Tuesday, May 18, 2004 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Open Source & Drug Development

TechCentralStation today publishes my article "Peddling Dope: Open Source Drug Development." Written in my usual restrained and judicious style, it takes issue with the proposition that the development of open source software is a model that can or should be applied to the pharmaceutical industry (or to music or movies, for that matter).

One quote: "Socializing an important area of invention and commerce -- for that is what this recommendation entails -- is a dangerous prescription. One would have thought the world would have learned from the utter economic failure and vast human tragedy of the nations that embraced socialism as a basic organizing principle, and would be wary when the same mechanism is advocated for any single sector. A character in George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan asks: "Must then a Christ perish in torment in every age in order to redeem those who have no imagination?" The answer, apparently, is, "yes"; there is no end of need to relearn.

The open source software movement and community are interesting and important. They have made and are making important contributions to software, and are pioneering some methods of organization that can usefully be applied by market-based companies. But open source is not a new mode of production that can replace the market system; there must be an economic support system operating in the background, and at the end of the day market systems have substantial practical AND MORAL advantages over non-market systems.

For an extended discussion of the open source movement, see The Enigma of Open Source Software (PFF Progress on Point No. 11.8)(March 2004). For anyone feeling especially masochistic, the paper even has a 10-page appendix discussing some of the uncertainties created by the viral nature of the General Public License that is used by the Free Software Foundation.

posted by James DeLong @ 8:51 AM | General