In the Belly of the Beast

In the beautiful-irony department, I have just learned that my name
and copyright now appears in the EULA (End-User License Agreement) of
a Microsoft product. A vector-graphics editor called “Microsoft
Expressions”, apparently — thanks to Martin Dawson for the
tip.

The history behind this is that GIFLIB is open-source software for
hacking GIF images — the direct ancestor of libungif, which is
the name under which the codebase is more widely known these days.
The original software was by Gershon Elber for DOS; around 1987 I
ported it to Unix, cleaned up the architecture, added numerous new
features, and wrote documentation. When Unisys started to jump salty
about the GIF patents in the mid-1990s, I handed the project off to a
maintainer outside U.S. jurisdiction, Toshio Kuratomi.

I have no idea why the copyright on this EULA is dated 1997, I
think that is a couple of years after I passed the baton to Toshio
Kuratomi.

Subsequently I did a lot of work on libpng, implementing 6 of the
14 chunk types in the PNG standard and designing a new more
object-oriented interface for that library. So if you use open-source
software that handles either of the two most popular raster-image
formats, it is rather likely that you rely on my code every day. Yes,
that includes all you Firefox and Netscape and Konq and Safari users
out there.

And now, my code is in a Microsoft product. This may not be the
first time; in fact, thinking about all the other places it would
have been silly for Microsoft to pass up using libpng and giflib,
it probably isn’t even the dozenth time.

I’m OK with this, actually. I write my code for anyone to use, and
‘anyone’ includes evil megacorporate monopolists pretty much by
definition. I wouldn’t change those terms retroactively if I could,
because I think empowering everyone is a far more powerful
statement than empowering only those I agree with. By doing so, I
express my confidence that my ideas will win even when my opponents
get the benefit of my code.

Besides…now, when Microsoft claims open source is inferior or not
innovative enough or dangerous to incorporate in your products or
whatever the FUD is this week, I get to laugh and point. Hypocrites.
Losers. You have refuted yourselves.

54 thoughts on “In the Belly of the Beast

  1. empowering everyone is a far more powerful statement than empowering only those I agree with

    Too bad the GPL zealots don’t agree with you.

  2. >So if you use open-source software that handles either of the two most popular raster-image formats, it is rather likely that you rely on my code every day.

    There is a difference between using and relying on something; I dare say the PNG and GIF code could be rewritten in short-order if your code became unavailable.

    >Besides…now, when Microsoft claims open source is inferior or not innovative enough or dangerous to incorporate in your products or whatever the FUD is this week, I get to laugh and point. Hypocrites.

    Microsoft seems to generally be referring to applications rather than library code when they say things about open source. Code to read/write the PNG and GIF formats can hardly be said to be innovative. Libraries are also one of the things open source does best, so Microsoft could be said to be making an exception here on code quality.

    >Losers. You have refuted yourselves.

    You may get to laugh and point, but Microsoft gets to use your code and keep on making the sort of money open source people only dream of.

    >whatever the FUD is this week

    Off-topic: perhaps you should apply this term (which seems to be regarded as a truism amongst OS people) to your posts about Islam and terrorism.

  3. Nice to see your name in lights, Eric — but we’ve all known of Microsoft’s legit appropriation and use of (non-GPLed) open source code for some time; viz., the BSD-derived net tools. Also whenever zlib has a vulnerability Windows is affected.

    It is specifically the GPL with which Microsoft has had a problem, which they called “communist”. More lenient licenses don’t bother them (since they can embrace and extend the code they cover at will).

  4. Very cool Eric!

    Keep shining the light into their eyes until it burns the brains of darkness and secret code !!!

    thanks for the great blog too…

    dave

  5. Eric, I noticed the same paragraph in some other (recent) MS products. Can’t remember, but certainly not this one (I didn’t know about this product until reading this page). I laughed from the irony of it all. Hypocracy!

    But then again, they don’t care. I mean, corporations don’t know shame (a very important quality) and decency. So they will do whatever it takes to make more cash. They contradict themselves and sell their mothers to white slavery. How sad is that… even if you point out how hypocratic they are, they will smile and point out how much cash they made… they don’t have principles anyway.

    I like to compare these type of people (and corporates) to a person who, after robbing you, stabs you in both eyes.

    -Ash

    P.S. Keep up the good stuff and never give up.

  6. Microsoft did not develop this product; they bought it with another company. Anyway, they probably don’t care about reusing some piece of utility code written by free software programmers, as long as the license is OK.

  7. Jay Maynard wrote:
    > Too bad the GPL zealots don’t agree with you.

    GPL vs BSD licensing is sort of like minarchism vs anarchocapitalism, at least in so far as FS licensing in general is like not having information protectionism at all, which is why the GPL usually works as if there were no information protectionism (and everyone had the good sense to public sources), but there are always these annoying little licensing conflicts to drive you nuts. So long as we have information protectionism, and can’t all agree on a single license (or set of compatible licenses), licensing conflicts will continue to be a problem. Though probably not consciously for most of them, GPL zealots do on some level recognize this problem which is why they can get so worked up about people introducing new licensing conflicts. Ironically, so long as information protectionism exists, lock-step conformity (in licensing) provides an environment closer to a genuinely free market than that provided by, for example, idiots tacking on things like advert clauses. Also, unlike a great many BSDphiles, the GPL zealots usually comprehend that copyrights and patents have nothing to do with protecting property, though of course, being dominated by socialists, they usually don’t know enough about Lockean property rights to know why. Personally, I don’t have a problem with sending the message “fuck off” to the same protectionist pricks who continue to force this wretched mercantilist bullshit down our throats and then have the audacity to call it “capitalism”, so I don’t really mind the GPL, even if it is nothing more than a “well, everyone else is doing it” cop out.

  8. Jay Maynard wrote:
    > Too bad the GPL zealots don’t agree with you.

    Any statement that paints the strawman of the “zealot” in one corner is predisposed to falsity, as is any build-up that uses the “You see these people ? These people are . We, the people who do *not* belong to these people think ….” argumentation.’
    Yours is no exception, it serves no purpose in the pursuit of clarity or for any further fruitful discourse on the subject. For your sake I hope you were just aiming for a quick troll.

