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Should Obama Give Stimulus To Open Source? 525

Posted by samzenpus
from the more-money-please dept.
snydeq writes "InfoWorld's Bill Snyder posits a deeper relationship between government and open source than was proposed in last week's open letter to Obama calling for broader open source adoption: economic stimulus. Since software vendors urged the president to go open source last week, security companies 'have raised scary points about vulnerabilities in open source,' suggesting they could step in to help secure an open source switch. Rather than opt for this kind of security through obscurity, Snyder argues in favor of earmarking funds for open source development to instead ensure security through transparency. 'Once the government expands its use and support of open source, venture money — which is drying up in the current recession — would again start flowing to those small companies, allowing them to hire or rehire some of the tens of thousands of unemployed IT workers,' he argues."
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Should Obama Give Stimulus To Open Source?

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  • oh god no (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tritonman (998572) on Friday February 20, 2009 @08:58AM (#26927595)
    That's like an ANTI-Stimulus to us software developers trying to make a living.
    • by Jrabbit05 (943335) on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:00AM (#26927603)
      get a job hippy.
    • Get over it. You CAN in fact get paid to work with and develop on open source platforms daily.

      Your statement shows your ignorance of what open source is.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Long Live the Empire!

        The Day my company realizes they can get half-baked tools for free (ie. open office), my salary will get cut alongside it. People believe technology is expensive, which helps keep my salary up. If they thought all software should be downloadable from anywhere, my salary will suffer, I guarantee it.

        Selfish? probably. Do i care? nope.
    • Re:oh god no (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Friday February 20, 2009 @10:15AM (#26928409) Homepage Journal

      That's like an ANTI-Stimulus to us software developers trying to make a living.

      Get used to it. The stimulus (and, it seems, many of the Obama administration's policies) are designed to reward failure. Not that he started that trend - the big wall street bailout (TARP #1) rewarded all the banks that were failing, too.

      Just as an example, the stimulus provides tax breaks to workers that amounts to about $8 a week, while providing $25 a week more for unemployment compensation payments. The failing auto industry got billions as soon as the Dems took over, and they're now at the door asking for more.

      Obama's mortgage assistance program will reward people that are significantly behind in their mortgage payments. There will be no incentives for people that are on time, or for people interested in buying foreclosed properties. It's good to reduce the number of foreclosures happening, but it doesn't do anything to help move families into those foreclosed houses that are now sitting empty.

      Maybe you should look into health care information systems, I hear there will be a lot of jobs there, soon. You may have to learn to program with something other than Visual Studio, though, because I imagine the new Health Information Network will use a lot of open source software.

      • Re:oh god no (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Chabil Ha' (875116) on Friday February 20, 2009 @10:33AM (#26928727)

        There will be no incentives for people that are on time...

        Is not honor reward enough? Doing the right thing is its own reward.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by cthulu_mt (1124113)
          Paying taxes to benefit the irresponsible takes the edge off the feeling.
        • Re:oh god no (Score:5, Informative)

          by blhack (921171) on Friday February 20, 2009 @12:13PM (#26930401)

          Is not honor reward enough? Doing the right thing is its own reward.

          I can't take honor to the store and convert it into food. The power company also doesn't take honor as a form of payment.

          • Re:oh god no (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Chabil Ha' (875116) on Friday February 20, 2009 @12:36PM (#26930759)

            I can't take honor to the store and convert it into food.

            Sure you can. If I fulfill my end of an agreement, then my credit worthiness (my honor) allows me to enter into other such agreements (ie a credit card) which can be used to purchase other goods and services on credit (my honor). Therefore, it is intrinsically good for me to be on time with my payments. My continued good behavior allows me to make such 'honor' purchases.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by cayenne8 (626475)
              "I can't take honor to the store and convert it into food.

              Sure you can. If I fulfill my end of an agreement, then my credit worthiness (my honor) allows me to enter into other such agreements (ie a credit card) which can be used to purchase other goods and services on credit (my honor). Therefore, it is intrinsically good for me to be on time with my payments. My continued good behavior allows me to make such 'honor' purchases."

