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Economics of Sharing

Economics of Sharing: “Economists have not always found it easy to explain why self-interested people would freely share scarce, privately owned resources. Their understanding, though, is much clearer than it was 20 or 30 years ago: co-operation, especially when repeated, can breed reciprocity and trust, to the benefit of all. In the context of open source, much has been written about why people would share technical talent, giving away something that they also sell by holding a job in the information-technology industry. The reason often seems to be that writing open-source software increases the authors’ prestige among their peers or gains them experience that might help them in the job market, not to mention that they also find it fun.”
Comment: The two biggest complaints directed at the open source movement are 1) it’s anti-capitalism 2) it’s not democratic. While I can see fanatical implementation of open source as fitting those categories, I think both assertions are generally false. Open source is a manner of openness and sharing. People are generating profits from open source software – the difference is that the value of the product has shifted. It’s not about locking it…but positioning it for maximum creativity. Secondly, it terms of democracy, the very notion of open source is that everyone has a say, but, as with Linux, someone still has the final voice. While some may object, I think open source can be defined as a capitalistic, democratic process. Its key definition, however, is that it distributes power to many nodes, rather than limiting it to a central node.