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Sun's McNealy Wants Obama to Push Open Source 176

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the fighting-against-years-of-ingrained-ignorance dept.
CWmike writes to tell us that Sun's Scott McNealy is pushing for the Obama administration to adopt a much more open-source friendly policy similar to what has been done in Denmark, the UK, and other countries. "Although open-source platforms are widely used today in the federal government -- particularly Linux and Sun's own products, Solaris and Java -- McNealy believes many government officials don't understand it, fear it and even oppose it for ideological reasons. McNealy cited an open-source development project that Sun worked on with the US Department of Health and Human Services, during which a federal official said 'that open source was anti-capitalist.' That sentiment, McNealy fears, is not unusual or isolated."
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Sun's McNealy Wants Obama to Push Open Source

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  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Friday February 27, 2009 @06:57PM (#27018225) Homepage Journal

    One of the key issues here is a huge misunderstanding of why the US clings to capitalism. Regardless of anything else, communism and/or socialism in their many forms are the ideal forms of society. If humans were never selfish and always worked for the betterment of everyone, there would be no need for anything like money, wealth, or capitalism.

    The problem is that humans are not perfect. Even the best of us attribute more value to our selves or our families than random strangers. Thus a system is required that meets the challenges of an imperfect society. The most natural form of such a system is a risk/reward system where work is done with the expectation of a possible reward. This is, for better or for worse, capitalism. While it may be a long way from an ideal solution, it is a solution that works.

    However, just having such a system does not prevent humans from striving for the benefits of cooperation and community strength. Co-ops, condominiums, small towns, and civic centers are just a few examples of ideas which obtain their strength from the community rather than the individual. Open Source is yet another example of such ideals. An opportunity where working together can strengthen the whole.

    If there was one way to sum it up, it would be "Together we stand. Divided we fall." Because at some point everyone, even enemies, have to work together if they want to move forward. Open Source just happens to be the technological way of working together. :-)

  • by Goalie_Ca (584234) on Friday February 27, 2009 @06:58PM (#27018239)
    The old farts in washington are from another era and have no understanding of any of today's issues (if they can even identify them amongst the old and tired ones they stubbornly still debate) yet these are the people making the decisions that have an impact for years to come. To me.. this hurts a lot!
  • I agree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Friday February 27, 2009 @07:02PM (#27018275)
    Open source makes for the best way to achieve President Obama's goals of transparency. Open source ensures a standards based method that will allow everyone to access government websites, information, and portals. No longer do you need to be tied into the M$ quagmire to conduct government business. If M$ won't open its software and standards, folks like Red Hat, Novell, Sun, and others will. You will have a choice of products to use.
  • by Elektroschock (659467) on Friday February 27, 2009 @07:08PM (#27018315)

    Just watch the 1960 Kennedy vs. Nixon debate on youtube: Freedom or slavery. It is exactly that superficial view. Everyone was shocked when Bush introduced the terms good and evil in foreign policy.

    The American public has been brainwashed with capitalism as a religion while vendors rob their governmental budget.

    All nations are today mixed societies, several tools and institutional instruments.

    They talk about free market but don't understand market theory. In a free market the license costs of software converge against zero because of non-rivalous consumption. This is why open source reflects a better allocation.

  • This was fine up until about 70 years ago. People felt better about having a stodgy old politician in office before then because the times really didn't change as much as they have in recent years. That's one unfortunate side effect of the tech explosion of the last few decades, people just cannot keep up, so you have politicians in office that are only vaguely aware that this thing made of tubes called the intarwebs even exists. Most of them do not realize just how much of a game changer it is. The Internet is just one example, look at things like stem cell research, nuclear energy, or other forms of energy and you see a trend.
  • by the white plague (1436257) on Friday February 27, 2009 @07:19PM (#27018417)

    open-source development project ... during which a federal official said "that open source was anti-capitalist."

    OSS is anti-capitalist if when you say 'capitalist' you really mean 'Plutocracy'.

  • "Anti-capitalist" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2009 @07:24PM (#27018443)

    In 15 years' time, it will be "don't terrorists use open source?"

  • by Samschnooks (1415697) on Friday February 27, 2009 @07:25PM (#27018465)

    Even if humans were never selfish and always worked for the betterment of everyone, communism/socialism doesn't adequately handle scarce resources.

    Thank you! The Tragedy of the Commons is a perfect example of what happens when everyone or no one owns a resource. Also, there hasn't been any economic system that has been as successful as Capitalism. And there hasn't been any country that has had a successful Communist political system.

    But, the OP posted a brilliant hedge: he italicized "ideal"; which means, all of our posts disputing his claims are for naught.

  • by QuasiEvil (74356) on Friday February 27, 2009 @07:26PM (#27018471)

    Or it's at least counter-intuitively capitalist...

    The conventional, straight-forward capitalist thinking is to tightly control access to the resource (software) to create scarcity, and thus control the price. He does this for his own profit, as well as to cover his costs (capitalist programmers, overhead, etc).

