How Richard Stallman’s GPL Platform Backfires on the Free Software Movement

Posted on August 5th, 2009 by bile
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The bullying of the copyright industry in Sweden inspired the launch of the first political party whose platform is to reduce copyright restrictions: the Pirate Party. Its platform includes the prohibition of Digital Restrictions Management, legalization of noncommercial sharing of published works, and shortening of copyright for commercial use to a five-year period. Five years after publication, any published work would go into the public domain.

I support these changes, in general; but the specific combination chosen by the Swedish Pirate Party backfires ironically in the special case of free software. I’m sure that they did not intend to hurt free software, but that’s what would happen.

The GNU General Public License and other copyleft licenses use copyright law to defend freedom for every user. The GPL permits everyone to publish modified works, but only under the same license. Redistribution of the unmodified work must also preserve the license. And all redistributors must give users access to the software’s source code.

The highlighted statement is incorrect. As the Ars Technica states: “Copyleft is an important part of Stallman’s vision because it compels companies that use copyleft code to open their own source code when they might not have otherwise been willing to do so voluntarily.” A right, freedom, comes from within. It is negative. It can not place an obligation on another which has not been voluntarily entered into. There can not be a right to education or healthcare in that it is someone’s obligation to provide you with them. To claim such a thing is to claim to have the right over another’s labor meaning they are your slave. In the same way copyright, and therefore copyleft, are an affront to the liberty not only for the publisher but the user. Copyright makes the customer the slave to the producer and copyleft the producer the slave of another in the name of the consumer. Rather then advocating co-slavery, where the real master are those in positions within the government and their fascistic friends, let us advocate the emancipation of all those held under the thumb of organized violent institutions.

How would the Swedish Pirate Party’s platform affect copylefted free software? After five years, its source code would go into the public domain, and proprietary software developers would be able to include it in their programs. But what about the reverse case?

Proprietary software is restricted by EULAs, not just by copyright, and the users don’t have the source code. Even if copyright permits noncommercial sharing, the EULA may forbid it. In addition, the users, not having the source code, do not control what the program does when they run it. To run such a program is to surrender your freedom and give the developer control over you.

One can not surrender one’s freedom except in that case were they have aggressed against another. And then only to the extent to which is necessary to stop the aggression. The user gives up no freedom when voluntarily using closed source software. Stallman is looking to actually restrict user’s freedom by attempting to use copyright to force companies to work within his free software paradigm and restricting the marketplace. If FOSS is indeed a better way for all involved it will naturally become the dominant method of software development and distribution in the market naturally. There is no need to force it into being through threats and violence.

We also use copyright to partially deflect the danger of software patents.

More artificial monopoly privileges will not fix artificial monopoly privileges. Approach this problem from a true freedom oriented perspective and all these contradictions will disappear as will this endless tug of war for power over the State.

I could support a law that would make GPL-covered software’s source code available in the public domain after 5 years, provided it has the same effect on proprietary software’s source code. After all, copyleft is a means to an end (users’ freedom), not an end in itself. And I’d rather not be an advocate for a stronger copyright.

Fundamentally there is no difference between what Stallman advocates and what the stricter copyright people advocate. It is an argument over degrees and not kind. It is an argument that will never be resolved so long as the conversation is held within this intellectual property box. As long as Stallman and those who agree with him can do sue companies for GPL violation (and win)… the RIAA can restrict individual’s access to things they purchase and the game console companies the same. Freedom on all sides would allow the market place to find the best solutions for all those involved without all the unproductive fighting for control and as Eric S. Raymond pointed out… the fear it creates.

A real analysis of the FOSS community I believe would show that FOSS works without copyright. Through voluntary means software stays more or less open as the original author desired. Projects which are slow to change or allow outside participation are forked or replaced and the best method for the community wins out. Those companies which fail to release modifications to the source which they’ve used in their products are ostracized often leading to the code’s publication. If the general customers of their products are displeased with the lack of openness or product flexibility they will take their business elsewhere. They will succeed or fail in the market as everyone else. Artificially sustaining FOSS through monopoly privileges is economically and therefore socially regressive and destructive. It has no place in a free society.

