Valley Girl Sez: Libertarianism Sux!

Matt Cramer cramer at
Wed Aug 23 23:13:20 PDT 2000

I'm combining replies so I don't go over the 3 post/day limit.

On Wed, 23 Aug 2000, bill fancher wrote:

> on 8/23/00 2:08 PM, Matt Cramer at cramer at wrote:
> > the Microsoft Outlook you are using
> >
> Isn't using Pine the cyber-lib version of wearing a hair shirt?

I had to do a little research to get this reference. I found enough context to assume "hair shirt" means self-righteousness and dogmatism, although I am at a loss to the actual meaning. A "hair shirt" does not exactly sound like something in my wardrobe, at least I hope not!

Anyway, I use Pine because I've been using it for 10 years and I like it - it suits my needs. Other UNIX MUAs such as elm and mutt aren't intuitive for me. I need a MUA that is UNIX shell based so I can access it from anywhere with a decent 'net connection, use something like procmail for sorting mail, and have the ability to interact with a shell via scripts. This functionality is necessary for the work I do as well as my "hobbies".

I only pointed out Outlook since I thought the other person was asking "what is free software?", which I now know to be not true (see below). I don't care which MUA people use - they should use whatever suits their needs, but if they want me to read it it should be free of html encoding (blech) and include newlines. :-)

> > Richard M. Stallman and other GNU ( folks, believe that
> > this kind of software provides the best avenue for using technology to protect
> > personal liberty
> >
> But he's no Techno-Libertarian:
> Richard Stallman: Well, I guess I am a sort of combination between a liberal
> and a leftist anarchist. I like to see people working together, voluntarily,
> to solve the world's problems. But, if we can't do that, I think we should
> get the government involved to solve them.

True, the Stallman claim was shaky. RMS is kinda like the black sheep of the techno-libertarian (is this a buzzword now?) "community". Everyone loves and uses GNU software, and even attaches GPLs to non-GNU open-source software, but RMS is a little left of center politically. He is recognized as having good ideas but I don't think he represents what little consensus their may be, so it was incorrect of me to mention him. But his software model is libertarian, in how it demonstrates free thoght and free action (more on this below).

So is the open-source software akin to socialism, anarchism, or libertarianism? Maybe all three?

[but earlier....]

On Thu, 24 Aug 2000, Elena wrote:

> Matt, if I'd only known it'd make you happy, I'd use the mailer that
> came
> with FreeBSD (post-Mandrake via RedHat, did it all myself);

See above - I don't much care what you use.

> I hoped
> you'd explain how the free, open-source software contributes to the
> libertarian politics of cyberspace.

I don't think that is the case. I think that libertarian politics of cyberspace contribute to the open-source software movement. The open-source software movement is a kind of empowering of the a mass. I'd even go so far as to say using the software and working on it is an exercise in liberty. No .gov can regulate it, since it doesn't have an address or owner. .com's can't compete with it because it doesn't play the capitalist game - the programs themselves have no value as an asset that bean-counters can note. It is entirely volunteer for use and contribution. These traits are the traits of the average techno-libertarian. Open source software is a kind of geek-libertarian protest movement.

> > "Free" as in available to the user/consumer at no direct charge.
> > Free,
> > open-source software is the opposite of shrink wrapped software like
> > the
> > Microsoft Outlook you are using. Open-source software gives you the
> > key
> > to open the hood of the software and see how it works - closed source
> > software is like getting a car and having the hood welded shut.
> If you have some brainwave about a free car on a free highway running on
> free fuel, share it?

Um, yeah, the problem is free fuel, or rather, limitless fuel. It doesn't exist. The analogy only goes so far, since we're talking about cyberspace instead of meatspace.

> However, jumping on your analogy, most car drivers most
> of the time are concerned about the ability and some reasonable level of
> comfort of their car to get them from point A to point B for a
> reasonable
> price. Considering also that for l/USers, l/UKers and l/Ossies there's
> no
> language problem to wade through the manuals, there's surely some other
> reason for driving Windows, and not linux/bsd/etc?

Well, sure, Windows is the OS of the average "Windows for Dummies"-reading type user, because linux and BSD are too difficult to use. Linux on the desktop is getting better, of course, but it a long way off from becoming mainstream (like maybe another couple years). I wasn't really concerned about desktop software because it is the simple part of the internet. Anyone can write an OS that runs a web browser and a mail client. M$ certainly hasn't innovated anything. .com software is perfect for non-hackerish types and applications, but open-source software is good for just about everything else, which is the important and infinitely more complicated stuff. I'd go so far as to say 90% of the software that makes the interent possible is open-source, and was so even before open-source became a buzz-word.

> > Not all
> > open-source software is free, but many of the importants apps that
> > have
> > become ubiquitous to the internet are free - BIND for name resolution,
> > sendmail for mail delivery, *BSD or linux as an OS, apache for web
> > servers, etc.
> In my case, I have yet to find a publisher who doesn't want his/her
> materials delivered in PageMaker or Quark,

Those aren't really critical internet applications, though. But anyway, it is possible that GIMP may support these formats, FWIW.

> and a client who doesn't want
> their translations back in MS WORD/PP/Excel and, lately, Flash - bless
> it,
> still recovering (working for practical purposes only in Win for the
> time
> being, as far as I know).

Yeah, until M$'s monopoly is broken this will certainly be the case for desktop software.

> Luckily, this software is still, er, free here
> despite the software piracy police.
> To say nothing of the fact that Cyrillic fonts, especially in
> cross-platform
> cases, make you a natural-born killer...

I haven't had the pleasure.

> Till that moment, however, it might be safer to know who called the
> shots
> and still runs the show... Or, as Kelley said, this is the way
> capitalism is
> supposed to work - join it or beat it?
> Libertarians, hah?

Well, open-source software is currently beating capitalist software on the internet. Check out:

Apache leads M$ by 42% and iPlanet (Netscape/AOL) by 55.5%. Apache use is rising while the others have leveled off. New sites aren't buying the crap those companies sell, and I think this is a Good Thing.

[And finally...]

On Thu, 24 Aug 2000, kelley wrote:

> > "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the
> > initiative
> > in
> > creating the Internet." -Algore
> somebody needs to learn how to read! "i took the initiative"

sic. "I took the initiative in creating"

> |= "i
> created..."

Interesting english parser, you must have there. :-)

> sheesh! a statement made during an interview when one is
> speaking without benefit of prepared speech and notes is hardly what
> constitutes a definitive statement.

Snit as Algore apologist! Who woulda guessed? :-P

Remember, though, feather ruffling. Perhaps I shoulda said:

"Algore will fnord just tell us fnord that he invented it".

> >BTW, Quayle invented the spellchecker.
> it's a spilling cheeker!

Litte Bush can't be left out of the inventing game. I propose he invented compassion.



-- Matt Cramer <cramer at> Puritanism: the haunting fear that somebody, somewhere, might be having a good time.

-H.L. Mencken

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