I know you and Dad worry about me sometimes, making it on my own in the world. It can be tough being a parent, wondering if you raised your kids correctly, hoping that I haven’t packed it all in and taken up motorcycle racing for a living.
In a recent recent news.com interview with Bill Gates, responding to a question about more and more people advocating patent and copyright reform, the man himself said:
There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They don’t think that those incentives should exist.
You know that I have concerns that a copyright system in which nothing has passed into the public domain in nearly 80 years isn’t really serving the public good. You also know that I worry that a patent system that elevates mere ideas–despite implementation differences or concurrent innovation–into legal mechanisms to attack competitors is bad for free markets.
Don’t worry, though. I didn’t buy the motorcycle and I’m not a communist.
The only person who can call me a communist without starting an argument is my friend Melanie and that’s because she doesn’t really believe it (also, she’s a lot cuter than Bill Gates). I don’t particularly want to own the means of production; I wouldn’t know what to do with them.
In a comment on the Dan Gillmor weblog linked above, Stephen Downes responded with something I wish I had said:
If Gates came out and said, “Well, open source represents the preservation of private property and of open marketplaces,” people would wonder why Microsoft campaigns so hard against it. But it it’s ‘communism’ then it’s something everybody can understand as evil.
Mom, I think an economic and political system that grants monopolies based on ideas and allows the holders of these virtual monopolies to use the full investigative and judicial force of the government to maintain that monopoly isn’t exactly free market capitalism. Sure, it’s not communism, but when I’m the one arguing for fewer government-enforced monopolies and greater competition, it’s easy to see who actually favors free markets.
I’ll call you and Dad soon. I promise.
Have you called your mother lately?