I was glancing through the headlines at CNET news today, and I was surprised to see an article by RMS, the president of the FSF. What makes this surprising is that CNET always seems to have a vaguely pro-m$ agenda. I read through the article, and my surprise diminished.
I was glancing through the headlines at CNET news today, and I was surprised to see an article by RMS, the president of the FSF. What makes this surprising is that CNET always seems to have a vaguely pro-m$ agenda. I read through the article, and my surprise diminished. It occurs to me that it has been a while since I've seen a reputable open source news site post something written by RMS. When I read his article I was embarrassed for the GNU/Linux community. He has truly become an unruly disgrace - open source publications push him under the rug, and proprietary-friendly publications like CNET display him as a pitiful sideshow attraction that degrades the open source community. The exception, of course, is Free Software Magazine, which recently made its debut, was practically designed to glorify him, and promises to regularly print portions of his tedious blog because nobody particularly wants to write for them.
His CNET article included all the usual rhetoric. He blows things out of proportion, he vehemently asserts that he isn't a communist, he whines about the "Linux" nomenclature, and he makes senseless/sensational claims. For the record, I dont think RMS is a communist, or "un-american". If you look at his arguments and ideology, its pretty damn apparent that he isn't. He is obviously a social welfare democrat (or some variation thereof), which is just as indefensible, and almost as misguided.
Communism is coerced equality at any and all costs: it necessitates complete and total disregard for the rights of persons as well as total disregard for whatever inherent value human life may have. Citizens of a communist nation are necessarily slaves of the state. In a social welfare democracy like Sweden, most of the rights of the majority are preserved as long as the representational government remains intact and untainted by political corruption. A great deal of the income of citizens is still appropriated by the government, and many individual rights are ignored or taken away, but it is that way because a majority of the population consistantly votes for it to be that way. They choose to degrade themselves by conceding fundamental rights, and they choose to degrade the quality of their nation by irrationally perpetuating the helplessness of the bottom rung, and they choose to do this because their system values compels them to believe that it is right. Thats what makes it different - in a true communist society, everybody gets degraded and nobody gets to choose, simply because they start with the invalid assumption that its fundamentally right.
I realize that on this site, my dislike for communism puts me in the minority. I dont understand why. Communism is fundamentally incompatible with the ideals of the foss community. In a communist society, equality is more important than freedom, and foss is supposed to be about freedom, not equality.
RMS obviously believes in freedom, and his system of values is such that he believes that redistribution of resources etc. is the best way to protect the freedom of the majority, but he is not so deluded as to think that it is permissible to deny people the right to choose whether or not they want a collectivised society. If you read his biography (Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software) you will see that a large part of his value system was influenced by the environments he spent time in, particularly the chaotic MIT AI laboratory that was practically controlled by the unruly students.
I don't like RMS because I dislike the social welfare mentality, and I dislike his entire attitude. He lacks the maturity required to write sensible criticism of Gates, so he resorts to calling Gates a communist, which is just as absurd as Gates calling anti-patent activists communists. He doesn't help our cause by deriding Bill Gates. What he should have done is written an article that shows how intellectual property law damages the free market economy. The patent system has been in existence for a very long time. The burden of proof is on us, members of the open community. We have to show the world that our way is better, we cant just criticize their way.
All that said, I still value the contributions that RMS has made to the open source community. The GPL is what makes so much of this possible, and I recognize the value and importance of the GNU as part of the GNU/Linux platform. I choose to affirm the importance of the GNU contribution almost every time I mention the platform, but it really doesn't matter, and he shouldn't make such a big deal about it. In my oppinion, his attitude on the subject seems blatantly self-serving and borderline meglomaniacal. I keep hoping that if we ignore him for long enough, he will just go away.
It's a silly, slippery slope. The XFree86 people recently changed their license to add a BSD-ish recognition clause, which ended up killing the project (death by gpl incompatibility is a sad way to go!). Obviously, a few folks in the XFree86 community want more recognition too, so should we start saying X/GNU/Linux? After all, X is an axiomatic component of most GNU/Linux distributions these days. Frankly, I have enough trouble remembering to include the "GNU" part.
Why cant RMS be more like Eric S. Raymond? ESR is a libertarian, I can't help but admire him. Libertarians are smart enough to realize that the best way to protect rights is to decrease government intervention and regulation. ESR writes clever, insightful, informative, and well-researched articles, he expresses himself clearly and rationally, and his convictions aren't puerile rubbish.