Why the Apparent Dichotomy Exists in the First Place?

Finally, it’s time to analyse why the apparent dichotomy between open-source and Objectivism exists in the first place. The most important reason is because some non-free software is sold, and because open source software is made available for everyone to freely use and distribute. So, we see the vendors of proprietary software as healthy Capitalists (which is true), and automatically deduce that open source software is anti-Capitalistic.

However, software is different in the fact that the cost of duplicating it and distributing it is virtually zero. A software developer is not encumbered if his software has 100,000 of users instead of just 1,000. While developing the software is time consuming, there is no reason not to share it after one has invested this initial time.

Some people may come to believe that sharing anything is bad. But as Eric Raymond notes in the excellent film “Revolution OS”: “Open source is voluntary sharing. Communism puts a gun against your head and forces you to share.”. While sharing hammers or food does not make sense economically because such things take a positive amount of time to manufacture every unit of (albeit sharing them is still perfectly ethical), sharing software is not encumbered by these real-world constraints. That put aside, giving away something to your friends, was not held as illogical even by Ayn Rand herself.

Another element that hinders the acceptance of Open Source software is the belief that “if you want something good, you have to pay for it.”. This myth does not hold in the software world, because an application can achieve good quality by incremental contributions from its voluntary developers. When a developer works on an application, there is the pure joy of creation and other social rewards, and it does not matter if he makes any revenue off selling the software. There is a similar case when developing other types of artwork.

Alternatively, the entity that pays the developer to write the program gains from other aspects of the software other than its sale value. (as previously noted).

The facts also speak for themselves. The Linux operating system and other pieces of open-source software (or for that matter freeware), have millions of users who can testify for their superior quality and working experience.