              Either you're trolling (successfully) or maybe not from the US or English is

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geordie_loz (624942)
      Isn't the premise that money spent by the tax-payer to stimulate the economy should provide a return on investment to the tax-payer. So tax-payer pays for software development, software developer spends money and stimulates economy, software developer gives resultant software, not just the compiled, but the source, free to use in whatever way possible.

      This seems far more reasonable than the tax-payer pays for software to be developed, gets nothing, or possibly some single version of some software.. Then
    • by SolusSD (680489)
      this is going to cost me karma... As a software developer myself I recognize the contribution that open source makes to our commercial products (directly or indirectly as part of our development environment). Commercial software makes a lot of sense in specialized applications- built for specific clients, games (file under work of art), etc. Open source helps drive the software world- it doesn't stagnate it and it certainly is helping create more jobs in the field than it is taking away. so, in short. SH
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      As a software developer trying to make a living I have to call bullshit.

      I make my living largely using open sources software to build stuff for a company. Without the open source software, I'd have to learn some proprietary piece of crap and watch my job devolve into pointing and clicking and 'no we can't do that because the tool doesn't do it'. With open source, I can say absolutely yes we can do that, and then figure out how to do that afterwards in full confidence that even if the tool doesn't exist,

  • No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Friday February 20, 2009 @08:58AM (#26927597)

    No. Why? Because open source isn't typically a large lobbying group.

    Next.

    • by Da Fokka (94074)

      That's the right answer to the wrong question.

      • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:39AM (#26927925) Homepage Journal

        Agreed. That's the answer to "Will Obama give stimulus to open source?" rather than the question posed by the headline.

        As far as whether Obama should or not, I don't personally think it's the job of governments to support open source software financially. The way I see it, OSS is recession-proof. It will get developed whether there is money or not. Most OSS developers are willing to work now to earn rewards later.

        • We would disagree. Look at what Project LiMux has done for Munich. While more code is good, quality code that stands the test of time and reuse is still better. Core components are ageless, and there's so much to be done. Subsidy is a reality-- we all have to eat.

          • Subsidy is a reality-- we all have to eat.

            I wish the world worked that way around me. In Miami, there are guys that spend 8 hours a day, 6 months a year standing on street corners with hand out for a "subsidy" - they certainly look hungry. I got to know a couple of them who worked near my home for over 10 years - they'd summer up north and winter in Miami, they had a well funded recreational substance consumption hobby, most years they'd clear well over $100K in off the books income.

            Unfortunately, I think that easily available subsidy leads mo

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by PopeRatzo (965947) *

          I don't personally think it's the job of governments to support open source software financially.

          I do! I do!

          Am I the only one here who can see how the "free market" capitalism we have in the US is just a dodge by rich folk to make sure there's plenty of cheap labor? How they hang out this little gold ring of "success" to a large group of workers, who will buy into it like a lotto ticket, hoping that they'll be the one developer in 1,410,295 who will get venture capital so they can buy a BMW before the rug

          • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20, 2009 @10:21AM (#26928511)

            Of course there should be government investment in OSS development, you stupid fucks.

            All that ranting! You could have just said "I don't understand the difference between an economic stimulus and an investment". It would have been much shorter.

          • Then it's time to end the conservative nanny state. just like the sig says.
          • I don't personally think it's the job of governments to support open source software financially.

            I do! I do!

            Am I the only one here who can see how the "free market" capitalism we have in the US is just a dodge by rich folk to make sure there's plenty of cheap labor?

            Shhh... don't tell everyone. But please keep spreading the myth about the US having free market capitalism, though. We don't want anyone to know that it's a fiction.

            25 cent an hour labor from funny-looking little dark people

            What, are you racist or something? I am trying to be fair to everyone, regardless of skin color. I pay my Wetbacks same as I pay my Indians.

            We wouldn't want to live like those craven Swedish after all, who for all we know have reverted to eating each other because their horrible "European-style Socialism" was such a terrible failure.

            Well we have to do something to keep the Swiss happy. Where else are we supposed to hide all our riches from the IRS?

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            I'm not rich. But ideologically speaking I believe that laissez-faire capitalism is the best way to relieve poverty, ensure liberty and minimize conflict.

