A centrally provided welfare service vs a decentralized system of mutual aid

@Apostolis I read your post Ryaki: Freedom and Democracy as a Welfare Service. I’m curious what you make of my Using computers more freely and safely. My sense is that they’re aimed at similar goals but advocating for different approaches. My proposal in brief:

  • It’s important to try to avoid software created by large amorphous groups. Instead, form relationships with specific people and build trust.
  • It’s important to compare the value of different programmers to yourself. People have different priorities. Given two similar programs, which of their authors cares more about catering to your needs?

These considerations are at least as valuable as short-term features and convenience. I think we’ll make a lot of progress towards freedom and democracy in the digital realm if people are willing to trade off short-term convenience for such considerations.

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What you describe is useful, but i do not think that it solves the problem.
Will developers be willing to work on something that a user demanded without compensation? And some users simply do not have the money to pay for such a support.

If Freedom and Democracy is a universal right, then society needs to provide it to all people independent of income. I do not know if it will be centralized or decentralized, but it needs to be universal.

In my opinion , we need to decrease the technical barrier for users to change their software, and at the same time, we need to create an interface between the users and the experts and provide funding so that all users have the same rights.

Empirically, developers work on things all the time today without compensation.

The picture in my head is: when you want something slightly different you don’t pay someone to do it. You switch to someone who’s already providing it, while trading off something else.

You won’t get everything you desire. But that’s not possible even with an interface to users thanks to competing requests for attention and the principal agent problem.

So I think neither side solves all problems for everyone. But both sides could put a dent in it, solve some problems for everyone.

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I would say that the important thing is to switch from a view on the artifacts which is code and data and look at the level of social organizations, like universities or tech companies.

What kind of social organization that contains both users and developers leads to Freedom and Democracy?

This switch of perspective is important in my opinion.

The business model of free software is broken in my opinion. Consider for example the latest RedHat change of tactics with regards to the source code.

I don’t know which is the best social organization but I am sure that it will require funding.

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Agreed! I’m just skeptical the obvious quid pro quo works. Writing software for someone is a position of great power, and it is possible for problems to linger a long time before manifesting. So it’s particularly susceptible to getting gamed if the customer considers it a purely transactional business arrangement. It’s important it be a long term relationship with individual reputations at play.

But I don’t think you’re disagreeing with any of that.

May I suggest that you are both right, but in different contexts? @akkartik’s point of view seems well adapted to situated software, @Apostolis’ to infrastructure software deployed at a large scale.


Let me point you to some solutions and some problems…

One solution :

A. We have universal weighted taxation as a method of acquiring funds.
B. The funds are distributed evenly to all users and they decide on which projects to support, only for research purposes.

The problem: Users cannot know the infrastructure that is required for the specific projects, nor the costs of research. Thus there needs to be a dialog between the experts and the users.

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