    The open source capitalist realizes that economic theory dictates that prices of software will trend towards zero, as there are very few barriers to entering the market. Any reasonably trained goon can write software (not necessarily good software, but something that gets the job done). The open source thinkers are searching elsewhere for markets with higher barriers to entry, such as support, customization, integration, etc. - things where the cost of entry is a fair amount of background knowledge and experience.

  • by AmericanGladiator (848223) on Friday February 27, 2009 @07:27PM (#27018479)

    I agree with you in part. Lawyers and software should almost never cross paths. The tag Imaginary Property on Slashdot always makes me smile.

    You should read "The Millionaire Next Door". It is a study of high net-worth Americans. One of the shockers is that a majority of them were self-made. I have to prefer a system that is dynamic and allows people to rise and fall based on their own work ethic and risk-taking.

    The current economic problems all stem from risk being pushed into the banking system. If banks had to service the loans they originated (this is one major cause of today's problems), we wouldn't be in this mess. They were more than happy to originate "liar loans" because they weren't the ones having to collect the monthly payments. It all became collateralized and the whole system then bore the risks.

    Capitalism and risk-taking are good, as long as you are the one bearing the consequence and potentially reaping the rewards for the risk.

  • by evanbd (210358) on Friday February 27, 2009 @07:29PM (#27018491)

    There's another problem with communism. Suppose everyone *was* completely altruistic. They all want to do what would be best for society. What should they do? The resource allocation problem is *immense*. The computational resources to solve it didn't *exist* until recently; now that they (probably) do, I don't think we have the mathematical understanding to solve it well even so.

    So, how would you decide what everyone should be doing? Enlightened self interest is one answer to the optimization problem. I'm quite willing to believe it's imperfect, but I'm also far from convinced we know how to do better, even starting from the rather fantastical assumption of rational but altruistic people.

    I note that this is a problem of scale -- within a family, tribe, co-op, or commune, it's relatively straightforward to solve the problem with reasonable efficiency in a purely manual fashion. When you scale it up to towns, cities, nations, or the world, though, it becomes intractable.

  • Let us see if the federal government can work on a 100% open source software solution using real open source operating systems and software applications.

    Open source is not Communism, Open Source is freedom and Democracy as our founding fathers saw it. One can be free to choose any OS or software they want and still get work done, and not be tied down to just one vendor.

    Push Open Source? It should read more like "Support Open Source" so we don't get confused with Microsoft pushing Windows on us all.

  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Friday February 27, 2009 @07:39PM (#27018587) Homepage Journal

    why should people work for the betterment of the whole of human society rather than for themselves?

    Who said it's an either/or? Communal work usually benefits everyone including the person doing the work. The problem is that the benefits are not always obvious or easy to internalize. Whereas, "I do X, I get back [money|food|power|etc.]" is a very simple concept that very few people struggle with.

  • by phunster (701222) on Friday February 27, 2009 @07:45PM (#27018641)

    I have to disagree with you. The examples you give are all commercial entities, except of course for small towns which are government entities. Much of America is already running Socialistic enterprises. Lets start with police departments, they are paid for with our tax money and they protect us. When you call the police, they don't ask for a credit card number. Further, all of these alarm companies profit from the existence of police departments, when the alarm goes off the police respond not the alarm company, yet the alarm company profits. Fire departments they don't bill you for responding to a fire at your home or business. Schools again socialized, yes you pay taxes, but the government provides the schools, the teachers, the school itself, athletic fields, etc. Not convinced, what about all the the rural electric companies owned by local and regional governments. I could go on and on.

    The point is that much of what we do in America would be called Socialism if it didn't exist and was proposed today. I think the real problem is that so many people are stuck giving "ism" names to things they don't even understand, and then favoring one "ism" over another regardless of its utility to the problem at hand.

  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Friday February 27, 2009 @07:52PM (#27018693) Homepage Journal

    The Tragedy of the Commons is a perfect example of what happens when everyone or no one owns a resource.

    The Tragedy of the Commons happens because of human self-interest and imperfection. Which was the exact point I made. Communal living falls flat on its face because of human self-interest. Capitalism works because it plays to the self-interest of mankind, not because it is a superior way to live.

    And yet, how much effort do we humans put into creating "communities"? Perhaps because community is a very good thing, even if we must balance our need for a community against our own self-interests. ;-)

    But, the OP posted a brilliant hedge: he italicized "ideal"; which means, all of our posts disputing his claims are for naught.

    Or more to the point, because the "ideal" I refer to is simply unrealistic. It would be nice if the universe always worked the way we wanted it to. Unfortunately, it doesn't. So we have to accept that the ivory tower ideal is not the same as the real-world practical. Which isn't to say that there isn't quite a bit of middle ground...

  • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday February 27, 2009 @08:26PM (#27019005) Homepage

    The Tragedy of the Commons happens because of human self-interest and imperfection.

