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A thought experiment
I'd like to propose the following thought experiment for those on this list
who still support MS, either by advocacy on this list or by continuing to
purchase and use their products.
Can you imagine a point at which you have to say that MS has gone too far, has
become too acquisitive, or has become too monopolistic? And, upon imagining
that point, would you cease to support MS because of it?
I want to suggest that the price of participating in any debate worthy of the
name ``appraising MS'' is that you know where your imaginary or actual point
of departure is. If you can imagine a point of departure, but think that MS
is nowhere near it, then I think you have the right, rationally, to
participate in a debate intended to appraise MS. The debate then becomes one
about facts and about limits.
But if you can't imagine any circumstances in which you would begin to oppose
MS, or any circumstances in which the government or a mass social movement
acted to restrain MS, then how can you possibly help us in appraising MS?
I suggest this criterion of rational participation in our discussions here for
some very simple reasons. First, to appraise something, which is what Nader
has called for, means to rationally determine the worth or value or
performance of something. By the very nature of the case, therefore, Nader,
who is something of an intellectual and is usually very careful with language,
seems to be calling for something more, something in addition to, a
straightforward collation of the \\legal\\ evidence against MS. I think
appraisal \\includes but is not limited to\\ such a collation of the legal
evidence. I have been trying to suggest that it goes beyond the legal case as
well. Second, and I hope this doesn't sound fascistic because it isn't, while
everyone has a legal right to join this list, I'm not sure everyone has the
moral (not legal) right to say anything they want on this list.
[[Before you accuse me of being a fascist, consider the following: suppose
that I am a passionate advocate of abortion...do I have the moral right to
joing an anti-abortion mailing list and post regularly about a woman's right
to choose? Even if I have the legal right to do this, I'm probably not within
my moral rights to do it. Or, another example: do I have the moral right to
say anything I want, as a white person, on a list devoted to issues of social
justice for African-Americans? Wouldn't it be morally blameworthy of me to
join such a list solely for the purpose of yelling the `N' word and of
spouting white supremacist stuff? Of course it would be.
Now the issues on this list aren't nearly that stark or simple, but they do
exist on the same continuum, even if at the far end.]]
The purpose of my thought experiment is to suggest one way that some among us
might rationally clarify---either individually or for your company or
constituency or legal jurisdiction---our allegiance to MS; in other words, at
what point we would have to oppose MS completely and fully. Now for the
lawyers among us the point of departure is likely to be expressed in legal
terms. I think that's not only fine but, for lawyers and attorneys,
For the rest of us, however, we may express the conditions under which we
would have to oppose MS completely in different terms: financial, moral,
aesthetic, political, etc.
My ultimate point is this: if you cannot imagine any point at which you would
depart from MS and oppose them totally, then I suggest that your allegiance to
MS is irrational and blind. And if it is irrational and blind, then you
couldn't possibly contribute to the task this mailing list has been
established to pursue: namely, the \\appraisal\\ of MS.
How can anyone appraise anything when they can't imagine any circumstances
under which that appraisal would be negative? I'm suggesting that they can't.
Now, I don't make this thought experiment to ask anyone to actually
unsubscribe from this list simply for these reasons. But, at the same time, I
for one, always aiming at rational behavior, even if infrequently attaining it
<g>, would refrain from participating in a mailing list whose primary
objective I could never conceivably find myself in agreement with.
Consider the easy examples: I could never, under any circumstances imaginable
to me today, become an advocate of the Commodore 64. Why, then, would I join a
mailing list devoted to advocacy of the C64 and then poke fun at the people
and the product the list is meant to advocate? That would be highly irrational
of me. Now I might conceivably join a list for the purpose of lurking, so as
to see what is going on in the C64 world or, perhaps, because their advocacy
gives me a perverse kind of pleasure, or for some other odd reason. But I
would never be anything more than a lurker. Period.
As with all thought experiments, this one is put forwardly provisionally.
It's just something to think about.
Linux is free. Life is good.