  9. Rich Baumann wrote:
    > the GPL zealots usually comprehend that copyrights and patents have nothing to do with protecting property, though of course, being dominated by socialists, they usually don’t know enough about Lockean property rights to know why.

    Perhaps you’d be willing to offer a crash course on this subject? Should be interesting. While I am vaguely aware of Locke’s influence on my state of residence (North Carolina), I admit I’ve never studied Mr. Locke very closely. Sure, I’ll check out wikipedia, etc. but perhaps you could elaborate on your comment here.

  10. I think that until now, GPL has played a great role at protecting the freedoms of the public against corporate sharks, Well, maybe I happen to be one of these GPL Zealots, but pretty much in the same way big corporations are zealots about their licenses and want to make sure they are in control nobody uses “their” code (yes, very much “their”, as in this case), suing anyone who don´t comply with their EULAS and other clauses. Much in the same way, people who has worked hard on a program to have it available for EVERYONE uses the GPL so they are in control it is shared for everyone, and that this benefit survives in the derivative work.
    Remember, if we did not have the GPL or some other kind of “viral” licence, Linux or any other free software would had been EEEed or some other way engulfed and privatised by big soft corporations.
    Corporate zealots are pretty much cynical when they call GPL advocates “zealots”. Of course, they like (usually for monetary reasons) to deprive people of some or all of the 4 freedoms at using the free software and loathe anyone stopping them from doing so.

  11. Just one point

    Most linux/GPL ‘zealots’ have the idea that there product will benefit people without restrictions, they like to help people to improve the world for everybody not for personal gain (i’m guessing selfish Bush loving americans will never understand this..). In a way a bit like socialism…

    Where Linux is not like socialism is in the sense it is absolutly free – unlike Microsoft…

  12. > Yes, that includes all you Firefox and Netscape and Konq and Safari users out there.

    and we love you for it Eric. :)
    Konq in the same sentence as Firefox. Smart, does that make us mainstream now?

  13. while the fact that you are featured in the credits of a “Microsoft product” is quite amusing, it is both rather old news and not entirely true. Microsoft Expression is CreatureHouse Expression; Microsoft bought the company about two years or so ago (and therefore, version 3.3 does contain very little, most notably responsible for labeling the software as “Microsoft Expression”). And I may add that I blogged about this 22 months ago ;-) http://www.hauser-wenz.de/s9y/index.php?/archives/4-Microsoft-Meets-ESR.html

  14. >both rather old news and not entirely true.

    I wish someone ha given me a heads-up about it sooner, then.

  15. Eric, good for you. That you can maintain a sense of humor even in the face of Redmond.

  16. >Microsoft seems to generally be referring to applications rather than library code when they say things about open source. Code to read/write the PNG and GIF formats can hardly be said to be innovative.

    Tell that to all those people trying to get transparent PNG files in IE right ;>

  17. That’s funny, from the title I though this would be about what ESR had for lunch.

  18. DC Parris wrote:
    > Perhaps you’d be willing to offer a crash course on this subject?

    Sure (though I’ll probably screw it up). According to Locke, each individual, by default, owns themself, and the world around us is a gift from “God”. We, being capable of taking parts of nature and putting them to good use, through the mixture of our labor with our environment, create property, which we then possess by right. To have a property right in something is to have the right of exclusive control of it. If you build a house, it’s your house; at least assuming you didn’t trade that labor with someone else for something else you wanted, and that you didn’t unjustly sieze the materials or land to build it (i.e. they were not owned by another, or you traded for them). Property is that part of nature which has been mixed with human labor, but when you come up with new information, it is the medium of storage (e.g. your brain or a compact disk) which is transformed by your labor, and so it is the medium of storage which can be owned, not the information itself. If one could own information, I could justly demand that you forget everything I’ve just said, as I own it and might no longer wish for you to have it. Any system of law in which information is truly considered property, like any other, and which is consistent, must naturally degenerate into universal slavery. (Given that this is the natural consequence of socialism as well, it makes Microsoft’s repeated protestations about FOSS being “communist” all the more amusing.)

    If you don’t much care for Locke’s religiously-based arguments, you might want to read Hoppe’s “The Ethics and Economics of Private Property” (http://www.mises.org/etexts/hoppe5.pdf) for a purely secular argument for individual rights. It reaches essentially the same conclusion, but from a purely rationalist approach.

    By the way, Locke is where we get the phrase “the right to life, liberty, and property”, which Thomas Jefferson phrased as “the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.

  19. I’ve never understood all those comments about Linux and OSS being “communist”. Whoever makes comments like that either knows nothing about politics, or nothing about computing.

    The role of the Linux kernel (to the best of my limited lay-knowledge) is to call an application into memory, allot it the required resources, make sure it doesn’t interfere with other applications and processes, and make sure all processes are getting along fine without causing problems. The kernel is small, efficient, and completely separate from the rest of the OS. To me, that sounds exactly like a libertarian form of governing.

    In Windoze, on the other hand, consists of a huge monolithic kernel that is practically inseparable from the applications around it. The kernel is the OS and the OS is the kernel, and what happens to one affects all the others. Now THAT sounds like communism!

  20. An admirable exposition of Locke’s theory of property, except that (in common with most libertarian expositions) it omits Locke’s proviso: that it is only just to appropriate the common property if “enough and as good” are left for others. It in no way justifies the complete appropriation of it that we have today.

    Fortunately, there’s a way out of that.

  21. John: Oh my, is that idea of supporting all government by a tax on land still around? That was the early 19th Century version of a “soak the rich” tax – only among those who hadn’t realized that, unlike the 14th Century, landownership was no longer the sign of real wealth. It has a certain theoretical cleanliness, but economically it is quite impractical – nowadays, it works out mostly to soak the poor.

  22. This product is not developed by Microsoft, but a very good product developed by a Hong Kong based chinese company with very innovating technologies they documented. They sell their finalised product to Microsoft. I believe Microsoft renamed it Acrylic, Documentation on used technologies disappear from the site (like skeleton stroke) after the buy from MS, but is still on siggraph or other graphic technology specialised site, where they published them.