For more information regarding intellectual property monopoly:

Church vandals don’t understand, by Andrew Carroll

Posted on July 29th, 2009 by bile
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Seeing the trenchant prose of Friedrich Nietzsche disrespectfully spray-painted on a church building, coupled with anarchy symbols and cliched atheist mantras, left this particular Nietzschean anarchist with a bad taste in his mouth.

With no actual knowledge of Nietzschean or anarchist philosophy to stop them – and plenty of angst to aid them – the vandals have made nothing but fools of themselves, even amongst fellow anarchists, atheists and Nietzsche fans.

The famous, and usually misunderstood, quote “God is dead” is not, as our vandals seem to think, a criticism of the concept of God and any ethics derived therefrom, as much as it is a challenge to the atheists of the world, to the godless, whose value system is inherently nihilistic.

This nihilism is something that Nietzsche believes must be overcome (and he died trying to do it). He believed the atheist must struggle, in a world without God, to create his own values and find his own meaning.

Thus Zarathustra, the character who speaks the famous quote, goes on to say that we, after killing God as a source of value, must “become Gods ourselves…”

In other words, we must become the source of our own values.

That is the true meaning of the death of God: the birth of the Overman (in German: Ubermensch). I doubt our vandals ever actually read the original source of the statement, or understood it.

Instead, in typical pseudo-philosophical fashion, they ripped the quote out of context, lost the meaning, and spray-painted it on the side of a church: an act which ironically shows our vandals’ utter lack of values.

Next, the vandals went on to spray-paint anarchy symbols. As an anarchist, I take offense to this as well. Most anarchists I have ever met have nothing but complete respect for private property, and nothing but tolerance for different belief systems – which is why we are anarchists. The State represents, to me, homogenization, rather than diversity; control, rather than cooperation; theft, rather than respect for ownership; and violence, rather than peace.

The vandals represent all of the State’s values, and none of its antithesis – so how can they really call themselves anarchists?

Not only that, but the vandals are clearly ignorant of the many, many Christian anarchists – most notably, Leo Tolstoy. Even our founding fathers, who were religious, had strains of anarchist thought, which is why they never wanted the State to get involved with religion (or much else), so that religion would flourish in all its forms and people would be free to worship God in their own way.

So to spray-paint anarchy symbols on a church represents a complete lack of understanding of anarchist and Christian philosophy.

Finally, the vandals did something so ridiculous, something so incredibly indicative of their ignorance, that! one can not help but laugh:

They spelled Nietzsche wrong (yes, check out the video: they forgot the “c” every time).

How can we take such immaturity and hypocrisy seriously – especially when contrasted with the calm patience and caring forgiveness of the church members?

Seems to me that the members of Hope Chapel know where their values lie, and they take opportunities like this – where pain is forced upon them by an immoral act – to grow stronger in their faith. Nietzsche was right all along:

“That which does not kill you makes you stronger.”

Let’s hope the vandals can grow a little from this, too.

176 Church St.

I disagree that their actions show the “vandals’ utter lack of values.” It shows that they have destructive and anti-social values. Otherwise he’s pretty spot on.

Anarcho-capitalism vs. Agorism?

Posted on May 25th, 2009 by bile
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A couple of people have asked me:

FSK frequently criticizes anarcho-capitalists as pro-State trolls. Aren’t anarcho-capitalism and agorism the same thing?

I consider “agorism” and “free market anarchism” to be equivalent. Agorism and real free markets are the “One True Version of Anarchy”.

The fallacy of “anarcho-capitalists” is that they fail to answer “How will the State be eliminated?” They assume that the State will gradually shrink and then voluntarily shut itself down. This will occur by voting, which is the usual (L)libertarian fantasy.