            What the US has right now is NOT laissez-faire capitalism. It is a hodge-podge of welfare, centrally-controlled money, regulation, trade restrictions and spending projects.

            I won't bother going into the philosophy or economic arguments. Those posts are becoming unpopular on /. during this period of newly revived confidence in the US government (I genuinely

          • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Friday February 20, 2009 @11:15AM (#26929483)

            Nice try, but the vast majority of free-market libertarians I've met are FAR from wealthy. Usually those advocating a more liberal system are the wealthier. Compare the bigger cities vs. the countries; bigger cities such as New York and San Fran are typically very liberal and also relatively wealthy.

            The big ideological divide here is that you, a liberal, is that you're viewing people and things by function and utility, whereas the (true) libertarian believes in rights in-and-of-themselves, rights for the sake of rights. Whereas you may believe in freedom of speech because the free exchange of ideas may lead to better ideas, the libertarian believes that people should innately just be able to say what they want to say as an individual right, with little concern over whether it benefits society or not.

            The greed of corporations is not ideological, not in any traditional sense of the word. Corporations, composed of usually many shareholders that are far removed from the employees of the company and their standard of living, highlight part of what's inherently wrong with democracy in the first place. And Laissez-faire is not an inherently pro-corporation philosophy--many libertarians oppose "corporate personhood" and also the greed of big business extends into government handouts and favors, which the staunch libertarian strongly rejects in almost all, if not all, circumstances.

            You bring up the Iraq war, like the libertarians supported it, and maybe some "libertarians in name only" did, but the true adherents never supported it. The most laissez-faire guy in Congress--Ron Paul, obviously--strongly opposed the war from the get-go, one of the relatively few Republicans who did!

            Ironically, too, that you complain about people whine about "socialism" and their big-screen TVs when the libertarians typically stress saving money instead of continual spending. It is the left that believes that people should have that high standard of living, with all its modern comforts, not the "true" right (if you consider the libertarian to be the "true right"). If you think the libertarians weren't complaining about the cost of the war--in lives and in money--you clearly weren't listening. I find that far, far too common in the left, whom choose to misrepresent libertarians quite willingly, or at least ideologically aren't all that interested in the truth.

            The libertarian does not necessarily oppose "Universal Healthcare" insofar that is a voluntary decision of the individual. Not because they want to stop UH, but because they simply want to maximize the freedom and choice of every individual, even if that means the individual can end up hurting themself. The libertarian is the true democrat, as the libertarian beliefs in personal action and personal choice as opposed to the sham activities of modern democracies where some group inevitably takes from another group for the former group's benefit, whether it be poor from rich or rich from poor, able from unable or unable from able, smart from stupid or stupid from strong, or so on.

            The libertarian is about individual action whereas the modern liberal is about government action. The libertarian often wouldn't mind to see what you want enacted in society, they just want it to be a personal choice--no matter if most people would find it beneficial. The modern attempt to construct a "one-size-fits-all" society is what the libertarian ultimately rejects because the focus on the libertarian is on the rights of the individual and not what most fits for the group.

            Until you can understand and properly address the concerns of the libertarian, your arguments won't make much headway with any of them, because you're talking past them and insulting them by implying they believe or dislike things that may not necessarily be the case.

      • Because open source isn't typically a large lobbying group.

        That's the right answer to the wrong question.

        I'd say instead that's the wrong view on a very important question.

        • by jacoby (3149)

          If you expect a different view from Obama or Pelosi, expect to be disappointed.

    • I agree that it's foolish to believe that the government is going to throw money at an industry that many lobbyists will be telling them is "bad for business".

      The real pitch should be as such:

      Open source software is auditable for security

      The talent exists to make it whatever you need it to be

      The TCO of any supported OSS product is lower than the alternative

      By utilizing OSS in the public sector you create jobs in both while contributing to the wealth of the nation through technological advance.

      OSS is not be

      • By utilizing OSS in the public sector you create jobs in both

        I have a hard time getting my head around this one - the creators of OSS software don't typically have paying jobs per-se, unless they're subsidized by some entity that wants their product... so, are you asking government to start employing software developers directly? As a software developer, I wouldn't be very happy to work at civil servant pay-scales.

