Further thoughts on computers and socialism

Allin Cottrell cottrell at wfu.edu
Wed Dec 7 19:57:52 MST 1994

I agree entirely with Louis Proyect's recent posting.
Too often those on the Left seem willing to concede the
orthodox claim that, however attractive socialism might be
on the grounds of equality or community, if you want
technological progressiveness you need the market and
big-time monetary incentives.

We have a very striking counter-example staring us in the
face with the Internet and its associated software (and
Louis does well to remind us that this is really nothing
new).  If I want to produce the best-looking document at
present, I don't use Microsoft Word (though that is
admittedly a good word-processor) -- I use LaTeX, the latest
version of which is always available free from one of the
archive sites.  If I want to generate the most precise
graphs I don't use Harvard Graphics, but gnuplot for
Windows -- again, free for the taking by ftp.  And if I want
the easiest and most fun access to all this Internet stuff,
I use Mosaic, put out by the National Center for Supercomputing
Applications, not anything from Microsoft or Borland.

The people developing these programs today are not, for the
most part, working from garrets.  They have secure University
positions.  But they are not working for big corporate money;
yet they are putting out their innovative best, and it is
very good indeed.

Allin Cottrell
Department of Economics
Wake Forest University
cottrell at wfu.edu
(910) 759-5762


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