[Discuss] Economic value / non value of OSH work

Franz Nahrada f.nahrada at reflex.at
Sun Sep 7 10:51:55 UTC 2014

Thank you Antoine for your response. I really had the feeling of being a
bit ignored.

"Antoine, as a contact of a free smallwindturbine project"
<smallwindturbineproj.contactor at gmail.com>  wrote:

>Hi Franz and the list.
>I just add some comments, if relevant in this cost/price reasonning.
>Question of value, is as simple as complex.
>Question: Value of money ? or value of contribution for Humanity ? Or for
>Univers ?

Obviously the term value is ambigous, but when economists want to
determine the value, its definitely a money question. 
>The answer to the question of what is the value in term of money (or
>money equivalence), is not so difficult. 

do you really think so? My point was, that the determination of value only
works through a chaotic process of competition. 
1. You have to keep a commodity from being consumed and ask for a monetary
equivalent, withuot payment no consumption.
2. Then the process of value-determination happens, by supply and demand.
3. The process is always a competitive process between several
indeopendent providers of the commodity, or else someone will fix a
monopoly price or at the other end of the spectrum a sellout price.
4. Given no fluctuation  of supply and demand, value is determined by
average social productivity and additional necessary costs (raw materials,
rent etc.)

>However, answer is not unique. It depends of the deep, the width and the
>relevancy of the skill of the answerer, its goals, its believes, and the
>goals of the structure for which the answerer gives the answer. Pricing
>as always be funny to study, as strategy study is.

My point is: yes, the value calculation might look funny, but in fact it
is only an idle attempt to ask for revenue to the providers.
The point is that as long as the mental and experimental labour is free
(as in Free Design), nobody will care to calculate it.
Thus the idea of a license that asks for reciprocacy, like the P2P
License, which would force a price on the usage of Open Design - for those
who do not give back otherwise.
Do we want licenses that request payment? obviously not.
>The value in term of money, for a "tangible physical thing, but not
>software" delivered via a "free licence", could be zero, as soon as the
>entire supply chain is delivered at zero cost. 
>That is the way free software are delivered: it is considered that all
>the supplay chain to get and install a free software, is at zero cost for
>the user.
>In the reality, it is not correct. The supply chain to get a free
>software delivered for free, is not at zero cost. But the user imagine it
>is. The same could be done for a "free opensource hardware".
So we need to look at the ways free software works.
It is only possible because it is subsidized from many sides, from the
developers with their time, from the side of the users by accepting that
things are not developed as bite-sized and fool-prone as in the commercial
world. From the side of companies and ever corporations with money and
employees time.
If we had an ideal market for Free / OS Hardware, there would be research
costs in the price of the product, but this would only work on the
condition of voluntary agreements or forced fees for a developers fund.
(like we have in arts).
Voluntary agreements could arise if associations small enterprises decided
to sponsor a common resource facility (like Open Source Ecology or
OpenTech Forever) and complement it with an agreement on shared in-company
research. Enterprises have always been better at cooperation than their
public image is. Its a total myth that competitors dont talk to each
other. This "cooperative element" could be largely expanded...
Forced fees however could take the form of taxation, like for the
establishment of public MakerSpaces and the granting of project dependent
stipends. Why only roads, libraries and sports grounds?
I understand that all the efforts to determine a "value" might be rooted
here. If we used a clearer language, we would understand the problematique
better. There are efforts that need to be maintained by society, and the
best ways is to understand that knowledge must be socially maintained as a
commons. Its all a question of negociations and renegociations, there is
no "automatic fix" to that.
In reality, even the "value" of any given piece of proprietory knowledge
is a price determined by needs and powers. A constant chaos, yet very well
working for those who run the commerical machine, supported by government
agencies and public institutions. There is hardly a scientific calculation
behind anything. Its a question of brute or subtle force.

I see a different option to escape this situation by a new general social
contract. Imagine that we had a world of local economies, producing
locally for local needs but cooperating globally in terms of R&D - Then we
do not want to exchange equivalents, rather we want to strengthen
everybody. It would be rather a system of honor that the strong and
developed throw more into the pot, whereas the ones that are helped out of
their weakness feel the moral obligation to eventually "pay forward". I
share this design idea with Marcin Jacubowski and many others.



What do you foresee as the deeper political effects of your work?
"Governments as we know them become obsolete with the advent of open
source ecology, as do all structures for collecting and redistributing
resources with significant collateral damage.
Distributive, collaborative production with universal access to advanced,
appropriate tools will be so productive it will outcompete existing
businesses. We foresee an equal playing field of competent,
well-organized, small-scale, decentralized republics after the borders of
empires dissolve through a natural progress of evolution. This is true
whether one lives in the first, second, third, or fourth worlds; these
distinctions likewise dissolve with open source ecology."
"Our vision is a world where every community has access to an open source
Fab Lab which can produce all the things that one currently finds at a
Walmart cost-effectively, quickly, on-demand from local resources. We
envision these Labs being self-replicating and multiplying like rabbits.
This would be a giant leap for distributive economics – where resource
constraints no longer apply. People would then have a chance to shift a
significant portion of their energy to interests beyond mere survival. The
end state is super-skilled workers, free of control from remote power
centers, as people in communities regain their power to thrive without
strings attached to their happiness. The scope of production should
include everything from food to fuels and energy to semiconductors and

The question of a shift in social structures will inevitably arise with
OSH. Value in the monetary meaning (equivalent exchange) will give place
to value as contribution to humanity and the universe.


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