How is a failure to answer “How will the State be eliminated?” make it fallacious? There is no assumption, just no explicit component to the philosophy. Perhaps because to claim any one method is the surest or only way is highly suspect and limiting. Agorism provides a set of steps which if carried out could bring about a the State’s destruction. Little more than libertarian black market, Fabian strategy style. Agorism is more then anything a tactic. One of many theoretical means to ending the State. An explicit means to an preexisting end.

And to lump Libertarianism and libertarianism into a single basket is just as fallacious as claiming the “usual” fantasy of those isms is to vote away the State. Lowercase ‘l’ libertarianism applies to a rather large range of philosophies. Both anarchist and not. Propertarian and not. Besides a belief in the non-aggression principle (ignoring consequentialist vs. deontological differences) there is nothing more to libertarianism.

Anarcho-capitalists sometimes defend large corporations as a natural free market occurrence. Large corporations cannot exist without State subsidies.

How can the author possibly know that? We can say they won’t have the State subsidies to make them that big, we can say that they won’t be corporations in the way they are now due to state intervention but how can anyone claim to know to what size a business can or can not get to in a freemarket? How can one claim that a business would be unable to provide for their customers so well, through efficiencies of scale and division of labor, as to be as large as some businesses now? They obviously wouldn’t exist in the same capacity or for the same reasons.

Anarcho-capitalists defend the current State. They say “We should obey State regulations for now. In the present, the State has legitimacy. The State is evil, but we need it right now.” Anarcho-capitalism is a pro-State philosophy of anarchy.

I’m glad the author know what all ancaps everywhere think and defend. As an ancap and a friend of ancaps… I have never made such statements or hear such statements as above. Anyone who would is not a libertarian ancap.

An agorist says “The State has zero legitimacy *STARTING NOW*.

As mentioned before an proclaimed ancap isn’t an ancap if they claim the State has legitimacy.

We will ignore all the stupid taxes and laws that restrict our productivity. We will boycott the State as much as possible, but a perfect 100% boycott is not feasible in the present.”

All? Doubtful. It is improbable to get 100% outside the taxation of the state. The second sentence admits as such and therefore the first sentence is negated by it. And what does “as much as possible” mean? A rugged individualist anarcho-primitivist is likely to tell the agorist that using State built and controlled roads is completely avoidable.

An agorist wants the State to get bigger and more inefficient and then collapse, instead of gradually shrinking and disappearing.

I’ve never read that as the explicit goal of agorism. The point of grey and black market agorist action is multifacited. To undermine the state’s “business” by providing alternatives (leading to shrinkage of the State hopefully) and grow successful enough as to provide free market defense against those who would  still call themselves the State. It would seem that wanting the State to grow before collapsing is akin to desiring people to get harmed. You can say that such a situation would work in favor of free market anarchism but to want it is anti-libertarian if we agree that the growing of the State would lead to more infringement of liberties.

If you call yourself an anarcho-capitalist and aren’t a fool, your beliefs will be similar to those of agorists. However, the people who call themselves anarcho-capitalists tend to fall into the usual (L)libertarian intellectual trap.

If you advocate the State you aren’t an ancap. If you are an ancap then of course your beliefs are similar to an agorist. Many, including Konkin, consider agorism to be an evolution of Rothbardian anarcho-capitalist philosophy. Konkin describes agorists as “strict Rothbardians… and even more Rothbardian than Rothbard [himself].”1

This is the problem with using labels over descriptions. I prefer to substitute definitions for what they actually mean, especially when there could be confusion.

While I don’t completely disagree… labels exist for a reason. They are a shortcut to having to explain everything every time you discuss a topic. When diving deeper into a topic one must always lay down specific definitions otherewise you end up arguing semantics endlessly.

If you aren’t an idiot, when you refer to “anarchy” or “market anarchism”, you mean what I call “agorism” or “really free markets”. I frequently see people calling themselves anarcho-capitalists with pro-State troll false beliefs. Whenever possible, substitute labels for what you actually mean, to avoid confusing.

