Vive Le Résistance! – by “Ben S”

What strikes me oddest about the free software movement is the identity of its proponents.  In the “free music” movement (I recognize that this is not entirely analogous to the free software movement, but similarity exists inasmuch as they are both new paradigms challenging old, and that both advocate greater availability and range of use of their respective works, and a more flexible payment model than the currently dominant ones) the proponents—consumers and (some) musicians—are the ones who stand to gain the most financially from doing away with the old model: consumers end up paying less for the music, and musicians end up making more (at least in some cases, such as that of Radiohead); the opponents, on the other hand, are those who stand to lose the most financially: the record labels.

However, in the free software movement, the main proponents are precisely those people who stand to lose the most financially: programmers.  As Stallman himself notes, under a free software model:

the … reason that programmers will not starve is that it will still be possible for them to get paid for programming; just not paid as much as now

and

Probably programming will not be as lucrative on the new basis as it is now. But that is not an argument against the change

That is, programmers will still earn a living wage under a FOSS model, but will not earn the “extravagant” wages they are currently used to–and it is programmers themselves who will abandon the old model in favor of the new.

Currently, at least, contributing to the free software movement and giving up the salaries programmers have become used to are not mutually exclusive: “most free software authors” Stallman knows “have day jobs in the technology industries,” and so do not suffer reduced benefits because of their involvement in the movement.  However, if Stallman’s vision eventually wins the day, if all software one day is free, this will undoubtedly (by Stallman’s own admission) result in lowered salaries.  All day jobs in the technology industry will be in free software, and this will be the programmers’ only source of income.

Thus, if Stallman is right, as seems increasingly likely, programmers themselves will reduce their own pay (as a whole) based on a desire of greater power than that of gross economic forces: the need to live in a society that encourages collaboration and societal advancement over selfishness and personal advancement.  And under this model, just as many people will continue to contribute to the oeuvre of human software as contribute to it now–as Moglen aptly put it, people will continue to code:

Rather like why Figaro sings, why Mozart wrote the music for him to sing to, and why we all make up new words: Because we can. Homo ludens, meet Homo faber. The social condition of global interconnection that we call the Internet makes it possible for all of us to be creative in new and previously undreamed-of ways…Repeat after me, ye dwarves and men: Resist the resistance

Resist the resistance indeed: the resistance of personal gain will lose out to the positive good of progress, and programmers as a group will prove that the new model works: that it does not disfranchise anyone, precisely because the group most likely to claim disfranchisement will be responsible for it. Vive Le Résistance!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s