In support of my argument for widespread adoption of said ethic, however, I’d like to postulate that the hacker ethic is not really a novel thing, but rather an old thing forgotten and swept under the rug, submerged beneath an unusually casual acceptance of late of Machiavelli-that-ate-Darwin. It is a logical extension of uncompromising rational humanism.
Socrates wouldn’t have tolerated the dangerous informality with which our politicians sling their socioeconomic abstractions about; he’d have pointed out the gaping holes in the rhetoric and empirical lack of results in the system, forcing us to concede that either theory or politics (or both) is broken. Jefferson would have sensed violation of the laws of nature in man’s attempts to enslave that marvelous beast known as the idea as a mere cash cow–not to mention moral harm in the inequity of society’s benefit from such ideas. Thomas Aquinas and the Dalai Lamas would presumably point out that the best empirical standard of good is not property, but happiness and fulfillment–a measure in which it’s not clear first-world capitalism is making progress at all.
So now it would seem the torch passes to us. Not because we hackers are philosophically on level with these people, or for that matter in the same building, but because we’re the ones whose ongoing intellectual endeavors chanced to strike upon the buried wisdom. It falls to us to remind a WIPO-bound world that an “if-value-then-right” culture is a stamp-tax culture. That the first duty of government with regard to copyrights is to incentivize innovation and progress, not to babysit the monopolies of individuals.
Ignore for a moment the infeasibility of accurate pricing without a free market and try to picture something: a society in which Due Diligence and stock sales turned not on shareholder value, but contribution to global value. In which people vie for a piece of the action in whatever’s advancing the causes of the society and the species. I was pondering this very subject today, when I remembered I’d already seen the answer. That society is none other than the Bitchun Society of Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out In the Magic Kingdom. And while his sketch makes it clear there are some significant kinks to be worked out of the blogosphere before we try this, I don’t think it’s hard to see the immense positive potential in such schemes–schemes which the current generation of Web technologies are already well-positioned to begin to support.