    I think it's also worth noting that there's no clear way that the "tragedy of the commons" applies to open source software. It can't really be over-used or used-up by any of the owners. Your use doesn't hamper my use.

  • Re:Oh, terrific (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2009 @08:52PM (#27019193)
    The meaning of the quote has to do not with the number of enemies, but the type of people who are enemies. The troll is, well, a troll. I'd be glad to count him as an enemy too.
  • by Jessta (666101) on Friday February 27, 2009 @09:03PM (#27019259) Homepage

    during which a federal official said "that open source was anti-capitalist."

    I always find it strange that people come to that conclusion, it's a very narrow view of capitalism.
    Open source and even free software is very capitalist. Capitalism is about an evolving market that is based on competition, open source software allows for a huge amount of competition because it's very easy to get in to the market.

    Building a modern operating system requires a lot of resources, thus only a select few large companies have the resources to build one.
    But there is a wide variety of things within the development and support of software where companies could compete.

    eg. support contracts, patch timeframes, deployment and custom configuration etc.

    Development of the software in the first place is a very small piece of that pie and without the source code and the ability to modify and distribute it only one company gets to compete in that huge market, which is very bad for the consumer.

    - Jesse McNelis

  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Friday February 27, 2009 @09:08PM (#27019297) Homepage Journal

    But there's more to doing an open source project that just writing the code. You could have written your program, kept it to yourself, and never bothered with choosing a license, putting it up on Sourceforge, etc. Or you could have decided that it was useful enough that people would pay for it, and tried to sell it as proprietary software. If you say you have a selfish reason for doing it as OSS, I believe you, but it's not clear from your post what that reason is -- "a personal need or desire by the original dev for some functionality not already provided by an existing piece of software" doesn't cover it.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Friday February 27, 2009 @09:14PM (#27019349)

    Full credit to Eric S. Raymond [jwherring.com].

    However, just having such a system does not prevent humans from striving for the benefits of cooperation and community strength. Co-ops, condominiums, small towns, and civic centers are just a few examples of ideas which obtain their strength from the community rather than the individual.

    Related to the quote above, you'll notice that all those things are examples of smallish groups of people acting together. Those ideas often work great on a local scale.

    The moment you step outside the scope where you can easily remember the names of everyone involved, inherently we start to care less about those than the ones we know, and prefer. Which is why socialism simply doesn't work for governments, even if intentions are good.

  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Friday February 27, 2009 @09:21PM (#27019431) Homepage Journal

    This was fine up until about 70 years ago. People felt better about having a stodgy old politician in office before then because the times really didn't change as much as they have in recent years.

    70 years ago was 1939. Are you seriously going to argue that the world is changing more rapidly now than it was at the beginning of World War Two?

    People who shout about how fast modern technology is changing the world really ought to pay more attention to history. We've been going from one technological revolution to another for a couple of centuries. Pretty much anyone born since 1800 or so has seen a completely different world, technologically and in many other ways, in their adulthood than the one they saw in their youth. And existing power structures have really never been able to keep up.

  • by FlyingBishop (1293238) on Friday February 27, 2009 @09:49PM (#27019597)

    Code is an abundant resource.

    Furthermore, in economic terms, code is non-subtractable. My use of code does not diminish your use of it. It is an ideal thing to put in a communal pot.

  • by rohan972 (880586) on Friday February 27, 2009 @10:15PM (#27019745)

    Perhaps because community is a very good thing, even if we must balance our need for a community against our own self-interests. ;-)

    You don't have to balance community against your own self-interest, community is one of those things in your self-interest. So you balance your efforts at obtaining one thing that is in your interest with the other things that are in your interest. It is in my best interest to have workable relationships with neighbors etc.

  • Re:Sun who? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by burnin1965 (535071) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @12:25AM (#27020403) Homepage

    Apple.

    See where open source can lead.
    BSD [wikipedia.org] --> NeXT [wikipedia.org] --> OSX [wikipedia.org] --> AAPL [yahoo.com]

  • by Dolda2000 (759023) <fredrik@nOSPAm.dolda2000.com> on Saturday February 28, 2009 @08:45AM (#27022137) Homepage

    Why should I help a blind stranger to cross the street? Why should I call police when I see someone else being robbed? Why should I tip the delivery boy? Why should I explain some stranger the way?

    Because I behave like I would want others to behave. Because I think the world is a much better place to live when people are helpful, generous and . Because I am not a sociopath.

    Thank you for proving my point: Obviously, you do it for selfish reasons. Per your own admission, you do it partly because you wish others to learn from your example and reap the benefits of reciprocal action, and partly because it makes you feel good ("because I am not a sociopath").

    There is, as I've explained elsewhere in the thread, nothing that prevents selfish action from also benefiting others. The difference lies mainly in knowing that, ultimately, you do everything for selfish reasons, and there's no reason for being hypocritical about it.

An Ada exception is when a routine gets in trouble and says 'Beam me up, Scotty'.

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