Consequence Free

While I was working out at the Waterloo YMCA, the DJs at Kool FM played the Great Big Sea‘s “Consequence Free“. Of all the songs I’ve ever heard, this is the one that I find most offensive (although Nat King Cole‘s “Pretend” is a pretty close second).

The authors of this song want to live in a world where their actions have no harmful repercussions. They want to say whatever comes to mind, but not have anybody be offended by it. They want to slip off the edge and not have to worry about the fall. They want to live in a world where nothing needs to matter: consequence free.

What rubbish. It is the predictability of the physical laws of nature and their consequences that holds the universe together. We live as consequence of eating and breathing. We learn as a consequence of the reactions to our actions from others. We walk as a consequence of the properties of matter. We achieve as a consequence of our desires. Consequences are what make anything possible.

Without consequences, we would never be sure if what went up would come down. We would not be able count on an attraction between electrons and protons, or any force of nature. We would not be able to count on anything, that is, if we could even be at all. To desire existence without consequence is to desire the destruction of the universe.

I find it disheartening that this song was ever written. That it is so popular is a testament to Russell’s adage: Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so.

Election time

This Thursday, the province of Ontario is holding an election and I don’t know who to vote for. There are five parties running my home riding of Kitchener-Waterloo.

The Liberal Party of Ontario appears to be leading the polls. The party and their candidate, Sean Strickland, promise to raise taxes and throw it into education and health care. As I understand it, both of these systems are fundamentally broken. There is no reason to believe that more money will alleviate their problems.

The Ontario PC Party and their candidate Elizabeth Witmer want to ban work-to-rule campaigns and strikes by public school teachers. In an otherwise sensible campaign, this just strikes me as ludicrous. As much as I hate unions, this is just asking for trouble. Nothing good can come from people losing their ability to negotiate with their employers for better work conditions and compensation.

The Ontario NDP Party I can dismiss out-of-hand. They are running on a platform called “publicpower”, that is, everything should be run by the government: public health care, public education, public water, public hydro, government-controlled tuition, government-controlled housing, government-controlled pensions, public transportation, and public child care. No thanks.

The Family Coalition Party is also fielding a candidate in this riding, promising persecution to anybody that doesn’t share their “pro-family values”. Ick.

Then there is the Green Party of Ontario. I went to their website looking for something to criticize. I couldn’t find anything I fundamentally disagreed with. It looks like I’ve found my candidate.

More Moralizing on Open Source Software

Yesterday’s post ended with a question: am I robbing a man if I accept from him what he insists on giving me in exchange or nothing? After a night’s rest, I think I have an answer.

No, I am not robbing him. He has his own motives for giving it away. If I reject what he offers because I think he is robbing himself, I am inposing my moral code on him, and denying him the opportunity live by his own. He has chosen to work for free to his own detriment (as I see it), but his welfare is his own concern, not mine.

If he chooses to offer me his work free-of-charge, the criteria for accepting it should be that of any other transaction: is the value of what he offers worth the price that he is asking? On such a basis, I need only refuse his offer if his work is worthless to me, or I can find more value for my money elsewhere.

So it seems to be alright to use Open Source Software. I can go back to using Vim.

Morality of Using Open Source Software

I’ve been giving some thought to whether it is right to use Open Source Software. On the one hand, by using OSS I contribute to an unjust system, where undeserving free-riders can benefit from the work of unrewarded developers. On the other hand, these unrewarded developers — the altruists who create valuable software with no intention of collecting payment for their work — I have to assume are intelligent people. Their decision to work for free, as self-destructive as it seems to me, is one I can only assume they made of their own conscious free will. They must expect some untangible reward for the work they do. So am I robbing a man if I accept from him what he insists on giving me in exchange for nothing?