  • Qualified no. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by h4rm0ny (722443) on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:04AM (#26927631) Journal

    Probably not. The best things to do are twofold. Firstly, ensure a level playing field by mandating open and free formats, protocols and standards for all government operations. That's what Open Source really needs to compete and it's a good thing from the point of view of openness of information, maintenance and future-proofing anyway. The second thing that the government should probably do is to bloody well start doing things in-house again. None of this outsourcing to massive corporations that spend 90% of the money on managerial salaries and bonuses and
    • Firstly, ensure a level playing field by mandating open and free formats, protocols and standards for all government operations.

      How is that anywhere close to possible? Digital TV, for instance, uses MPEG-2 video and Dolby Digital audio, the same non-free patented formats used in DVD-Video. Or would you have the U.S. government splurge on another round of coupons for converter boxes that can do Theora and Vorbis?

      • by smoker2 (750216)
        Remove software patents ?
      • by Joce640k (829181)

        Hopefully government workers aren't watching TV when they're at work.

        How about this: All government documents should be in an open, well documented format. This way software vendors can compete for government contracts on level ground. Including Microsoft, who should be competing on features, not lock-in.

    • by furby076 (1461805)

      Firstly, ensure a level playing field by mandating open and free formats, protocols and standards for all government operations.

      In this case stating "level playing field" and "mandating" don't match. If you are mandating open/free formats then you are kicking out of play any group that uses closed/pay formats. While you may be happy about this setup it negates your "level playing field". A better way to go is to mandate 1) Compatibility, and 2) Cheapest AND Best product wins. THat is hard to determine. Rating cost is one thing, but rating "best" is another thing and more subjective.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by h4rm0ny (722443)

        In this case stating "level playing field" and "mandating" don't match. If you are mandating open/free formats then you are kicking out of play any group that uses closed/pay formats. While you may be happy about this setup it negates your "level playing field"

        Not exactly. The point of open formats / protocols is that anyone can use them in their software including closed, proprietary products. E.g. there is no legal reason Microsoft Word cannot include a Save to ODF option amongst their file type options.

    • by MtViewGuy (197597)

      Why does IBM need stimulus money from the Feds when their efforts to port Linux to run on their "big iron" hardware have already generated enough revenue to pay for the porting cost and then some?

  • Sounds good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MisterSquirrel (1023517) on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:05AM (#26927645)

    This is a great idea... If nothing else, it might help induce certain monopolies to become more competitive and re-focus on creating better software, rather than spending its resources trying to crush its opponents.

    And, as much as I would resist the government getting involved in standards-making and enforcement, it wouldn't be out of line for them to exert themselves toward making sure certain monopolies don't subvert the existing independent standards-making bodies through bribery and infiltration.

    • This is a great idea... If nothing else, it might help induce certain monopolies to become more competitive and re-focus on creating better software, rather than spending its resources trying to crush its opponents.

      I have to agree with the competition thing, but it also goes deeper. It would allow my employer to open source some of our projects, continue working on them, and then make money off of the support contracts.

      For me, it would mean I would still have a job next month.

  • Great Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mlwmohawk (801821) on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:13AM (#26927691)

    The open source movement is exactly what should be funded. Create a grant application program for open source projects.

    I had an argument with a microsoftie a while ago, who was convinced that open source was destroying the software industry. I countered that all it was doing was creating a rich infrastructure on top of which other industry could be built.

    The open source infrastructure is a national (international) treasure that, by making infrastructure basically free, like roads and bridges, makes other projects that would have been too big and expensive to develop from scratch, almost trivial to develop.

    • Re:Great Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Fumus (1258966) on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:42AM (#26927963)

      But how do you give money to the open source? Most probably some companies will get the money, and if they're companies, they already have some money. The problem I see is that in order to really stimulate the movement, you'd need to send each little bloke who wrote ten lines of code $5. That wouldn't help of course, because I actually believe this OSS stimulus is a dumb thing, but it would actually give money to the open source movement. Not to some "open source" companies.

