Who and what is libertarian? How libertarian are they?

It sounds like you're suggesting that you never got any donations for
your software. Wouldn't it be more accurate to say you did receive
donations, just not enough to want to continue offering your product
such a basis?

Yes, I would never be able to support myself (and therefore continue
developing) my software from donations. Yet people *do* find it
valuable since I can now support myself comfortably after moving to a
must-pay-in-order-to-use model.

  So some people did pay even when it was voluntary, just not enough
people to make you feel it was worth your while to provide the product
on that basis?

Here is my theory of payment - people only pay for things that they
have to pay for, in order to use. You might cite charity as a counter
example. But if you take the cynical point of view (that I do) that
what people are paying for with charity is not feeding the poor (etc),
but the self satisfaction associated with it, then it's clear that they
can only get the use of that self satisfaction by paying.

This works well if you're asking for money to feed hungry children. But
I don't believe people get so much satisfaction from knowing that they
helped pay for more mundane services. For example, knowing that a
musical artists is compensated isn't very satisfying, as is
demonstrated by the popularity of online music "sharing".

  Another way of putting this is that people pay when they feel they
ought to pay. If you feel you ought to pay and don't pay, you're likely
to feel badly. But if you don't feel you ought to pay, then you can not
pay and still feel okay. So paying only increases satisfaction when one
feels one ought to pay. If paying increased satisfaction when did NOT
feel one ought to pay, the world would be a rather different place.

If you really believe such system would work, then it sounds you might
have a lot in common with the neo-communists advocating so-called
"gift" societies. If donations work for government, why shouldn't they
work for everything?

  I don't think it would work for everything, but I am fascinated by the
notion of a gift society. This is part of the appeal of Burning Man.

In your case, I presume that there was no effective
mechanism to exert social pressure on people who used your software
without paying for it. In the case of a voluntarily funded government,
there could and probably would be.

How's that? If you made the records of voluntary taxes public? How
would that apply pressure unless income was forced/coerced to be of
public record also?

  I am assuming that voluntary contributions to a limited government
would be public. In such a system there would likely be strong peer
pressure for people to "pay their fair share." It wouldn't be
necessary to know the exact amount of everyone's income for such
pressure to work. Usually people in a community have some idea of how
well off other people in the community are, just by observing their
lifestyles. Of course you wouldn't entirely get rid of free riders, and
I haven't suggested that it would be possible or even necessarily
desirable to do so.

Also, I think most people would be
much more concerned with keeping such a government in business and
to provide services than with doing the same for a computer programmer
in your position. Most people see government as so important that they
support taking money from people by force in order to fund it. Do you
know anyone who feels this way about your software, or any software
that matter?

Yup. AFAIK, Richard Stallman, the head of the GNU foundation (the GNU
license is what most open source software is licensed under, including
Linux), is a communist/socialist and, of course, prefers this model
when it comes to software. He is quite influential an his sentiments
are not unique.

  Does Richard Stallman think government should take money from people
by force to fund software development, whether or not those people want
to use the software being funded? That's what we're talking about with
government taxes. Even if this is the case, I think only a tiny
percentage of the public would agree with him, whereas a substantial
majority of the public currently supports funding government via
coercive taxation. That's why I think voluntary funding of government
would work, where such an approach would not necessarily work as a
means of funding software development or other goods or services.

I remember Michael once telling me that the most libertarian solution
may not always be the best solution. I think we generally agree
a good amount of overlap between the set of libertarian solutions and
the set of best solutions. But what's best is endlessly disputed,
there's a certain amount of agreement on what's libertarian. So it
of makes sense for the Libertarian Party to avoid some of the quagmire
of the debate over what's best by simply advocating libertarian

As a "moral" libertarians, I'd like to know how you or Michael defines
"best" in a way that it is not the most libertarian. If "best" is the
most moral, and your libertarianism is based on your moral ideals, then
how can the most libertarian not be the most moral and therefore the

-- Steve

  As I recall, Michael and I discussed a scenario similar to this:
Someone falls off a 10th floor balcony. As he passes the 9th floor, he
manages to arrest his fall by catching hold of a protruding flagpole.
However the owner of the flagpole is a rather callous individual who
greatly resents intrusion. "Get your hands off my flagpole!" he
demands. Obviously if the person lets go, he would likely fall to his
death. But under libertarian property rights theory, the flagpole owner
has a perfect right to make the demand and to see it legally enforced.
The best solution in this case, assuming the person who fell wants to
continue living, would be for him to refuse the demand, and perhaps
even to further trespass onto the flagpole owner's property in order to
escape his life-threatening predicament. So the best solution is not
always the most libertarian solution.

Yours in liberty,
            <<< Starchild >>>

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