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Free is Beautiful, Freedom is Paramount

Posted in Free/Libre Software at 8:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Beautiful stone

Summary: Clarification regarding “Software Freedom” and what it practically means; those who demonise the concept are vastly worse, as they conflate monopolies and deregulation with things like “free market” (which has little to do with “Freedom”, it’s about exploitation and obliteration of accountability)

THE widespread concern about “too much freedom” typically conflates freedom with something else. The concept of “Freedom” in the United States has long baffled me. Many equate “Freedom” with things like guns and hateful groups. As if “Freedom” is ridding oneself or excluding one’s group from basic human dignity. Does “Freedom” mean cannibalism? Will “Freedom” mean that babies are free to “have sex” with adults? See, this whole “Freedom” thing can spin out of control…

“They demonise the concept and call proponents of “Software Freedom” some words like “zealots” and “radicals”.”In the context of software, “Freedom” means a particular thing; “Software Freedom” means not the “Freedom” to kill using software but the “Freedom” to use, modify ans share software without restrictions. It’s mostly about abundance and lack of discrimination based on one’s means (financial typically) and personal views. “Freedom” is, in that respect, about removing artificial restrictions that typically serve nobody and protect nobody.

“Freedom” does not need to be associated with gun fanatics or libertarians who reject state taxes. “Freedom” has been getting a bad name because people who want “Freedom” only for themselves (oligarchs who refuse to pay tax and threaten states that they will leave if they don’t get a cheap workforce without labour rights). They demonise the concept and call proponents of “Software Freedom” some words like “zealots” and “radicals”. What is more radical, wanting to share a good computer program with a neighbour or putting in prison people for making a digital copy of something (a victimless ‘crime’)?

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  1. Canta said,

    August 25, 2020 at 2:06 pm


    This issue is absolutely key this days.

    > The concept of “Freedom” in the United States has long baffled me.

    Right-wing “freedom” usually means “freedom of enterprise”, or even just plain “free market”. In the USA it also seems to mean something closer to “freedom to do whatever I want”, at least from what I can see on video clips from time to time.

    Thing is, that apropiation of the word freedom is wreaking havoc in political debates all around the world: anyone of us has to explain several times what kind of “freedom” we’re talking about, and that’s just when on the other side there’s someone with the will to listen.

    And also the “whatever I want” side of freedom seems to be growing worldwide too, as one can see with the COVID right-wing claims and behavior. “Freedom” is right now like honey for lunatic bees: take a look at the anti-quarintine and anti-mask movements all around the world, and you’ll have a very sad picture of what kind of people ALSO get attracted with the “freedom” ideal.

    Freedom means many different things in different contexts. And a lot of those things are frankly nasty.

    Of course I concede it’s mostly word twisting and bad faith what causes this. Media has its place in this scenario. But my problem with that is that “freedom” actually allows for that to happen, so we can’t blame anybody but ourselves. Is too ambiguous: it may mean “personal freedom” (instead of a social relation) without any bad faith in the middle.

    As years passes, I’m more close to the idea of rejecting the term. It’s barely useful this days to me. Freedom has its place in my political fights (here in LATAM we have the shadow of military dictatorships all over us, so freedom is no joke), but being honest with myself and my peers what I want is rights for the users, which most likely means several agents in the IT ecosystem will lose freedoms (including users) as regulations will take place. “Rights” is so much less ambiguous, and so much closer with Free Software Movement end goals, that I’m having trouble to keep talking about freedoms instead of rights.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, you did mention in the past this erosion of the term “freedom” in relation to LatAm as well.

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