working on some other guy’s code in some other guys coding style in some other language. FOSS generally is less featureful with regards to GUI apps especially with particularly esoteric features. Even complex applications like operating systems are all over the place. Dozens of mainstream Linux distros, OS X, AIX, OpenVMS, Solaris, Windows, BeOS… all the embedded systems. As for quality… he’s also wrong. Look at AIX, OpenVMS, Solaris, zOS, etc. They are still light years ahead of ground up FOSS. And all many of the major advancements in Linux have come from closed source venders. And most of the major FOSS contributors are employed by software shops that are or were closed. And lets not forget that most of the money spent on software is in fact support and not per unit costs. Companies pay millions for support… not for software. Don’t forget too that the few hundred per home computer you see is the shelf price. They discount heavily for preinstalled systems. A copy of Vista on a $400 desktop is not the $130 shelf price.
And even though there are lots of free (beer and speech) apps which do the same job as many you’d pay for… millions and millions of customers still pick up Apple and Microsoft products.
Clearly he doesn’t understand what he’s talking about.
I have a commentary on The Conservative Nanny State from when this blog first started that I never finished. Perhaps I could dig it up and finish it off.