response to John Carroll

John Carroll of Microsoft posted an article critical of free software called “Richard Stallman the creationist” here. I left a comment:

John identifies ethical principles with religion. To disparage ethical principles (in this case, the principles of the free software movement) by identifying them with religion is not only inaccurate but tantamount to a blanket rejection of all ethics, deduced from a blanket rejection of all religion. One premise of his article is total amorality.

John implies that free software means business must be forsaken, despite evidence proving otherwise. True, if it were a choice between doing business and ethics, we would choose ethics. But fortunately, software freedom and business is a match. The only obstacle to a global and flourishing free software economy is proprietary software itself.

We are against proprietary software because it contravenes community. Surely John understands the difference between concern for users’ freedom and hatred toward them. Unfortunately, he fails to apply that understanding when stating that we “hate” Mac users.

And finally, John reveals his disregard for social solidarity, concerns of freedom, and ethical principles by stating, “Computer software is a TOOL, not an issue of human rights.” Yes, software is a tool but unlike say, a hammer, it dictates what you can and can’t do with your computer. To lose control of your computer is to lose control of that which extends one’s own identity and voice. Unlike a hammer, software manipulates one’s data and communicates both privately and publicly with others. Unlike a hammer, software is a constructed set of logical instructions that when free, can be applied to other socially useful software. The qualitative difference between software and typical tools is significant enough to make software freedom an imperative goal.

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