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, 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.