Q: In the past, when you were asked if the GPL and Free Software is like Communism, you explicitly denied it, however in the course of that, you showed that you conflated Communism with State Socialist regimes such as the former USSR. Fair enough. However I would like to suggest that Free Software is instead extremely compatible and indeed conductive to Anarchism. I.e. it follows anarchistic principles of Mutual Aid and Direct Action. I do not know how familiar you are with Anarchist theory but what do you think of this connection? Are you aware of it and if so, do you think that the political implications of Free Software are a bug or a feature?
I would also like to point out the fact that Anarchists of all tendencies but especially Anarcho-Transhumanists and Mutualists are generally some of the most vocal and unshakeable proponents of free software. Just something to mull over in case you didn’t know.
RMS: I am not very familiar with the literature of Anarchism, but free software clearly does have Anarchist aspects. It also has Capitalist aspects and Socialist aspects (not Communist, though).
I have an Anarchist streak, in that I resent being given orders and enjoy being in a community that functions well with nobody giving orders. But I am not an Anarchist: I don’t want to abolish the state, or even reduce it. (Perhaps this is because I have a prostate gland. 😉 I support state welfare programs, and regulation of business.
Billionaire Polluters presents a fine example. The oil spill illustrates that the US government failed to do its job of stopping oil companies from taking crazy risks to save money. But if we did not have a state, what else would do that job? The oil companies would have private armies and shoot anyone that protests, much as BP has done in Colombia in recent years. (See http://www.colombiasolidarity.org.uk/campaigns/19-bp/506-briefing-oil-workers-strike-in-casanare-colombia.)
My conclusion is that we need a state, and we need to exercise democracy so firmly that companies scream and whimper about all the money they didn’t make because we didn’t grant them dominion over our society.
When a company says, “Don’t inspect our plant, just trust us to maintain safety standards”, we need to respond, “You’re probably trying to cheat, so we will inspect you on a random day each year and charge you what it costs.”
When a company says, “We want to merge with competitor XYZ, since we are too small to compete in this market, and by the way the merged company will become the biggest in the field,” we need to respond, “We won’t let you merge. However, we just split your biggest competitor into 5 pieces; maybe now you will find it easier to compete.”
When a company says, “Give us what we want or we will move our plant to that other state/country”, we need to respond, “Produce elsewhere if you wish, but you can’t take the factory equipment — and we will put a heavy tax on anything you try to sell here later.”
We need to make it so hard to move production from one country to another that each company will be stuck in one country, so that country will be able to regulate it.
If we don’t make business squeal, we are not taking away enough of its power.
For more about my views on political issues, see stallman.org; urgent action suggestions are in the left column, and the most recent political notes are in the middle.