Ubuntuism, commodification, and the software dialectic

Mike Chege


“Free as in speech, but not free as in beer,” is the refrain made famous by Richard Stallman, the standard-bearer of the free software movement. However, many free software advocates seem to be of the opinion that the purity of free software is somehow tainted by any preoccupation with money or profit. Inevitably, this has implications for the economic sustainability of free software, for without a source of income, how can free software hope to survive? The challenge of finding a way to ensure economic sustainability without sacrificing the ideals of free software is what we have termed the “software dialectic.”

While the literature on the economics of free software is already quite substantial, in this essay we approach the subject by considering first principles, such as the difference between wealth and money, how the market chooses what to produce, and what the laws of thermodynamics have to do with economics. Finally, even though the ideas expressed in this essay apply to free software in general, here we shall be focusing on that particular incarnation of free software known as the GNU/Linux system.


GNU/Linux, free software, open source

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v13i12.2186

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