  23. They repudiated themselves a couple months after the release of Win95 when they copied/pasted the entire BSD TCP/IP stack into Win95 because they realized people weren’t going to buy their pretty OS if it couldn’t talk to anything else.

    Imagine that, having been hiring the best and brightest of programmers for several years, and they couldn’t even produce an IP stack. I’m actually quite sorry, because the software package from IPSWITCH that was being written for Win95 was better than what Microsoft shipped, and even included a telnet SERVER!

  24. John Cowan wrote:
    > It in no way justifies the complete appropriation of it that we have today.

    When it is demonstrated to me that either the multiverse or human ingenuity is finite, I’ll agree that what we have is “complete appropriation”.

  25. I’ve been noticing more and more FOSS in MS products… check out their Media Player, for example. That’s been around for quite a while, and I toss that out when I hear someone disparaging FOSS as inferior to MS’ products.

  26. > John: Oh my, is that idea of supporting all government by a tax on land still around? That was the early 19th Century version of a
    >“soak the rich” tax – only among those who hadn’t realized that, unlike the 14th Century, landownership was no longer the sign of
    >real wealth. It has a certain theoretical cleanliness, but economically it is quite impractical – nowadays, it works out mostly to soak
    >the poor.

    Of the 31.4% of American households which don’t own their own home, they are overwhelmingly concentrated in the lowest income levels. When you look at the 20% of American children who are living below the poverty line, they are overwhelmingly concentrated in households that doen’t own their own home. There is a small percentage of homeowners who fall in the bottom income quintile, but the best way to not hurt them is to set up a progressive property tax just like we have a progressive income tax. If I were writing the tax code, I would tax primary residences which are worth less than 100K at a very low rate (–adjust that base number for the housing region).

    You are right that land ownership is no longer the best way to judge wealth potential, but property ownership in the US does correlate very strongly with wealth (and I suspect it correlates with wealth in most other countries as well.) People who don’t earn money through their property, often buy property to store their wealth. Most tax codes make exemptions for property which is used to earn a living (think of the farmland exemption). Property taxes can be one effective means of taxing those who have the most ability to pay. It shouldn’t be the only way to tax the wealthy. You also need capital gains taxes and progressive income taxes, so that people can’t avoid paying taxes by transfering wealth to another form.

    The fact is that the US has turned into a country with growing inequality because we have abandoned progressive taxation and social policies designed to help the poor. Today we have a gini index comparable to the Phillippines. If you don’t want to live in a society with growing social divisions and social problems, you will support progressive taxation–including property taxes. You might argue that lower taxation has caused a few economies (such as Ireland) to help the poor, but trickle-down economics has worked in the US over the last 2.5 decades. There are very special reasons why Ireland’s economy grew and the poor benefitted from that growth, but they don’t apply to the US or most developed economies.

  27. >The fact is that the US has turned into a country with growing inequality because we have abandoned progressive taxation and social policies designed to help the poor.

    The above is blithering idiocy speaking.

    The U.S. doesn’t have “growing inequality” anywhere but in its immigrant population. Among native-born Americans, inequality has been decreasing steadily since the 1950s, home ownership is at an all-time high, and the number of millionaires is increasing far faster than the rate of dollar inflation. When immigrants assimilate effectively, they too become wealthy. (Even America’s “poor” own cars and cellphones and computers and air conditioning.)

    All this is at least partly because we generate more new jobs per year during recessions than the entirety of Europe does during boom phases. If we ever do “abandon progressive taxation and social policies designed to help the poor”, there are sound economic reasons to expect that conditions in the U.S. will get even better and the condition we are pleased to call “poverty” (which would be extravagant wealth by the standards of most of the world) will become even rarer.

  28. amosbatto: “If you don’t want to live in a society with growing social divisions and social problems, you will support progressive taxation–including property taxes.”

    Quite frankly the social division and inequality that I’d most eagerly be without is the class division created by any form of taxation. To quote J. Cahoun,

    “What the one takes from the community under the name of taxes is transferred to the portion of the community who are the recipients under that of disbursements. But as the recipients constitute only a portion of the community, it follows, taking the two parts of the fiscal process together, that its actions must be unequal between the payers of the taxes and the recipients of their proceeds.”

    In other words any tax, progressive or otherwise, necessarily creates a class of net tax consumers who use the state as an instrument to benefit themselves at the expense of the class of net tax payers. Sleazy individuals aspiring to be among the class of net tax consumers might like this arrangement. Those actually concerned about unjust social divisions should not.

  29. amosbatto wrote:
    > Property taxes can be one effective means of taxing those who have the most ability to pay.
    You mean renters like me? What do you think happens to my rent when the city ups the property tax here? ANY TAX, ON ANYONE is, a TAX ON EVERYONE.

  30. Take off your ideological blinders and actually look at the social statistics. There is growing inequality in the US (and in most of the world). Look at the Gini Index numbers over time in the US: http://www.newsbatch.com/econ-ginihistus.html
    Compare the US to the rest of the world: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_income_equality

    Growing inequality in wealth is a fact in the US. Now some people argue that poor people have greater opportunity to become rich because of lower taxation and greater business opportunities, but what data I have seen doesn’t support that contention. Income mobility is decreasing. If you are born poor, you are more likely to stay poor than in the past. (See: _The State of Working America 2002/2003_ by Mishel, Bernstein, and Boushey).

    Some people argue that growing inequality is OK, as long as the income for the poor is growing, albeit more slowly than the rich. The statistics show that the income of the poor has stayed the same, while the income of the rich has risen dramatically since 1967.

    Now we can debate how to measure income over time. It is tricky because of technology changes and what to include in the basic baskets of goods and services which is used to calculate real dollars. If we include health care and housing costs and transportation costs in our basic basket of goods, the income of the bottom quintile has fallen over time because those things have become much more expensive. It we only look at imported goods like electronics, clothes and toys, the income of the poor has risen because those goods have gotten much cheaper over time. The things which have gotten more expensive, however, are more vital to life than the things that have gotten cheaper over time. So in a situation of stagnant wages for the poor, they have lost out because the necessary things are more expensive. Of course, the people who read this forum have probably done pretty well economically, so you aren’t feeling the economic pinch in the same way.