      It's like with helping the poor. If you want to help, give the money to the poor. Not to some charity funds which will, or will not spend the money wisely.

      • by Muad'Dave (255648)
        Free software needs real hardware to run on, test on, host the project on, etc. Grants for amazon S3 space or a shot in the arm to sourceforge to bring back/update the compile farm would be nice.
    • by furby076 (1461805)

      The open source movement is exactly what should be funded

      They are numbnuts: http://www.nsf.gov/news/index.jsp?prio_area=5 [nsf.gov]
      For those to lazy to click a link

      The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense..." With an annual budget of about $6.06 billion, we are the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JoeMerchant (803320)

      The open source movement is exactly what should be funded. Create a grant application program for open source projects.

      How does open source funding compare to the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts)? I hope Apache is at least as well funded as Robert Mapelthorpe...

  • Not gonna happen (Score:4, Insightful)

    by abigsmurf (919188) on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:17AM (#26927713)

    1: You don't create jobs by adding unfair competition to struggling companies(how can companies compete with someone getting guaranteed money with no need to turn a profit?)

    2: I'm pretty sure there are international laws in place which don't look too kindly on this.

    • by Shakrai (717556) on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:20AM (#26927739) Journal

      You don't create jobs by adding unfair competition to struggling companies(how can companies compete with someone getting guaranteed money with no need to turn a profit?)

      Sounds like the best argument I've heard for letting GM and Chrysler fail. Hardly seems fair to Ford, Honda, VW, etc that their competitors are being rewarded for failure.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cayenne8 (626475)
        "Sounds like the best argument I've heard for letting GM and Chrysler fail. Hardly seems fair to Ford, Honda, VW, etc that their competitors are being rewarded for failure."

        At this point, I can't imagine why those companies wouldn't want to go into bankruptcy at this point.

        It would allow them to finally shake off all the stupid union contracts that have been smothering them for decades, and rendering them unable to really compete with the world market.

      • by Giometrix (932993)

        You don't create jobs by adding unfair competition to struggling companies(how can companies compete with someone getting guaranteed money with no need to turn a profit?)

        Sounds like the best argument I've heard for letting GM and Chrysler fail. Hardly seems fair to Ford, Honda, VW, etc that their competitors are being rewarded for failure.

        I believe that those companies want GM and Chrysler to get saved because not saving them would put suppliers out of business. Honda, Toyota, etc. use many of the same suppliers as GM. Without those suppliers, it will be very costly for them to restore operations in the US.

    • Re:Not gonna happen (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:23AM (#26927769) Homepage

      and how about....

      3: if your idea is so damn good, risk your own damn money.

      Every single one of the VC driven tech booms have crashed hard because 75% of the crap is raging garbage.

      Got a good idea? Then sell your home and your cars to finance it, then when it's operational look to get more investors and generate capitol the normal way. Every single VC startup I have been a part of or seen close up are nothing more than a "buddy's clubhouse" where they waste money on stupid crap and dont really use their windfall of money for the real task at hand. If you have a personal investment into the company then you will work hard to make it succeed.

      If you got your beer idea on a napkin that you convinced some moron to give you $800,000 to start doing, you're gonna screw off and try to play "rich guy" until the money runs out.

      The LAST thing we need is to start handing out lottery money to people with "ideas".

      • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:33AM (#26927857)

        True but you could get some decent results with small buisness grants and low interest loans.
        Handing people a sack of money isn't the way to go but making those investments just a little less risky would be a good thing.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Lumpy (12016)

          I agree. but you need to risk as much. I'm tired of seeing the struggling "businessman" who in reality is sucking his company dry and gladly ready to jump ship and let it sink causing the bank to take all the risk.

          LLC incorporation is a bad thing. it allows you to buy a big house and couple BMW's on the company dime, and then keep them when you file bankruptcy and let the banks auction off the useless junk you had at the office. Many banks are flat out refusing to loan to LLC's right now because the abu

  • by Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:17AM (#26927715)

    The fools in Washington are led around by their nose (and their peckers) by lobbying dollars. Open source in the government is never going to happen...especially with "quality" vendors like Diebold and SAIC jumping in to "fix things."

