National Endowment for Open Source

Is there any doubt right now about the strength and power of open source software for accelerating technological innovation?

In the past, companies have had to invest huge amounts of capital in developing proprietary software while another company might have already had a comparable technology sitting on the shelf, disused.

Today, there are over 300,000 open source projects on sourceforge.com alone.

While there are coherent arguments against open sourcing in certain areas such as pharmaceuticals, it’s hard to deny that in the software industry open sourcing provides enough of a boost to the reputation of companies and individuals that offsets any direct economic loss that the individuals might have. Furthermore, other developers and companies are permitted to stand on the shoulders of open source to make incremental improvements in the stability and infrastructure of the technology.

So what is the government doing to support this common good?

Nothing that I’m aware of. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

Today’s politics seem decidedly anti-government, and certainly there have been decades long objections over the National Endowment of the Arts from the Republican party. Some of those objections are reasonable or at least understandable. However, many of the same objections do not apply to technology.

It's time for a National Endowment for Open Source. Click To Tweet

The benefit to accelerating technological innovation demands it.

If we are investing billions in infrastructure projects like highways, why are we not investing in the same sort of technological infrastructure that will accelerate our economic growth well into the information age?

Can we measure the benefit of open source projects? Yes. By their usage, frequency of commits, the number of forks, etc.

Can we use market forces to dictate which open source projects should be supplied with investment? Yes. As above, we have some metrics which can offer significant guidance.

Certainly there are a number of things to consider and debate. But as of yet, I have not seen much discussion about such a possibility except for one lonely blog post. So I will only make one main point here:

We do not need government support for open source in software.

The open source movement is strong and growing constantly. It is making inroads into hardware as well. Government support might help, but it’s not critical.

However, there are technological areas where free market forces are hampered by a lack of competition and incredibly long R&D cycles. This ultimately deliver less good to society than possible with the level of technological innovation we now possess.

I am speaking of areas such as biotechnology and pharmacology where giant corporations are patenting genes and drugs that could save millions on millions of lives. Argocorps are currently destroying both small business competition as well as genetic biodiversity by preventing innovation on a vast scale.

It is in these areas where free market economics backed by incomprehensibly bizarre policies and patent laws have left us with an anti-competitive atmosphere bereft of the type of innovation that America is capable of. More access to open source technologies in this area could lead to rapid technological innovation and an decreased barriers to entry for entrepreneurs.

The means more value and more jobs.

It's time for a National Endowment for Open Source. Click To Tweet

Cheers,
Tristan

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