    Many argue that inequality is good, because they look at the Kruznet’s Curve which predicts that growth causes short-term inequality, but eventually social policies and general prosperity will cause that inequality to lessen over time. The problem is that Kruznet was describing Europe in the 1950s and 1960s when it was experiencing rapid growth and recovering from the destruction of W W II. I see little evidence that greater income inequality is leading to greater growth in the US. Rapid growth can be caused in a developing economy by large investment–so the trick is to accumulate the capital to make that investment. But in a developed economy, growth slows down dramatically, because it there is no easy catch-up technology to invest in. Switching from plows to tractors or switching from snail mail to cellular phone and internet can dramatically increase growth, but switching from dialup modems to broadband won’t cause nearly as much economic growth. But in a developed economy, the problem is not getting together enough capital to invest, so using income inequality to accumulate capital has less justification. What keeps a developed economy strong is having a strong base of consumers, who will consume at all times whether economic upturn or downturn. Lower classes and middle classes consume steadily, whereas upper class consumption trends with the economic upturn or downturn. When times are bad, the rich stop consuming, and when times are good, they consume too much and drive up the boom.

    OK let’s talk about the fact that the US is growing today, and some parts of Europe aren’t–this is ESR’s argument. Leave out the parts of Europe like Ireland, Portugal and Eastern Europe which are playing economic catchup–everyone knows that developing countries grow fast, but we aren’t in their situation. The important question is what do developed economies do? If we look at the Scandinavian countries, Sweden hasn’t grown much in the 90s, but Finland and Norway did grow, so we can’t simply discount the Scandinavian model as not working. The critical difference is that Finland’s and Norway’s high tech economy developed while Sweden’s didn’t. Generally, the high tech economy is related to investment in education–an area where the US has not made much investment, especially in low income areas. What does it take to get good education? Taxes. We have been depending upon other countries to educate our high-tech workforce. We have been lucky in the past, but with outsourcing and increasing restrictions on immigration, I’m skeptical that US tech economy will continue being strong. Smart tech companies will move their operations abroad if they can’t get enough US tech workers.

    In terms of productivity per hour, Germany and France are doing much better than the US which only gets high productivity by forcing people to work longer hours. Yes, Germany and France haven’t been producing enough jobs for all of their youth, but I have severe doubts that the US economy is really on that strong of a basis either. We are living on borrowed money. We spend more than we earn. It is easy to grow when you keep getting big loans, but the problem is when we have to start paying back all those loans, especially if the US dollar collapses. The US economy could crash at any moment, so our growth today may not be real growth over time. But the bigger problem is that we aren’t making the kind of investments today to grow over the long term. Look at what the US is investing in infrastructure (roads, hospitals, etc) and social capital (education, youth health) and it is hard to see what will cause the US to grow in the future. It takes taxes to fund that kind of investment. Now look at the top performers in the US economy: Computers, Aerospace, farmaceticals, military. Almost all of these industries developed because the US government subsidized them, but today (with the exception of the military), we are doing much less jump starting of critical new technologies. Look at the alternative energy sector. Japan will dominate the solar market and Germany and Denmark will dominate the wind market. The Canadians and the English are the ones looking at tidal energy. They are making the investments today which will translate into economic growth in the future.

    Look at the fact that the US now has a negative savings rate. We are doing OK right now, but if there is ever a US currency crisis or people become convinced that we won’t repay our debts, we are going to have a hell of a mess on our hands, The only source of investment will be our domestic savings and we have none. So I wouldn’t be sure that our present growth will continue. We have the finances of a banana republic, and many economists think we are going to face a debt and currency crisis like a banana republic if the present course continues. So what does it take to get our economy on a more sound basis? Either we have to raise taxes to repay our debts or we have to slash our military budget down to 100 billion per year. Both options are going to cause economic pain in the short term, but will avoid even greater pain in the long term. There isn’t much fat left in all the other federal programs to cut. The only other option is to slash social security, which simply isn’t acceptable politically. As for our currency crisis, we have to cut down on foreign imports and encourage companies to produce at home. This is risky, because the whole world economy depends on our consumption, so we have to ease back slowly and increase our foreign reserves.

    Why haven’t we crashed already? So far the rest of the world has been willing to prop us up because they know that they will be hurt if the US economy crashes. Japan and China keep buying more and more US dollars, even though they can’t spend the reserves that they already have.

    So yes, the US is growing today, but I wouldn’t count on it continuing. Frankly, I think low-growth Germany and France have much better prospects for long-term growth than the US. Feel free to disagree with the argument that I laid out, but don’t dismiss people who want to raise taxes as irrational.

  31. >Growing inequality in wealth is a fact in the US.

    Not among native-born citizens it isn’t. Your whole argument depends on ignoring the distinction between immigrants and the native-born — actually between those successfully integrated with the U.S. economy and those not; but these distinctions essentially coincide, except for a tiny minority of the mentally ill, non-functional drug addicts, and retardates.

    Low-growth Germany and France are on track to becoming hellholes with basket-case economies and massive civil strife. But I’m sure, your ideological blinders being what they are, you’ll find a way to ignore that when it happens, too.

  32. >Growing inequality in wealth is a fact in the US.

    Whether or not it is a fact has nothing to do with the growth of wealth. If you compare the wealth of the poor now compared to the same poor of 10, 20, 30 years ago, they are significantly better off. Likewise, the rich are also significantly better off than the same rich of 10, 20, 30 years ago. The gap between them is increasing because wealth growth just happens to be exponential, not linear.

    The only reason somebody would even compare the growth of the rich with the poor would be to further portray people who are successful with money as capitalist monsters.

    Who cares if the guy next door is fabulously wealthy compared to me? As long as I’m better off today than I was yesterday, I’m happy. Plus, the richer he gets the lower my mortgage rates will be.