  • Well not quite as far but it will devalue the work of software developers and put money in the wrong hands.

    Open Source at least the GNU variation of it, doesn't value the creators of the work, and assumes their time making such device is such a joy that a job well done is pay enough per say. Sure you can make money off of supporting your code consulting services etc... But the value as a developer is reduced (As there are people who just want to code, and eat, but not run small consulting businesses or deal

    • by houghi (78078)

      I am sure that the people at the various companies like RedHat, Novell, IBM, will be angry to hear that they will not be getting any more money, because the work is joy enough.

  • by joshsnow (551754) on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:26AM (#26927793) Journal
    Dear Mr President, You really should be buying American products in order to stimulate economic recovery in the United States of America. May I take this opportunity to remond you that MICROSOFT is an AMERICAN CORPORATION! BUY AMERICAN! BUY AMERICAN! We love you, Mr President Sincerely, Steve Ballmer
  • Yes! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gillbates (106458)

    For most businesses, the cost of software represents a substantial portion of their cost structure. With open source software, the businesses will be better able to retain employees, which will strengthen the economy.

    The beauty of open source software is that its value to society far exceeds the cost of the effort consumed by creating it. While it does require a fixed, up-front effort, the payoff is limited only by the number of people able to use such software. Contrast this with the closed source mo

  • Bureau of Open Source Software Technology: 80% of funds received

    This bureau will consist of individuals attending seminars in the Bahamas and Hawaii to determine the best Open Source methods. Limo's will of course be required in all travel modes to ensure a comfortable atmosphere when deciding upon Open Source issues.

    • Office of Environmental Impact of Open Source Technology: 10% of funds received
    • Office of Open Source Technology Public Awareness: 5% of funds received
    • Office of Feeling Good about O
  • Good Lord No! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:42AM (#26927959)

    Give money to people for Open Source and you'll have a ton of shitty projects designed solely to get money from the Government.

    Most of the rest of the projects will be companies claiming free money for projects they would have paid for in-house, but they could get the government to pay for a portion of it instead. The projects won't be useful to anyone else, and especially won't be useful without the in-house project that goes with it.

    And no, GPL'ing all the government-funded software isn't the answer, either. At the very least, the companies will just find a way around that license.

    • by entgod (998805)
      But instead of the companies developing and keeping the projects in house, they would now have to release it as open source so other companies don't have to develop the same software (and can concentrate on actually doing what they do for money). Of course, projects that nobody else would benefit from shouldn't eligible for government funding.
    • by Kjella (173770)

      You're making an awful lot of assumptions that we'd have to go with some hand-waving used car salesman trying to get VC funding. There are many, many well-established open source applications where a lot of core drivers work a lot more than they get paid. Sure, quite a few of those get paid already but many more do not.

      We don't need to fund another generation of freshmeat dayflies. What we need are to take some of the established projects to the next level. I figure with some fairly simple prequialification

  • Stimulus? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) on Friday February 20, 2009 @09:43AM (#26927979)

    All economists agree that government spending is important during times of contraction, as it helps to make up the shortfall in the economy from the side of the consumer, and helps "stimulate" the economy. Another advantage of government spending is that it's usually an investment in infrastructure that will last many decades and provide a platform for future growth in the economy.

          However, the United States has not taken advantage of the good times. They have failed to reduce their debt during those times- and in fact have increased it to record proportions. Not only that, but they have not even managed to maintain their infrastructure. This is at both the state and federal level. So we went INTO this mess already up to our ears in debt.

          People fail to understand that every dollar the US prints reduces the real value of all the other dollars that currently exist by a tiny fraction - because after all, fiat currency is only hard to forge pieces of paper. Once the shared belief in the value of that worthless piece of paper is destroyed, it will quickly return to its intrinsic value - ZERO. Ask Mugabe.

