Daily archives: May 10, 2005

Open Source as an Economic Model 1

Open Source Software and Activity has brought about the creation of many tangible items including the Linux Kernel, OpenOffice, Apache web server, PHP scripting language, Perl programming language, and MySQL DBMS. All of these are used directly or indirectly to produce Goods and Services. So a Bicycle manufacturer could be using OpenOffice to produce written reports and the Apache web server to host a website promoting its products.

Thus it can be argued that Open Source Software and Activity even if supplied free of charge to the user nevertheless adds to the Goods and Services available within an Economy. The ultimate extension of this theory might be to speculate on the possibility of a fully functional Open Source Economy.

Communism is an Economic theory that in essence originates via the work of Karl Marx although of course some forms of Communism follow his work more literally than others. So for example China is a Communist country but not in the way the former Soviet Union was under Joseph Stalin or Lenin. One of the many differences between the way Communism appears to operate and Open Source Activity is that the latter simply does not have the restrictions of the former. Indeed it could be argued that Open Source Activity is far less restrictive than uncontrolled Capitalist or Laissez-faire Activity, which amongst its possible faults has monopolistic tendencies.

A similarity with worker controlled Co-operatives could be made with those (workers) who contribute to and control Open Source Software Projects. In Mondragon, Spain a successful Co-operative Economy has operated for many decades.

Perhaps a mixed economy with each economic model competing with the other is the safest and most practical way to achieve a successful modern economy. However Open Source is yet to become a fully established player within the kind of mixed economy found in the UK and elsewhere. In that respect is it destined to be the next great advancement in Economics?

Mark Elkins