  33. Eric, It depends on how you look at the numbers. Yes, the native born are doing much better than the foreign born in the US, but the statistics also show that poverty is rising across the board for all groups of people during the current decade:

    Poverty as defined by the Census Bureau was at its lowest point in 1978.
    US poverty for all people:
    1993: 15.1%
    2000: 11.3%
    2004: 12.7%
    US poverty for Native-born:
    1993: 14.4%
    2000: 10.8%
    2004: 12,1%
    US poverty for foreign-born:
    1993: 23.0%
    2000: 15.4%
    2004: 17.1%
    US poverty for foreign born who aren’t citizens:
    1993: 28.7%
    2000: 19.2%
    2004: 21.6%
    Source: http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/histpov/hstpov23.html

    What the statistics show is that that the poverty rate fell during the 1990s, but has risen during the current decade for all groups of people including the native born Americans. I checked the poverty rates according to race as well, and the poverty for all races shows the same trends. White poverty shrunk during the 1990s and has grown during the current decade. Interestingly, Asian immigrants are much better than whites in the US, so you can’t make the general assertion that all immigrants pull down the US average income. Generally I think that immigration tends hurt the working poor, but helps everyone else in America. Immigrants keep the price of food and many services low due to their willingness to work for less. So many argue that immigration actually helps native born Americans because it keeps prices in the supermarkets and restaurants low. At the same time, immigration also increases poverty for the working poor amond the native-born because it depresses wages. Many of the native born, however, refuse to do the kinds of jobs that immigrants are willing to do such as pick fruit and dig ditches.

    How much of the fall in poverty during the 90s was due to Clinton administration policies like increasing the minimum wage? Some of it was due to policy, but most of it was probably due to a growing economy in general. In contrast, I think that most of the change in poverty during the current decade is due to policy decisions, rather than the economy. Bush has cut taxes for the rich and slashed social spending for the poor. Some of the rise in poverty in between 2000 – 2002 is probably due to the crash of the tech economy, but most people who live below the poverty line aren’t in the tech economy. so they only feel the general ripple effect. Moreover, poverty has continued to grow even while the rest of the economy has come out of the recession. In recent years when the economy as a whole has grown, poverty has continued to grow. Incomes for the rich are growing, but poverty is increasing.

    If you look at the recent Republican measures to give a 70 billion dollar tax cut to the rich while cutting social programs by 50 billion, it is hard not to conclude that growth in income inequality and poverty are not deliberate policy decisions of the Bush administration. In the 1980s you could have a serious debate about trickle-down economics, but today nobody who seriously looks at the numbers really believes that trickle down economics helps the poor. The Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, The National Review, The Economist, and others of that ilk are just arguing for the interests of the rich on this issue.

    Now we could have an interesting discussion about whether lower taxes actually help the middle class–my conclusion is that the results are ambiguous and it depends on how you define the middle class.

    > Low-growth Germany and France are on track to becoming hellholes with basket-case
    > economies and massive civil strife.

    As for the prediction that Germany and France are turning into basket-case economies, I think you need to separate overall growth from per-capita growth. In a case where you have a shrinking population, you are generally going to have negative growth rates. The important statistic to watch is income per capita and growth per capita, but most of the business press ignores these figures because they are interested in overall growth rates which tend to rise with a growing population.

    France is having problems and will continue to have problems in the future, but Germany looks geared to compete very well in the new green economy. Everyone talks about how badly Japan is doing with its shrinking population and negative growth rates, but Japan also looks very well positioned for the future green economy. In contrast, the US is looking very unprepared for the green economy. US businesses are not going to do well with the new RoHS and WEEE directives coming into effect in July.

    Yes, France has a great deal of social strife right now, but we shouldn’t be patting ourselves on the back. Look at the demonstrations taking place across America (which our corporate media is barely covering). We are having the some of the largest demonstrations that have ever happened in the history of the US. Places like Dallas have half a million people in the streets, and you want to pretend that we don’t have civil strife? If we really do pass laws outlawing 12 million undocumented immigrants, we will have serious civil strife on our hands.

  34. >What the statistics show is that that the poverty rate fell during the 1990s, but has risen during the current decade for all groups of people including the native born Americans.

    Your purported “rises” are less than the statistical noise, which the Census Bureau itself will tell you is about 3% for these figures. And the raw numbers, using the U.S. government’s definition of poverty, grossly understate economic progress because they ignore both innovation and the substitutability of cheaper goods for more expensive ones.

    In the last thirty years, food and clothes have become drastically cheaper in constant dollars. Constant-dollar energy prices have been falling since 1979 and the portion of income devoted to buying energy has dropped from 16% to 10%.

    As I have pointed out before, there is zero real poverty in the U.S — hasn’t been since the 1960s.

  35. > Your purported “rises” are less than the statistical noise, which the Census Bureau itself will
    > tell you is about 3% for these figures.

    Demographics and economics experts don’t so casually dismiss these numbers that estimate that 5.4 million people are in poverty than at the start of the decade. If the Census Bureau says 3% uncertainty, that uncertainty is most related to uncertainty about the actual number. If the sources of the raw data stay constant over time, the stastical sample is large, and the sampling methods are the same over time, then you can generally track relative change over time. If undercounting or overcounting, the amount of under or over counting will probably stay constant over time.

    If you have doubts about the numbers, the important thing is to check whether they are consistent with other statistics from the same time period. Between 2001 and 2006, the unemployment rate is up 0.6% with 1.2 million more people are unemployed and the number of long-term unemployed has doubled to 1.4 million. 2.9 million manufacturing jobs have been lost (and people who loose manufacturing jobs tend to become long-term unemployed or move into lower paying service jobs). Median household income has declined by $1,669 or 3.6% after inflation. 6 million more Americans lack health. All evidence shows that we have good growth and people at the top of the economic ladder are doing well, but the economic recovery has been largely a jobless recovery. The Bush II administration has a private sector job growth rate of only 0.2%, the lowest for any administration since the Great Depression. Clinton’s rate was 2.6% and Bush I’s rate was 0.4%. The poverty rate trends very nicely with the private sector job growth rate, which is why I trust the poverty numbers. Of course all of these numbers are statistics and they all have uncertainty, but they suggest the same trends.