          Printing trillions of dollars at a time when you are already close to 60 trillion (when you count social security) in debt, and the WORLD GDP is only 150 trillion, will destroy the currency in short order. The US can't afford to bail ANYONE out - they are too deep in debt already. Yet the political temptation to appear to "do something" is too strong - despite the fact that it's already too late. The "stimulus" is currently designed to put almost $300BN back into the pockets of the consumer in the form of tax relief [recovery.gov] - consumers that are already deep in debt. That 300BN will disappear in a couple months, as people pay their overdue credit cards, mortgage payments and utility bills, or buy houses thinking that this is "the bottom" (HAH! The "bottom" will be in 2015 or so, because all bubbles are V shaped and this one started in 1998) - and THEN WHAT?

          Well, $126BN will be spent on infrastructure - great, let's do what FDR did and build, or re-build, interstates. Surely a plan that worked 70 years ago is still valid today, right? So after giving jobs to all the immigrants again (because who ELSE works with a shovel nowadays?), what's left? A few hundred billion to be spent giving cheap drugs to the elderly and other programs to win political points. Oh and NASA is going to get $2BN, so that should cover the fuel for 2 shuttle launches...

          Frankly by the time enough "infrastructure" is built that the government begins to require turbines from GE for their wind farms, or technological equipment for the new "smart grid", we will all be out of a job already, burning money by the bucketful in winter in order to keep warm.

          Oh and don't forget Chrysler and GM's "recovery plan" is to apparently ask the government for more money every quarter.

          America still hasn't woken up and realized that this is not just another "recession". This is the breaking of the previous consumer model, and a complete dissolution of the "American way of life". We can't ALL have SUV's, we can't ALL have big screen TV's, and we can't ALL live in dream houses. Especially not when it's bought on "credit". Well America, the credit has run out.

    • Re:Stimulus? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Friday February 20, 2009 @10:33AM (#26928717)

      All economists agree that government spending is important during times of contraction, as it helps to make up the shortfall in the economy from the side of the consumer, and helps "stimulate" the economy. Another advantage of government spending is that it's usually an investment in infrastructure that will last many decades and provide a platform for future growth in the economy.

      This is patently false. Not all economists agree that government spending is a "good thing" in times of contraction. Here is an economist who argues that it is a bad thing: http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=5408 [capmag.com] He is by the way a staunch conservative/libertarian who tends to support Republican politics (although I have seen him write columns condemning "spend, spend" Republican policies).

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MtViewGuy (197597)

      Here's the problem: a stimulus will NOT work when our tax laws are driving American citizens to either participate in the underground economy or "offshore" trillions in assets to offshore banking centers in the Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Panama, Singapore, Switzerland, etc. I've read that we've "offshored" legally a mind-boggling US$10 to US$16 TRILLION for income tax reduction reasons, an amount of money that if returned to the USA under better tax circumstances to participate in our financial syste

  • How? Who knows. Some lobby group somewhere will have an idea. Careful what you wish for...

  • Short answer: NO. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JoeMerchant (803320) on Friday February 20, 2009 @10:02AM (#26928231)
    Obama is an elected official, he is obliged to serve the will of the people of the United States.

    To be isolationist about it: this is a stimulus from US taxpayers for the recovery of the US economy. Open Source knows no borders, stimulus into open source will benefit the whole world, not just the US.

    To be union-minded about it: open source is a disruptive technology, it destroys established highly profitable service industries and replaces their products with free alternatives. It reduces the scale of the software economy from one that includes compensation for development, sales, marketing, investor returns and support to one that only generates significant revenue in support. In short, open source is a short-term net destroyer of jobs.

    To be PAC minded about it: open source doesn't have the deep pockets of the established software industry. There are 25 closed source lobbyists in Washington D.C. for every open source one.

    In summary: the American voter doesn't think beyond next week's paycheck, whether or not they can afford the next larger flat-screen TV, or to keep that 4500 sq. ft. McMansion they bought 4 years ago when the balloon payment comes due. Obama is up for re-election, and he has a mandate to make Joe the Plumber happy before November 2012. Investments in Open Source have long-term global returns that are difficult to demonstrate during a 30 second sound-bite on the nightly news. Regardless of how massive that ultimate ROI might be, it's not something that will put Barack back in office in 2012.

    Sorry OSS, you are noble, just and worthy, but you've just got no chance of making it on American Idol.
  • Getting the government unhooked from the Microsoft money train would have far-reaching effects in the industry.

