I think the faster we can move away from all or nothing thinking, the faster the marketplace can be reshaped into a more equitable power relationship between buyers and sellers, and hence between the exchange of value. For me it’s not so much that free is more pure, and therefore better. It’s that free was a bold and rebellious statement against the propriety, bully, and rigid business prcatices of Microsoft et al. In time though, to be all or nothing, regardless if it is all free or all bloated profits, to me will just maintain a concentration of wealth. The power may be shifting, but if the money is still held by a relative few, then they will almost have a natural leg up in the marketplace.
I think the good news is that technology enables new careers, new relationships, along with new products and services, and it is starting to bring faster rewards to those who take the chance to do what they love and trust that the money will follow. I am pretty imaginative but I do not yet see a future where money holds no value or power. For now, most of us are still engaged in the process of trading products and services for a paycheck and vice versa.
As a Berkeley grad who has not abandoned all her youthful idealism, I love the possibilities that are being presented by and to the many budding entrepreneurs. Small businesses face cash flow issues on a daily basis. We can’t do everything for free, because we are not collecting a salary on the side to buy food and pay rent. We only get paid when we deliver something of value to our customers. With small companies, the line is much more blurred between the business and the individual. We are both, all day long. We cannot hide behind a large corporate structure and blame unpopular pricing or policies on some other department. If we are not successful, we can’t write paychecks to anyone, including ourselves.
The days of extreme concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few Bill Gateses, Michael Eisners, and Phil Knights, I see (slowly) coming to an end. There is no way that any of those men is 1 – 6 billion “times” smarter or more valuable than the rest of us. Technology is leveling the playing the field. The luck that was bestowed on a few – though often interpreted as genius – now is spreading around more.
I am grateful to all of the employed people who can write and contribute free code while at their regular jobs – a mini-subversion in itself. But to me it is not a sustainable model. I am more radical than that. I imagine the recirculation of Bill Gates’ $65 billion of accumulated wealth, and it blows my mind what we “foot soldiers on the street” could create with it!
And for any hard core capitalists who may be reading this, I do not mean redistribution by handout, but by fair compensation for a day’s work well done, a good idea contributed to the pool. One of Bill’s ideas or hours is just not that much more valuable than one of mine, and I don’t see why he should be paid so much more for one of his. I actually think he should be penalized at this point as his products have single-handedly stymied day-to-day business and created a huge opportunity for spyware, viruses, and worms! When will the marketplace appropriately adjust for that?
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