- April 19, 2019
-- Among the benefits of membership at the Park Slope food coop are the stories and lessons members share with one another after they're done working. Depending on who you talk to, what will make America great again varies. I believe Donald Trump and the enabling Republican party have been an aberration, an outrage, but most of all, a great big fraud. Voters who thought President Trump would at least try to fulfill his populist, America-first campaign promises are still waiting. Trump placates these supporters with rhetoric, distracts them with cultural warfare and encourages them to seek refuge in cultural chauvinism. Whereas, unequal results of human achievement conjure up simplistic notions of injustice for Democrats. "The Blue Party" most often learn these harsh truths through self discovery in the pursuit of relative financial sustainability or while soliciting project funding. Unfortunately, prior to self discovery, human impulse is generally towards equality or generosity. Equality is as undesirable as it is unrealizable. Attempting to achieve equality requires that each of us forego who we are and what we can do in order to create something in which no one ultimately believes - a society everybody is the same or has the same. Lastly, the media enabled Trump's rise to power and the Democrats pursuit of an equality message. Mindfulness, good intentions and integrity are romantically appealing (sexy), but are at a disadvantage with what's reported in the news by the complicity of the media with advertisers and publicists. Today, even at the local level, the government, corporations, big institutions and personalities know how to play the media game. They know how to influence the news narrative. They feed media scoops, official accounts, interviews with the 'experts'. They make themselves crucial to the process of journalism. So, those in power and those who report on them are in bed with each other and only pay lip service to individuals who seek "the truth".
As a result of this, given human's flawed nature, we're left with three possible outcomes. One is the sea of mud many think we have today. Another is for actors with coercive power to enforce an allocation policy on behalf of the people. The third is for the commons to break up as village members, fence-off bits they can defend and manage sustainably. These three groups often lack empathy and instead of listening and talking to each other, they opt to talk through each other with the use of prepared talking points. Last week, Through my coop squad leader Eric Eisenstadt, I learned Thomas S. Kuhn coined the term paradigm shift in his book, "The Structure Of Scientific Revolution", a book about the history of science. Its publication was a landmark event in the history, philosophy, and sociology of scientific knowledge. Back in 2016, Eric put a sign on his classroom door that read: 'I love all of my students and I will fight for you, no matter what (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3946116/If-bui...
). I also experienced a change in approach and outlook when Eric asked, "How do you resolve conflicts in cases all parties are complicit, as in the case of Donald Trump, The GOP, Democrats and the media?
After thinking it through, I've come up with a course of action for those of us willing to put in the work. We should seek to make open-source cooperation sustainable similar to what programmers do with software. Part of the answer certainly lies in the fact that using software does not decrease its value. Instead, widespread use of open-source software tends to increase its value, as users fold in their own fixes and features (code patches). In this inverse commons, the grass grows taller when it's grazed upon. That this public good cannot be degraded by overuse takes care of half of the congested–public-
goods problem. It doesn't explain why open source doesn't suffer from under provision. Why don't people who know the open-source community exists universally exhibit free-rider behavior waiting for others to do the work they need, or (if they do the work themselves) not bothering to contribute the work back into the commons? Part of the answer lies in the fact that people don't merely need solutions, they need solutions on time. It's seldom possible to predict when someone else will finish a given piece of needed work. If the payoff from fixing a bug or adding a feature is sufficient to any potential contributor, that person will dive in and do it (at which point the fact that everyone else is a free rider becomes irrelevant). Another part of the answer lies in the fact that the putative market value of small patches to a common source base is hard to capture. Being reactive by only sitting on the patch gains nothing. Instead, it incurs a future cost—the effort involved in re-merging the patch into the source base in each new release. So the payoff from this choice is actually negative. Let us by all means seek to increase opportunities for all. Democrats have to do a better job of acknowledging and/or recognizing we have to proceed knowing to increase opportunities for all is likely to favor those better able to take advantage of them and may often first increase inequalities. I'm inspired by the words of Algeron Sidney,
"Our inquiry is not after that which is perfect, well knowing that no such thing is found among men; but we seek that human constitution which is attended with the least, or the most pardonable inconveniences"