    First, you have a large segment of the IT world who know nothing outside of the Microsoft way of doing things. Changing up what they're familiar with, and many paid to go to school to learn (hello all you MCSEs), renders many of these people unemployable.

    Second, for many government systems, there's a lot of aftermarket products commonly used that will be rendered obsolete. Antivirus, backup, etc.

  • Open source software seems to be moving along at a good pace all by itself. It doesn't need any help. Give the money to someone who needs it.

  • FOSS (free/open-source software) has been doing fine without government funding so far. Federal money always comes with strings attached. Do you really want Congress (or more likely some low-level, unqualified bureaucrat) meddling in your development project?

    Now, funding for the government to migrate to using to FOSS would make a lot of sense to me, but directly funding development? No thanks. I code better without Uncle Same breathing down my neck.

  • by hey! (33014) on Friday February 20, 2009 @10:32AM (#26928709) Homepage Journal

    to think of ways to set aside funds for small businesses; ways that would encourage them to adopt and develop open source software.

    We might take the Depression era grants that went to artists to decorate many public spaces as a model. Modest grants to people who work in information technology to create freely redistributable solutions public informatics problems would have several important advantages.

    (1) Such a plan maintains a domestic informatics workforce in the face of increased pressure to move jobs to low wage countries. Maintaining and increasing the skills of this workforce will make it attractive for industry to turn to it when the economy improves.

    (2) Mandating interoperability with open, non-proprietary standards improves the competitiveness of the domestic IT industry, where businesses are too often driven by premature efforts to create some kind of market niche where they ar protected from competition.

    (3) The grants should require that the small businesses have a plant to use the work to increase their capabilities, and particularly favor the development of new kinds of technology or application for technology.

    (4) Focusing the stimulus money on small businesses allows technology bets to be spread across a greater variety of approaches; it is less likely to introduce what is in effect central planning into engineering decisions. It is also unlikely to strengthen the hand of one big player against all the others because of its skill at obtaining Federal money.

    (5) Low margins and ready sweat equity will encourage greater adoption of free software.

    (6) There is already a Federal mechanism for doing this; the Small Business Innovative Research grant program.

    SBIR currently pays for mostly a lot of boondoggles, although even boondoggles if they are kept close enough to home can be stimulative. However, with the right requirements placed on grant applications the value created can be maximized -- important if we want to avoid the inflationary effects of stimulation. Favoring free software would mean that nearly any work done in an area results in public value. Even bad or poorly implemented systems contain lessons that can be studied and built upon; when the system is proprietary, those lessons die.

    Often the problem with SBIR is that work doesn't really result in something that can be commercialized. Even if the system is good, often people can't market it. So perhaps the most politically effective way to do this is to require that if the developer does not make a commercial success of the software within a fixed period, that it be released under a free license.

  • by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsn&earthlink,net> on Friday February 20, 2009 @12:55PM (#26931081)

    I think that the govt. should sponsor selected Open Source projects. One to calculate income tax would be quite reasonable.

    Any form that the govt. requires should be a reasonable project to be sponsored. And any application that the govt. needs for it's own internal use.

    I'm against govt. money just being grants. That feels like a bad idea. But hiring people to build carefully selected Open Source projects should be a good thing. Probably the BSD or MIT license should be chosen, as companies should be able to take the developed source code and run with it.

  • by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@@@netzero...net> on Friday February 20, 2009 @03:19PM (#26933211) Homepage Journal

    In the big omnibus let's put everything we can including the kitchen sink bill that Obama just signed in Denver (also known as HR1 or the "Supplimental Appropriations for Job Preservation and Creation Act") there is section 4206 under the Medicaid provisions for a "study on the availability of open source health care technology systems".

    Yeah, this is pretty dense and buried way deep into the bill, but somebody must like open source "technology" in some form or another in congress. I really wonder who shoved this little provision into that bill and even more wonder if anybody else is paying attention to this being a part of that trillion dollars getting spent.

    I sure would like to read that study when it comes back, and it specifically is to compare open source vs. proprietary software.

    Too bad this had to be buried in a law that nobody is going to be reading.

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