    > using the U.S. government’s definition of poverty, grossly understate economic progress because
    > they ignore both innovation and the substitutability of cheaper goods for more expensive ones

    Take the vital things which you need to survive at the bottom of the economic ladder. Yes, food and clothes have gotten cheaper. (I’m not happy about it since cheapness of food is related to unsustainable agricultural practices and exploitation of immigrant labor, while cheap clothes is generally related to underpaying foreign workers.) But food only forms 13.5% of the average American household budget in 2001. The costs have risen on most of the other vital things such as housing, health care, childcare (which is vital for working poor). Housing alone is 31.9% of the average household budget and housing prices have risen dramatically in the recent past. Low income housing is at a critical shortage today. We have abandoned most of the policies which created low income housing in the past. Health care has risen to roughly 15% of our GDP and many working poor don’t have health insurance so they have to pay those costs directly. Technological change hasn’t made these things cheaper and there is little substitution except to go without. The one area where your argument may apply is in the area of transportation. I haven’t seen any numbers but I suspect that the cost of a new economy car has fallen in the last 3 decades in constant dollar terms. If there has been a fall in the price of cars, however, that hasn’t translated to a fall in the percentage of the American household budget being spent on transportation. In 1960, it was 14%. In 1972 it was just under 20% and it hasn’t fallen since. In 2001, it was 19.3% according to the US Census Bureau.

    > Constant-dollar energy prices have been falling since 1979 and the portion of income devoted to buying energy has dropped from
    > 16% to 10%.

    As a general trend gas prices have fallen since 1979, but that hasn’t been the case over the last 5 years and most analysts expect gas prices to continue rising. Since 2001, gas prices have risen 76% and oil prices have risen 111% to $66.12 per
    barrel. (These figures aren’t in constant dollar terms, but the increases more than overcome increases in inflation).

    The best way to reduce transportation costs for the poor is to implement mass transit systems, but most people in the US have roundly opposed mass transit. If you look at transportation costs as a percentage of total budget, it is lowest in cities such as New York and Chicago that have good public transport. Studies also show that people who use mass transit spend over $500 less annually to commute to work, than people who use private cars and trucks. Since transportation as a percentage of the total household budget rises as one gets poorer, one of the best ways to help poor people is to implement mass transit. Similarly implementing universal health care would be one of the best way to help the poor, because health care costs rise as a percentage of the household budget as one gets poorer.

    > As I have pointed out before, there is zero real poverty in the U.S — hasn’t been since the 1960s.

    I have some comments about that previous article you wrote. I’ve spent a year of my life working in a homeless shelter in Austin and I can tell you that poverty in America is a real phenomena. Most people who become homeless generally don’t end up on the streets and you generally can’t see them. Instead, what often happens is they move in with family or friends temporarily and bounce from home to home. Or homeless people often start living in their cars and bumming showers from friends. Homelessness happens more often than you think. Also, homeless numbers are probably on the rise in the last 5 years, although it is hard to be certain when tracking these things since there are few real numbers.

    I lived a year in Mexico working in a homeless shelter in CD Juarez, so I have been able to compare US absolute poverty with Mexican absolute poverty. Yes, Mexico has more real poverty than the US and you will find more people living on the streets, but in someways being poor in Mexico is better than being poor in the US. For instance, in Mexico, if you are poor, you move into an area with hundreds of other poor people and set up a shack as a squatter. You are allowed to steal electricity from the local power line and a government water truck comes around twice a week. Since there are millions of other squatters in exactly the same position, you have a political voice and you have politicians who represent you in parliament. You work collectively to protect your squatter rights. In Mexico, people don’t expect you to have a phone, so you don’t need one for a job interview, and public transportation makes it possible for the poor to go everywhere unlike in the US where the lack of a car isolates you from the rest of society. You also don’t face as much discrimination because everyone in your neighborhood is in the same economic boat. I’ve lived in Bolivia and Guatemala as well and seen even worse poverty than in Mexico. You are less likely to starve in the US–but I think that the poor face more discrimination in the US than the poor in Latin America. A poor person in Latin America is more likely to be integrated into the national life of the country in terms of voting, going to political events, being represented culturally and politically, and less restriction is placed on your movement. In short, you don’t feel as isolated when you are poor in Latin America, and it is easier to get housing and transportation as a poor person than in the US. One major difference is attitudinal. In the US almost nobody will ever offer you food, whereas people are more likely to offer you food in Latin America. As a rich gringo, people offered me food even when they were much poorer than I. It was almost a source of pride to be able to offer someone else food. If you are starving in the US, you would be hard pressed for anyone to offer you food or to have any sympathy for your situation. This isn’t idle speculation on my part. I did an experiment once in Austin and tried to live as homeless person for a few days to see how it felt. I was working in a homeless shelter and wanted to get into the mindset of a homeless person.

    In Latin America, a poor person can spend as much as 50% of their budget on food and almost all poor people have had the experience of going to bed hungry, so they are more likely to sympathize when they see someone else who is hungry. I’m not trying to romanticize here, because Latin Americans can be very callous toward beggars, but it is interesting what a strong response President Lula got in Brazil when he ran on the Zero Hunger campaign. Even more wealthy Brazilians supported a campaign to end hunger by providing a basic food subsidy to all poor people. I can’t imagine US voters responding in the same way if Bush or Kerry had run ran on the same issue in the last election.

    In the US, most people are very callous toward poor people and tell them that it is their own fault that they are poor. We certainly don’t support the idea that the government should help the poor. If they did, we would have a higher minimum wage, better low income housing programs, public transportation, and universal health care. Despite all the anti-poor rhetoric being thrown about in the political arena, these programs aren’t about giving the poor handouts, rather, this is about creating a society where people who work at low-skilled jobs actually live decently. We have become a very cruel and selfish society when we think that people who work at the low wage jobs to pick our food, serve our meals, and clean our buildings don’t deserve decent housing, health care, and transportation. If you think that it creates “class division and strife” to ensure that the working poor live decently, then you need to reexamine your ideology because something is clearly out of wack. If your ideology tells you that trickle-down economics works, then you need to look at the emperical evidence, because it hasn’t worked for poor people in the US during the Bush I or Bush II administrations.

