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Open Source-onomics: Examining some pseudo-economic arguments about Open Source

Well asked, and therein lies the difference between a market and a community. To play in a market, you need to have money. That automatically excludes all the people who can't pay. It's a shame that in a world of over 6 billion people, about half are just bystanders watching the global marketplace in action. There are brains ticking away in that half-world of market outcasts that could contribute to making the world better in a myriad little ways that we fortunate few don't bother to think about. There are problems to be solved, living standards to be raised, yes, value to be created, and the "market" isn't doing it fast enough.

God, Government, Market and Community

There are millions who have been waiting for generations for their lot to improve. Religion has promised them a better afterlife, but no God has seen fit to improve their present one. In a world where socialism has been humiliatingly defeated, governments seem ashamed to spend money on development. Everyone now seems to believe that governments must be self-effacingly small. The market is now the politically correct way to solve all problems. But the market, as we have seen, doesn't recognize the existence of those who have nothing to offer as suppliers and nothing to pay as consumers. They are invisible people.

Therefore it falls to the miserable to improve their lot themselves. Given the tools, they can raise themselves out of their situation. They will then enter the market, which will wholeheartedly welcome them (though it hadn't the foresight to help them enter it in the first place).

Where will such tools come from? In a world where intellectual property has such vociferous defenders that people must be forced to pay for software, information technology widens the gap between the haves and the have-nots, a phenomenon known as the digital divide. If producers of software deserve to be paid, then that means hundreds of thousands of people will never have access to that software. That's a fair market, but a lousy community.

Open Source is doing what God, government and market have failed to do. It is putting powerful technology within the reach of cash-poor but idea-rich people. Analysts could quibble about whether that is creating or merely releasing value, but we could do with a bit of either. And yes, that is revolutionary.