[Fsf-friends] RMS Interview: excerpts "Losing jobs due to Free Software"

Praveen A pravi.a@gmail.com
Tue Aug 2 18:52:09 IST 2005

Hi all,

In this interview Stallman addresses the much exaggerated issue of losing 
jobs due to Free Software.*

Read the full interview at kerneltrap.org <http://kerneltrap.org> 

JA*: What about the programmers...

*Richard Stallman*: What about them? The programmers writing non-free 
software? They are doing something antisocial. They should get some other 

*JA*: Such as?

*Richard Stallman*: There are thousands of different jobs people can have in 
society without developing non-free software. You can even be a programmer. 
Most paid programmers are developing custom software--only a small fraction 
are developing non-free software. The small fraction of proprietary software 
jobs are not hard to avoid.

*JA*: What is the distinction there?

*Richard Stallman*: Non-free software is meant to be distributed to the 
public. Custom software is meant to be used by one client. There's no 
ethical problem with custom software as long as you're respecting your 
client's freedom.

The next point is that programmers are a tiny fraction of employment in the 
computer field. Suppose somebody developed an AI and no programmers were 
needed anymore. Would this be a disaster? Would all the people who are now 
programmers be doomed to unemployment for the rest of their lives? Obviously 
not, but this doesn't stop people from exaggerating the issue.

And what if there aren't any programming jobs in the US anymore?

*JA*: You mean what if all the programming jobs were outsourced to foreign 

*Richard Stallman*: Yes, what if they all go? This may actually happen. When 
you start thinking about things like total levels of employment, you've got 
think about all the factors that affect it, not blame it all on one factor. 
The cause of unemployment is not someone or society deciding that software 
should be free. The cause of the problem is largely economic policies 
designed to benefit only the rich. Such as driving wages down.

You know, it's no coincidence that we're having all this outsourcing. That 
was carefully planned. International treaties were designed to make this 
happen so that people's wages would be reduced.

*JA*: Can you cite specific examples?

*Richard Stallman*: FTAA. The World Trade Organization. NAFTA. These 
treaties are designed to reduce wages by making it easy for a company to say 
to various countries, "which of you will let us pay people the least? That's 
were we're headed." And if any country starts having a somewhat increased 
standard of living, companies say "oh, this is a bad labor climate here. 
You're not making a good climate for business. All the business is going to 
go away. You better make sure that people get paid less. You're following a 
foolish policy arranging for workers of your country to be paid more. You've 
got to make sure that your workers are the lowest paid anywhere in the 
world, then we'll come back. Otherwise we're all going to run away and 
punish you."

Businesses very often do it, they move operations out of a country to punish 
that country. And I've recently come to the conclusion that frictionless 
international trade is inherently a harmful thing, because it makes it too 
easy for companies to move from one country to another. We have to make that 
difficult enough that each company can be stuck in some country that can 
regulate it.

The book *No Logo* explains that the Philippines have laws that protect 
labor standards, but these laws count for nothing any more. They decided to 
set up "enterprise zones" - that's the euphemism they used for "sweat shop 
zones" - where companies are exempt from these rules for the first two 
years. And as a result, no company lasts for more than two years. When their 
exemption runs out, the owners shut it down and they start another.
Read the full interview at kerneltrap.org <http://kerneltrap.org> 
"GNU is the system, and Linux is the kernel."
A proud GNU user http://www.gnu.org
My Weblog at http://www.pravi.co.nr
Rediscover the web ! Get firefox at http://www.getfirefox.com
Please avoid sending me Word or PowerPoint attachments
See http://www.fsf.org/philosophy/no-word-attachments.html

More information about the Fsf-friends mailing list