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Free, as in Freedom

May 02, 2019 — Grant Ford

This is a continuation of my thoughts on Open Source and Anarchy

Why do Voluntaryists want when they say that they want freedom? The idea of freedom comes from a core principle that was well put in the Declaration of Independence of the United States. Thomas Jefferson wrote:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. So let's break this down. When it becomes necessary... to dissolve the poliical bands is the first and most impressive point laid out in the beginning of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson speaks of "bands" which could be synonymous with chains or restrictions that are no longer necessary; that is, that the people being arrested by these bands do not need such political sanctions placed upon them in order for them to function in a productive manner with their neighbors. Jefferson, like so many of the founders of the US, believed that free people should not be chained down by unnecessary impediments to their own productivity, and that is the idea behind Voluntaryism. Voluntaryism is sort of a continuation of the ideas of freedom that were spelled out early in the history of the US.

Jefferson continues:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. All men are created equal. That is to say that should all have equal opportunity, not impeded by regulation and imposition. When you hear your friend or neighbor saying that "well we need this or that regulation because today these people or those people are evil and want to rule over us", perhaps they are right that there exists evil in the world, but you should seriously reconsider making law and regulation to try to curb the appeal of evil. Legislation of morality has been tried countless times throughout history and it has always tended to make the evil stronger in the end. Sure, there are often positive effects from such legislation, but the end result tends to favor the very people that that legislation is attempting to control. Laws imposing morality tend to be more of a indicator that evil is growing stronger than it is a cure to that evil.

So what does this have to do with Open Source? I would suggest that the ideology behind Open Source culture is very similar because it seeks freedom. It seeks freedom from imposition by controlling bodies such as Microsoft and their suite of software. I truly believe in the idea that free distribution of source code helps to diffuse evil at its core. With the recent actions of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, it is obvious that evil lurks in the dark places. Evil likes a closed door, and when software or corporations are allowed to operate behind doors of secrecy, they are free to fulfill schemes that both hurt others and help themselves. The incentive to do evil is much greater when you know that no one can watch you do it.

In the same way that Voluntaryists demand that their lives not be meddled with by secretive govenments and corporations, so too do the advocates of Open Source demand that their data not be meddled with and manipulated. That is why Open Source software is more secure, because it operated in the open-air sunshine of open repositories. We can all go look at the source code and report security issues or see that the piece of software is malicious. Not everyone has the know-how to do this, but tons of people do, and that provides the best security that you could want.

Thomas Jefferson and his cohort of fellow founders hammered out a pathway for such a community as the Voluntaryists or the Open Source Enthusiasts, and we should all be grateful for that. If not for them, it is unlikely that "free, as in freedom" would ever have been established.

As always, if you want to look me up you can find me on Mastodon!