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.comment: TechnoPolitics - page 2

Strange Bedfellows

  • October 18, 2000
  • By Dennis E. Powell

The FEC database is an enlightening place to spend a few hours. One of the things you'll discover is that the Linux industry is unrepresented (unless there's a heretofore undisclosed American Linux PAC, which would probably be marketed as the American Red Hat Linux Political Action Committee).

Is this a bad thing, or is it a good one, exeplifying the free-spirited nature of Linux, Open Source, and Free Software? That depends.

The philosophical argument is that Linux really has nothing to do with government. It's free, knows no borders, and the community is highly apolitical. (And, frankly, for the Linux corporations it's probably a smart play, because they don't have the kind of money that would keep everybody happy, the way Microsoft and Oracle do.)

But there's another argument, a practical one. There are some things at stake that matter, or ought to matter, to Linux users and to those to whom Free or Open Source software is important. In fact, like it or not, the community has been shot through with political issues all year.

Does Napster matter to you? UCITA? Are you comfortable with Carnivore? Do you ever worry about online privacy? Do you really think that a breakup of Microsoft would accomplish anything one way or the other? (Hint: It wouldn't. There are effective punishments available, but splitting the company isn't among them.)

These issues are all going to be resolved in the next few years--some by the courts, some by legislation, some by executive decree. Do you know where candidates stand on these things? Why haven't they been asked? You don't, and the reason you don't--the reason the questions haven't been asked--is that the community has been voiceless.

Money is, of course, one way of vocalizing concerns. But it's not the only one. You can write letters, actual on-paper-in-an-envelope-with-a-stamp letters. Not email, which simply isn't taken as seriously by any candidate as is a physical letter. And not gathering on a message board and complaining or flaming. There's time still to ask questions and to make your opinions known. The window of opportunity is open, the election close, each vote more important than ever before.

Political science, remember, is the study of coercive systems. Government can take from you pretty much what it decides to take--and what the great howling masses have given it permission to take. That which is does to businesses it can certainly do to those who are even smaller than businesses. When it thinks in groups instead of individuals, those groups get hammered one individual at a time. It produces nothing and enables little. Its function is to take for its own purposes, which may or may not coincide with yours. Yours count for nothing if you don't make them known and support whoever it is who will best represent them.

There are certainly those who do not wish Linux well. You can bet that their voices are being heard.

It's up to you to make sure that yours is, too.

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