If you call yourself an anarcho-capitalist and you aren’t an idiot, you’re beliefs will be the same as what I call “agorism”. However, I see a lot of pro-State trolls calling themselves anarcho-capitalists.

Gets a little ad hominem and repetitive here.

Agorism is the only philosophy that answers “How can the State be eliminated?” and “What will the replacement look like?”

I doubt that’s true. I’m sure some Fabian socialists were anarchists. However, even if true I fail to see why a means should to be married to the end or what benefit it provides. It is difficult enough to maintain an idea of an end with changing understandings of life and economy (mutualism for example). Adding to that the need to justify a means seems excessive and unnecessary.

If lots of pro-State trolls start calling themselves agorists, then do I have to find a new name for my philosophy?

If you want to dilute the waters I suppose. Those who wish to minimize your impact and undermine your message will attempt to steal words and redefine them. It’s a great tactics that has been use for hundreds of years if not longer. It is a way to keep you on the run. To make you waste your time with semantics and definitions. There is little that can be done about this tactic but running away from definitions does not seem to me a reasonable attempt at a solution. If a word is misused then make a point to correct that person who does so. I have found it far easier to point out the true meaning of a word and explain that it has been usurped by those who either don’t understand it or are out to discredit it rather then dispel the misunderstanding and introduce a new work in addition to describing it.

Huffington Post commenters are painfully ignorant: criticize Ron Paul on secession statements

Posted on April 20th, 2009 by bile
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The article itself is fine but the comments are beyond ignorant. Rather than looking into the historical facts which Paul spoke of or attempting to argue political theory, philosophy, or the language of the US Consitution these Huffington Post’ers just blather on.

  • The war against the CSA did not answer the question of secession. It answered the question of who was more powerful / had more people to send to their death.
  • The Constitution makes no mention of secession. In the early years of the country there was no question that if a group could voluntarily enter into a governing agreement that they could not back out of it. The Declaration of Independence points this out clearly.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

  • Ron Paul has not all of a sudden, due to a black (he’s not “black” but born of  “white” and “black” parents, what is this the slavery “one drop” days?) president, start supporting the concept of secession. It’s an ignorant and likely bigotted statement to claim such a thing.
  • Ron Paul does advocate removing at least the property rights infringement aspects of the Civil Rights Act. The federal government has no authority to make such a law and it’s a gross infringement to one’s right to property.
  • FACT: The Pledge of Allegiance was created by Francis Bellamy in the late 1800′s to get people to more or less worship the state given he was a a state socialist and a flag salesman who would gain from such a pledge becoming popular.
  • IMO it helps to make actual arguments based on logic and facts rather than mud throwing and ad hominems.

Stefan Molyneux’s Statism is Dead

Posted on December 6th, 2008 by bile
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Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

This is part 11 through 14 of Stefan Molyneux’s new True News series. If you don’t have the time to watch them all (over an hour) make some time for part 3.

A message from Ron Paul

Posted on November 5th, 2008 by bile
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Dear Friends,

Our journey together has been truly historic. As the final votes are tabulated and the curtain closes on this election, we must take time to reflect on our successes even as we turn our attention to the task before us.

Our campaign has stirred the sleeping giant by showing millions that freedom, peace, and prosperity are achievable. We know that these things can come about only through sound money, limited government and a respect for the inherent rights of every individual. We have awakened the political class to the popularity and viability of Liberty. And, most of all, we have awoken within ourselves a spirit of freedom and independence that cannot be suppressed by any ruler, army, or philosophy of subservience and fear.

Yet we must not reflect long. We must press our efforts and lay the groundwork for the future of our movement and our country. The 2010 election cycle is just around the corner. We must redouble our efforts to educate our fellow citizens, recruit and support liberty candidates, and marshal our resources for the battle ahead.

Ours is the most solemn charge of all: to defend Liberty in this bleak hour lest the very notion that man might best govern himself be scoured from this land and from the conscience of mankind.

In our campaign for liberty, we’re just getting started.

Let the Revolution begin.

Ron Paul