  36. > The best way to reduce transportation costs for the poor is to implement mass transit systems, but most people in the US have roundly opposed mass transit.

    I agree that increasing mass transit is a good thing for the country because it is much more energy and cost efficient than automobiles. My question is, “who should we ask to implement these systems?” The Federal Government? HAH! Why don’t we provide contracts to private companies to implement and manage mass transit systems across the country? If multiple companies compete for the contract, taxpayers do not have to pay as much money, and the company will be pressed to implement the system as cheaply as possible. I would like to say the railroad lines refurbished, and I think the best way to do that is to make trains more economical for both freight and passengers.

    > For instance, in Mexico, if you are poor, you move into an area with hundreds of other poor people and set up a shack as a squatter.

    Poor people could do this in America, as well. A lot of them do not, most likely because they can find a better place to live than a shack; a tenement might not be very nice, but it has to be nicer than a shack! The squatter trend most likely arises from Mexico’s pre/mid-industrial state, where low-cost housing has not been deemed economical.

    > Since there are millions of other squatters in exactly the same position, you have a political voice and you have politicians who represent you in parliament. You work collectively to protect your squatter rights.

    Why not spend the time working to get OUT of the squatter village, rather than trying to improve the lifestyle of the squatters? I understand the appeal of ‘aid for the poor’ (believe me, I do not like to see people suffer), but the government could improve the lives of the current squatters and the entire country by creating jobs for the squatters, thus fostering economic growth. Although I do not care for FDR’s other policies, creating jobs for the jobless prevented the Depression Economy from worsening, although the U.S. would not truly prosper until 18 years later.

    > this is about creating a society where people who work at low-skilled jobs actually live decently. We have become a very cruel and selfish society when we think that people who work at the low wage jobs to pick our food, serve our meals, and clean our buildings don’t deserve decent housing, health care, and transportation.

    How many employed people are also homeless? I am pretty sure that even a minimum wage job will allow a person to afford a low-rent apartment, water, electricity, and groceries. Money will be tight, but that will likely always be the case.

    I know this may seem like a stupid idea, but maybe ‘we’ (I do not know what members the set ‘we’ includes) should implement a ‘mass transportation’ project to renew the freight lines, and build mass transit infrastructure.

  37. On mass transit, one should first read a series presently being published by the Future of Freedom Foundation in their monthly newsletter, “Freedom Daily”.

    http://www.fff.org/toc/fr06.asp

    Unfortunately, it looks like it will be a while before the texts are posted publicly. In short, the subways of NYC were built and run privately and profitably, enjoying their greatest ridership, prior to their regulation by government. That regulation directly led to insolvency and sale to that same government itself. The resulting miss-management has had three predictable results: decreasing reliability, decreasing ridership and astronomical cost overruns.

    Or just watch _Who Framed Rodger Rabbit?_ for their discussion of the Red Line trolly, prior to its extinguishment by taxpayer subsidized freeways.

    Check your local regulations. I’m sure you’ll find that, just like is done to taxi service, any bus or train service you try to build will already have the regulatory noose waiting for you to step up to insert your head. That’s why it doesn’t already exist.

    The reason I am not a min-archist is because no one has yet presented me with the example of a service that cannot be provided at least as well, if not better, by private (voluntary) means than by government (coercive) means. And I don’t mean voluntary the way the IRS means voluntary.

  38. > Or just watch _Who Framed Rodger Rabbit?_ for their discussion of the Red Line trolly, prior to its extinguishment by taxpayer
    > subsidized freeways.

    It wasn’t just government subsidy of the highway system which killed the Red Line Trolly and most of the electric rail lines in America. In 1922, GM embarked on a 3 decade long plot to destroy electric rail across America to expand their business. In some cases they actually bought up trolley lines and put them out of commission through subsidiaries. In other cases, they bribed and pressured government officials to replace electric rail with gas motor vehicles. See: http://www.lovearth.net/gmdeliberatelydestroyed.htm

    > The reason I am not a min-archist is because no one has yet presented me with the example of a service that cannot be provided at
    > least as well, if not better, by private (voluntary) means than by government (coercive) means.

    If we lived in a world where nothing was subsidized, then public transport would naturally arise as the cheaper alternative. The problem is that we live in a world with massive subsidy for private vehicles and everything is organized around private vehicles. We are not going to stop subsidizing the road system, suburbia, and cheap gas. Private companies may naturally organize in places like New York which were designed before the car, but they won’t naturally organize in places that are designed for the private car, which is most of America.

    There is also the issue that there are high barriers to entry and public transport and large fixed costs. Many think public transport is a natural monopoly, where one company will eventually emerge to dominate the whole system. As with all natural monopolies, you either have to make it publically owned or you have to regulate it to prevent abuse. The investment to built a subway or light rail system is huge, and no private company is going to do it unless given a huge government subsidy. Look at the original rail lines in the US. Only a tiny number on the eastern sea shore were built without government subsidy. Rail line building only happened on a large scale when the government started promising huge land grants to the railroad companies. All the transcontinental rail lines were massively subsidized. Those subsidies created bad incentives for the rail companies–they laid cheap track and chose bad routes just to get the land grants. With the exception of the Great Northern line under A. P. Hill, most of the transcontinental lines weren’t designed to be run profitably on their own. You have to subsidize public transportation in many places to get it started, but those subsidies have to be given very carefully to not create the wrong incentives.

    There is also the issue that many public transportation systems aren’t just designed to serve a market but change people’s behavior and reduce pollution. Eventually we are going to have to address global warming in America, and one way to do this is to encourage people to produce less greenhouse gases by using public transport. Subsidizing public transport to make it cheaper than the alternatives is probably going to be a topic much discussed in the future. Personally, I think we should all the negative externalities in the price of gas, and then people would decide that it is much cheaper to use public transportation. But I really doubt that we are going to raise gas to 8 or 10 dollars a gallon to account for CO2, road costs,respiratory illness, etc. So public subsidy for public transportation seems the only route, especially when roads and gas is already being subsidized for private transportation so it is artificially cheap and convenient.

