Several years ago Microsoft laid the claim that Linux was Communistic. I issued a rebuttal to the very idea, pointing out the obvious. Linux, and Open Source, by it's very nature, is Capitalistic. I also drew direct parallels from Microsoft's behavior to the behavior of Communistic and Socialistic countries. The end result is obvious : anyone who has ever bothered to actually sit through Economics 101 would be laughing their rear ends off at the idea of Microsoft being a Capitalistic Empire. Whether or not Cuba likes it, by Embracing Open-Source, they are embracing the Capitalism Business Model, and throwing off the chains of the Communistic or Socialistic Microsoft.
I also want to bring this up now because Microsoft's corporate behavior may give some insight onto how Microsoft is responding to the lack of Vista sales. But, before I can go into what Microsoft is doing now, I need to correct the likes of CNN and NBC about economic viewpoints.
Now, the original rebuttal was modified with an ending to reflect on a recent Presidential Election. With several candidates throwing their hats into the ring, perhaps it is time to consider the economic impact of Elections again, something the AP, CNN, NBC, and Reuters avoided talking about during the 2006 USA elections.
Why Microsoft Windows is more communistic than Linux.
Microsoft Corporation has been well known for launching many attacks against competitors. Most of the times, the attacks are baseless, and borderline ludicrous. Yet, for some reason, Microsoft continues to get away with doing so. In the attacks against the Linux Kernel and GNU operating system Microsoft has laid the charge the the Linux/GNU system is a viral and communistic. This is quite an interesting charge to anybody who stayed awake during government in middle school and economics in high school. Anybody familiar with the basic tenants of capitalism and communism will instantly realize that the charge is much more accurate if aimed in the other direction.
For the benefit of those who slept during either of those classics, the concepts are somewhat abbreviated in the following.
Capitalism is often referred to as the “free market” economy, while communism is typically a “closed market” economy.
In a capitalistic society the economy is decided by those actually selling and buying inside the market. In a communism based society the economy is dictated from above by a ruling class that gets a percentage of every sale and purchase.
When you deal with Microsoft, Microsoft has this view that it alone is the only vendor worth dealing with. Microsoft has the view that it should not have to deal with external vendors to itself and that it should be wholly reliant upon it's own existence as a perpetuated entity. When it does have to deal with external vendors Microsoft has a nasty habit of backstabbing and complaining about it. Smaller external vendors run the risk of being swallowed up by Microsoft.
This behavior and attitude has a scary resemblance to the Soviet Union and to Red China. Both the Soviet Union and China feel they should be reliant upon themselves alone for all supplies. Neither of the communistic countries like having to deal with competitors outside of their own borders. And, in the case of the Soviet Union, smaller competitors found themselves at risk to either be invaded, or sign the Warsaw pact. China's government also has a history of expansion, and continues to have ideas that Taiwan never was separated from mainland China. Or the whole mess with the Koreans. The similarities of Microsoft to these two nations of history cannot be ignored.
People who deal with Microsoft also have other Microsoft only issues to deal with. Microsoft will provide everything, from office suite, to database, to groupware, to anti-virus and security tools. However, the user has no say in any of these products. Suggestions for improvements or customization does not happen with Microsoft. In many cases business buy one product to find they also have to buy another they don't need. Any changes to the products come from Microsoft itself without any 3rd party input. Users of the products do not have any direct say about the products or how those products are produced. And, like it or not, Microsoft isn't able to deliver on any of its promises. The security is the industry's standard for bad. Documents saved in office suites are not compatible with older suites and may not be compatible with future suites. The Microsoft groupware tools are the most viral prone and buggy programs ever created, and as far as anti-virus tools go? Microsoft's job as the OS builder is to fix the problems that allow virus's. Not to build an program to catch malicious code that makes use of problems that should have been fixed. The database tools also have up-times measured in weeks, not months or years.
People who lived in the Soviet Union were promised everything by the government. They were promised food and shelter, as well as an equal lifestyle. Eveybody was equal. However, as is now well known, the Soviet Union was incapable of meeting these promises. But the people living in the soviet Union were never told about the problems, simply because somebody in the Kremlin decided they did not need to know. The Soviet Union had one of the worlds worst standards of living for years, along with many quote “human rights violations.” Yet the people living within the Soviet Union found themselves helpless for years because they had no say in the government. Which eventually brought about yet another revolution. In China it was taught that those who intended to revolt ran the risk of getting run over by tanks. And many of the problems are mirrored in China that the Soviet Union suffered. The all-inclusive nature of the Soviet Union led to a revolt and the topple of the communistic government. Should we, as people today, be scared of the mirror of this all-inclusive nature as invisioned by Microsoft? YES! In several cases, to name Mike-Rowe-soft as one, opponents to Microsoft have learned that to attempt any actions against Microsoft also results in getting run over by a tank.
Microsoft itself is run by the well known Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates duo. There is no say from the purchasers of the companies stock and product in how these two run the Microsoft business. Not even the Federal government of the US succeeded when it came down to telling Microsoft what actions it could take and not take. Ventures that lose several million dollars, such as the Xbox, remain in production whereas in any other corporate culture heads would be rolling at the behest of the owners and stockholders. While Microsoft does take some steps to “prove” that it is in touch with the average Microsoft buyer, the fact is the average purchaser of products has nothing to say about the product.
The similarities to the Soviet Union and China again are almost mirror quality. Average citizens simply had no say on what the overseeing body did, and had no direct control over the overseeing body. Badly thought of ventures were common among the Soviet Union and common among China today. And yet, no protests are heard. What do the citizens of China feel about Taiwan? What do they feel about Korea?
Now, to step back and compare just these 3 examples given to the Linux/GNU system.
