Ideologically Open

November 4th, 2011   Submitted by Justin T.P. Quinn

What does it mean to be an anarchist in a world where the state has its hand in every aspect of our lives? How can we actively work to make the world a freer place? We must withdraw our consent to be governed, but it doesn’t require a mass movement of resistance. We can do it, little by little, with the small choices we make every day. A very simple and easy way to get started is to begin using more open-source software.

Why Go Open Source?

It costs no money. In fact, it actually saves you money. It doesn’t require you to immediately convert all of your family and friends to anarchism. It’s completely legal. And it takes up only the amount of time you want to put into it. Most importantly, using more open-source software will give you more freedom in how you use the technology you already own.

A freedom ideology was what motivated Richard Stallman, an MIT hacker, to found the Free Software Foundation and the GNU Project, and author the GNU General Public License. Along with the help of a large community of software developers, including Andrew S. Tanenbaum and Linus Torvalds, Stallman achieved his goal of creating an open-source operating system with Linux. Linux and the Linux kernel are the basis for many of the current consumer-focused open-source operating systems such as Ubuntu, Fedora, and Android.

None of the people mentioned above are pure libertarians, but a general instinct for freedom motivates the open-source community. To borrow one of Stallman’s analogies, imagine that you are a well-accomplished cook. Now imagine that the government declares you can no longer change or share any of your recipes with others. Anyone violating this new rule will be compared to people who attack ships, and thrown in prison for years. It’s not hard to imagine how this would make culinary artists angry and immediately inspire them to seek ways to abolish or work around the rule. The same goes for those who make “pirated” copies of software.

A lot has already been written on whether or not intellectual property is ethically comparable to real property,Download PDF or whether it helps or inhibits the advance of science and technology. In any case, intellectual property in its present form comes entirely from state regulations. From the standpoint of the individual, proprietary software prevents you from using the computer, cellphone, or gaming device that you paid for in a way that satisfies your own wants and needs. The programs are written to deny the user access to the source code, preventing them from modifying or improving it. If there is a bug in the program, you must wait for the next downloadable patch to fix the problem — if it ever does — even if you have the knowledge to fix it yourself.

The First Step: Download Open Office

Just do it. Trust me. If you’re considering trying out some open-source applications, Open Office is the best and easiest place to start. It’s an open-source equivalent of Microsoft Office. It includes applications for making documents, spread sheets, presentations, mathematical formulas, and databases. This article was written entirely on Open Office Writer.

Don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars to put the latest Microsoft Office on your computer? Get Open Office for free instead. It’s fully compatible with Microsoft Office, and you’ll be able to read all of your old files.

Open Office is also highly customizable, with over a hundred different extensions. The most popular extension can reformat your document for ePub. The program is also supported by a large community of users and developers. You can find tutorials and answers to FAQs, or talk to someone on the forum about the program. Did I mention it’s free?

Download it. Try it out. The only major investment you’re making is your own time. If you like it, great! You just saved yourself a ton of money. If you don’t like it, just delete the program and never worry about it again; there’s no moral imperative for using open-source software. And either way, you won’t have wasted $200 by doing it.

Not Consenting To Be Ruled

The state’s intellectual-property laws are the reason why companies like Microsoft can get away with selling their products for hundreds of dollars. Anyone who alters or copies their software is labeled a “pirate” and forced by the government to pay enormous fines, or worse. Thankfully, the free market offers a way for consumers to avoid intellectual-property constraints and still get a hold of powerful, cheap software to make our lives easier. It also gives programmers freedom to express their creativity by improving upon old ideas without fear of interfering with someone’s “intellectual-property rights.” By choosing software that doesn’t come with a mountain of legal constraints, you are refusing to be governed in one more important area of your life.

Étienne de la Boétie said it best in The Politics of Obedience:

Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces.

8 Responses to “Ideologically Open”

  1. ChrisNo Gravatar says:

    I would think in anarcho-capitalist society you could have protection of intellectual property AND a thriving community of open source users.

    To patents you can have private protection companies who take your blue prints and schema files and lock them on a vault. Just like putting a lock on your garage door helps protect your car.

    For IP the same kind of companies can just program the protection into the software programs or whatnot. Those that want to sell proprietary software can do so.

    The same thing applies to open source. Those who want to use it can if they want. As far as the protection of your I.P. it would be decided by arbitrators and private defense on the open market just like protection against force and fraud. Am I right or wrong? I would be interested to hear the counter argument. Thank you.

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      In the absence of government, if somebody wanted to write some software that was “closed source” or proprietary, with the use of heavy encryption, I don’t see any problem with that. The problems comes when somebody is willing to engage in violence against somebody who alters proprietary software.

      Imagine buying a car now. Once you own the car you can do whatever you want with it, including, say, turbocharging your motor. What would be perfectly okay is for the manufacturer to say that if you turbocharge your motor(i.e. hack your motor) that you will violate the terms of your warranty, thus, if anything goes wrong the manufacturer is no longer obliged to fix it free of charge. That is a good model.

      A bad model would be that armed thugs are going to come and kidnap you for turbocharging your motor.

      • EddyKNo Gravatar says:

        I’ve started reading ‘Against intelectual property’ by Kinsella. Not finished it yet but I am totaly convince there is no way IP can be moral or in any way compatible with the concept of liberty. If you are still convinced that it is, I highly suggest you read it. (seth linked it in the article).

        Being a programmer by trade. I already have plenty of experience with open source software. My PC has both ubuntu and windows on it and I only use openoffice.

        Open-source is a great example of why the abolishment of IP will not harm innovation or kill incentive to innovate.

        • Adam MorganNo Gravatar says:

          I agree. After reading Kinsella’s book, IP is not compatible with liberty. He showed that IP is highly inconsistent, subjective, and is actually an attempt to protect the right to the value of an idea.

  2. ScriptNo Gravatar says:

    I have a lot of respect and love for the open source movement, and am really grateful achievements it has accomplished. However, it seems like it still has a ways to go. For example, I run Ubuntu on my laptop in addition to Windows 7 and I use Libre Office (the fork from Open Office when the developers left Oracle) but often run into compatibility issues. Even when I save it in the docx format I have issues with content changing and formatting being affected when I try to open it in Word on a Windows machine. It has happened enough that I don’t even bother using it, I just do all my word processing in Windows, which is shame because I’m trying to switch over as much as possible.

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      Let me guess, you’re in college and the professors make you submit files in Windows format? Correct me if I’m wrong.

      It bothers me how much college and work prevent people from getting rid of Windows completely.

  3. EddyKNo Gravatar says:

    On a side note. Seems like Stallman is as consistent as minarchists:

    How people can be so inconsistant with applying their principles baffles me.

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