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Friday, May 19, 2006

Linux: o texto que faltava

Tendo em a conta a quantidade de vezes que é necessário apontar isto, incluindo a próprios participantes nos projectos de software livre que julgam estar a contribuir para a causa anarco-comunista, aqui fica o recente e importante artigo elaborado por Manuel Lora e Juan Ramón Rallo, Linux is capitalist!, que foi publicado no LewRockwell:

In 2000, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer made a questionable remark: he referred to Linux (and the open source/free software community) and its development process as "communist." He said that "Linux is a tough competitor. There's no company called Linux, there's barely a Linux road map. Yet Linux sort of springs organically from the earth. And it had, you know, the characteristics of communism that people love so very, very much about it. That is, it's free." Ballmer's statements show his ignorance of economics and the nature of human action.
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Free market capitalism is not characterized specifically by the existence of companies, but by individuals who, thanks to private property, plan the most efficient way of attaining their ends. Companies are in many cases the most adequate unit of calculation for carrying out entrepreneurial action but this is not always the case. They are not the prerequisite of capitalism, but an organizational consequence of it.

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Just because a product is free of charge it does not mean that it is communist. Communism means complete state ownership of every resource within its reach and thus the impossibility of human action without the authorization of the Central Planning Board; it means the absolute lack of private property, including body ownership and labor. Thus, when Ballmer exclaimed that Linux had the characteristics of communism, he completely erred.

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Linux and free software programmers often do not receive any financial compensation whatsoever. Indeed, the "Free software community" is a group of people who voluntarily use their time and skills. But just because they donate time and labor it does not mean that this is communism. On the contrary, they freely direct their human action to the fulfillment of their ends, without any centralized imposition about what had to be done; people are exchanging their scarce resources (time and labor) to satisfy their ends. In the case of the Linux programmer, the end can range from fixing a software bug to adding a new feature or enhancing documentation. Where is the communism here? How is this socialist? Linux is a market phenomenon, just as charity is.

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And as we mentioned above, communism implies that the invested money, time and skills (any means of human action) must be state owned. If Mr. Ballmer were right, then the state must own Linux and direct the time and labor of the coerced "volunteers." As much as he would like to believe that, the development of free software is not communist.

Although Mr. Ballmer would probably deny it, Linux is a product of freedom and private property and then of capitalism, just as Microsoft is.
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