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From Ben Hyde <bh...@pobox.com>
Subject Re: The cash of our lives / Dvorak
Date Mon, 09 Jun 2003 21:17:45 GMT
On Monday, June 9, 2003, at 06:23 AM, Dirk-Willem van Gulik wrote:
>  extracted ... by an anonymous reader
> 	... restatement of capitalism's thesis ...

People that announce that one of the hundreds of tiny currencies that 
participants get paid in is the dominate one are telling you more about 
their world view then they they are about the process.

Forcing all of open source into the economists model of the world is an 
amusing exercise, but not much more.  That suit just doesn't want to 
fit this beast very well.

If we take that boondoggle seriously then all the little micro-motives 
and micro-payments that one gets from involvement need to be treated as 
fungible; but they aren't.  There is no clearing house were I can 
exchange one performance fix for two clear explanations.  No bank were 
I can earn interest on keeping my mouth shut rather than dressing down 
a twit and ruining the party.  No high volume market where the value of 
40K lines of code folded into the cake of product I ship can be quoted. 
  No coupons for 10% off that price.

It's easy to take a highly fungible currency and turn it into something 
valuable, but not fungible.  For example you could take a mess of cash 
and turn it into a Beowulf cluster.  You'd be taking a risk.  Locking 
up your money.  You'd do this because you plan to get a lot of value 
over time out of your capital investment.  Why would you do such a 
silly thing?  Maybe you have a plan.  Is it vanity to have a plan.  
Certainly!  Is it love, loyalty, a fool's errand?  Certainly!  How fast 
would that depreciate?  Real fast.

But the labor one contributes to an open source project isn't a 
currency.   You can't store it.  Risk it or discard it.  It does submit 
to any reasonable accounting practice.  What is it's 
depreciation/interest rate?

But this is neat, you can also take a currency that isn't very 
fungible, like all those tiny contributions and aggregate them into 
something valuable.  That's what we do in a CVS repository.  To me it's 
interesting that an open source project is, in those rare cases where 
it works and catches fire, a way to convert that labor into something 
with durable value.   Of course this is a fools errand too, since the 
chance that any given open source project works is amazingly small.

But unlike a piece of capital equipment an open source project is a lot 
more than it's CVS repositories.  It's much more social construct than 
that.  Economists don't really like to think about social constructs; 
they don't play well with their naive mathematics.

  - ben


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