  39. amosbatto, we are also going to have to address the fact that Americans have the second-largest economic footprint in the world. There is a dark side to all this wonderful unchecked growth, prosperity, and profligacy.

  40. So I guess it doesn’t bother you that you get zero $$$ for the work, but microsoft does? Outside of this post and the prestige that comes from being a figure in the open source movement, what value do you get from the work you put into this project?

    Or perhaps since the software is free, there is zero value to it.

    This is one problem amongst many with open source: it devalues software. I’ve read your self contradictory papers on how there are more jobs in support, but in the next breath claim support is so much cheaper in the open source model

  41. Eric, I noticed the same paragraph in some other (recent) MS products. Can’t remember, but certainly not this one (I didn’t know about this product until reading this page). I laughed from the irony of it all. Hypocracy!

    But then again, they don’t care. I mean, corporations don’t know shame (a very important quality) and decency. So they will do whatever it takes to make more cash. They contradict themselves and sell their mothers to white slavery. How sad is that… even if you point out how hypocratic they are, they will smile and point out how much cash they made… they don’t have principles anyway.

    I like to compare these type of people (and corporates) to a person who, after robbing you, stabs you in both eyes.

    -Ash

    P.S. Keep up the good stuff and never give up.

  42. Microsoft did not develop this product; they bought it with another company. Anyway, they probably don’t care about reusing some piece of utility code written by free software programmers, as long as the license is OK.

  43. Microsoft is saying open source software in general is bad.

    However,
    Microsoft is also using this particular piece of software.
    Microsoft uses the software they believe to be best.
    Microsoft therefore believes this software is best.
    This software is open source.
    Therefore, Microsoft is also saying that open source software is best…

    Provided you commit the fallacy of composition.

    Which we can do in the opposite direction as well: many open source projects fail because they are abandoned, and therefore open source projects will all inevitably be abandoned, and therefore Linux is in imminent danger of being abandoned, which would leave all its users up the proverbial creek with no paddle.

    Hey, it’s every bit as valid as the cries of “hypocrisy”.

  44. >>I have no idea why the copyright on this EULA is dated 1997,
    >>I think that is a couple of years after I passed the baton to Toshio Kuratomi.

    subsource of “EULA” “1997″ “Copyright”:
    (
    from AIX – Bull Open Software archive for AIX – Gnome at
    http://gnome.bullfreeware.com/libungif-lic.txt
    )
    The GIFLIB distribution is Copyright (c) 1997 Eric S. Raymond

    Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy
    of this software and associated documentation files (the “Software”), to deal
    in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights
    to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell
    copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is
    furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

    The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in
    all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

    THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED “AS IS”, WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR
    IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY,
    FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE
    AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER
    LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM,
    OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN
    THE SOFTWARE.

  45. Interesting indeed…

    There is something I’d like to know in this regard…I’m sure I have got it wrong but this is my understanding of open source license: you can sell a product under open source license as long as you pass the benefits of open source to others who in turn will use it. Now, what MS has done is, if I understand it right, taken a piece of open source software, embedded it into a commercial product, and is selling the commercial product. Now, the commercial product overall does not follow the principles of open source, though the open source license is followed for the open source software piece alone. Is this allowed under open source licensing?

    I appreciate that many other companies do this as well, but my question is: does not this lead to a situation where a good number of open source programmers slog and make great software, make not a penny from it (which is bad enough), but worse, “evil” companies just take all these free/open source software, simply package them and make tons of money? Taken to an extreme, such a model simply will not survive. My guess is, for open source paradigm to survive in mass markets, there needs to be a give-and-take between commercially-driven proprietary software companies and open source developers. In the example you have cited the only give-and-take I’m seeing is that the open source programmer gives code (value) and the commercial company takes the money. Not funny.

    Will somebody explain?

    By the way, I thought I’d do a bit of shameless advertising by putting a blurb out for a page we are putting up at eIT for exploring revenue models for open source software – Follars.com – Free, Open Source Dollars @ http://www.follars.com

    NS @ http://www.eit.in

  46. Hey, nice work, getting the libpng code in a MS product.

    Oh, hm, weren’t there a fleet of exploits stemming from poor programming in libpng recently? I seem to recall the PSP was busted up recently because of this, much to Sony’s disappointment. I guess you just can’t trust Open Source, where any old non-programmer can submit code.

  47. The things which have gotten more expensive, however, are more vital to life than the things that have gotten cheaper over time. So in a situation of stagnant wages for the poor, they have lost out because the necessary things are more expensive. Of course, the people who read this forum have probably done pretty well economically.
    ——–
    Bob Rae
    http://safepose.com/

  48. What if hypothetically speaking that all OpenSource code was hence forth contributed anonymously. So that no developer was to ever be recognised for their work and it removes brag-rights from the subject matter it self.

    Would the Open Source community suddenly die off? I’ve often watched the Opensource folks sprout their “nobel” cause all to often, some do have nobel intentions others simply do it to stroke their ego in saying to the world “I can code, see, it’s the best is it not?” in a weird geek-celebrity way.

    Corporations like Microsoft release software to solve peoples needs, and in return they get compensation for it. Only it seems there are a lot of big problems out there that they keep solving, and so wouldn’t it be fair to say that it ends up being a balanced chaos approach to life?

    Their currency is in many forms, obvious would be share price. Your currency is your name, the way in which you posted this would suggest that you are proud of the work you contributed and more importantly you’re attempt at remaining impartial to the fact that others are going to seemingly profit from your work without recompense?

    You’re marketing the same way as the company you despise, only your share price is the amount of ESR deciples that arise in places like your blog.

    I find you quite the interesting and facinating read and I’m open to the notion that i’ve not even begun to make up my mind on whether your compass is set north or south as you seemingly flip flop from one cause to another but keep underlying it quite heavily with sentences that tend to start with “I…”

    “We…” ?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> <pre lang="" line="" escaped="" highlight="">