When you deal with Linux many vendors are quite well aware of other vendors. Kmail, thunderbird, and Evolution play nicely together. OpenOffice and Koffice will share a common document format. IBM is just as aware of Novell as both are aware of RedHat. And each gets treated more or less as an equal. The sale is often made on what the product can offer you, not what you mean as a statistic on a sales chart to the overall bottom line. When dealing with external vendors the Linux/GNU system builders have a bad habit of turning the other cheek. But, take care not to press too hard, because once the community is mobilized to a goal, little will stand in the way. Linux/GNU system builders also do not rely upon themselves alone to accomplish work. Many actively support other projects such Java, Harmony, or the aforementioned OpenOffice projects, as well as desktop projects like KDE or Gnome. While backstabbing does happen, the communities and business's build on Linux/GNU don't look kindly upon the events. While take-overs still happen, hostile takeovers are generally frowned upon, but a business will offer the best incentives it can to entice a worker to change employers.
These are markedly similar to the US. The US is well aware of other countries and works with them on many levels. Sometimes willingly, sometimes not so willingly. Like Linux/GNU system builders, the US has a bad habit of turning the cheek. Think of all the terrorist attacks prior to Sept 11th. The battleship Cole. The Embassy bombs. The domestic terror such as the World Trade Center bombings. But when the country got pressed, the US pressed back. Hard.
The US also doesn't rely on itself to provide everything. Business's are free to outsource to other countries for labor or manufacturing space. The US is willing to trade the products it has in bulk, such as food, with other countries at the drop of a hat. The US also sponsors medical health programs in Africa as well as dozens of other beneficial programs around the world. And the US doesn't take to kindly to backstabbing or expansionism. There is a long and rich history to both types of events. And during the Cold War, the US enticed many a Russian to defect to a better place. Because the US offered the best incentive it could. Freedom. Freedom with Responsibility upon the citizen, but real Freedom.
In the Linux/GNU communities, every product will be offered that can be offered. Sometimes though, these offers come from competing vendors. In the Linux/GNU community, security is among the industry's best. The groupware tools also operate on several different levels, ranging from common file formats to common database access formats. Documents saved in existing formats can be read anywhere, and generally on older machines that support that format. For example, documents saved in the .swx format, for Star Office, can be read on any program that supports the .swx format. Now, while advanced formatting features created in OpenOffice 1.4, may not be readable to Star Office 4, the text itself is still available to be accessed. And documents created in Star Office 4 are supported under OpenOffice. Database times for Linux/GNU systems have uptimes measured in months or years, and the need for an anti-virus program itself is questionable. Developers of Linux/GNU systems focus on fixing the bugs and problems that allow the creation of virus's, rather than spending time creating programs to find programs that execute malicious code.
Another major difference is that the end user does have a say in how the programs are developed on several different levels. In many Linux/GNU organizations there is a voting method in place, such as Debian. Members involved with the development can vote for who they want running the program, rather than accepting a draconian system that puts only one person in charge.
Beyond voting, the basis of Linux/GNU itself also serves as a control method. One of the tenants of Linux/GNU is that the source code is open for all to see. While some organizations do put some restrictions on what can be done with that code, it is available. This brings about one of the most deadly controls available to Linux/GNU. The Fork. When a project is forked, a group of developers takes the existing open source code, and then goes and does their own thing with it. For example, X.org versus Xfree86. Developers unhappy with the new license terms of Xfree86 took the old code and broke away to form X.org, which already has surpassed Xfree86 in terms of support and features in it's beta state.
The beauty of the Linux/GNU community is that those who want to take charge, can. If a user doesn't like the problem they are free to fix it an offer their own solution. If it's a better solution then the process has succeeded. If it's an average solution, there is now more choice. If it's a bad solution, well.
The controls of the Linux/GNU system are also present in the controls of the US. While the government does offer several programs to benefit the citizens, better solutions are available to the quote “private sector.” People willing to work for a living don't have to put up with the “baseline” standards. There is choice available and citizens are free to pick the choice that suits them.
The process of votes and the control of Forks are also established within the US political system. If an elected representative is not doing his job, eventually his job will come up for re-election and the voters can put someone in place who will do the job. If a citizen feels that he or she has the solution to the problem they are also free to run for office. The average citizen has a right to stand up for his beliefs and a right to expect his elected representative to make those beliefs known. And the citizen has a right to stand up and put him or herself up for election.
Many of the arguments for the second example given also apply to the third argument and there really is no need to get repetitive. The system of controls in place in the Linux/GNU communities allows the average user to get involved, just as the voting and election process of the US allows an average citizen to get involved. The examples given here as just some of the stark differences when comparing Linux/GNU to Microsoft and comparing the US to the Soviet Union or China. It is very clear that Microsoft, of all, is extremely communistic in behavior, and that Linux/GNU is a far more capitalistic approach to the computer generations. It is clear that Linux/GNU promotes Freedom, real and tangible Freedom, much like the US promoted Freedom during the Cold War. Yes, it is a Freedom with responsibility left up to the citizen, but it is real. Microsoft offers no Freedoms. Yes, the cage is pretty and has nice curves. But a cage covered with gold is still a cage.
Now, at this point I would encourage the US readers of this to sit back and think in their heads which political parties support which ideals. Which political parties hold the ideals of the Soviet Union and China and therefor the ideals of Microsoft. And which political parties uphold the practices of the United States. And to think about who was voted for in the last election. Did you vote for the Communistic con artist? Or did you vote for the supporter of capitalism and Freedom? And would you really want to put a party in place that does not have the best economic interests of the country in mind? Or would you rather have a party that has the economic interests in mind, as well as the real Freedom of it's citizens.