Are Linux Users Anti-Capitalist?

I’ve seen a lot of stuff in Linux forums and blogs to make me think so, in spite of the existence of for-profit Linux companies like Red Hat, Novell, and Canonical. During my very brief membership in Diaspora, the free and open-source social network that bills itself as an alternative to Facebook, I found no other members there who believe in good old fashioned free market capitalism. Diaspora attracts many Linux/FOSS users. There were hundreds of posts from Diaspora community members equating profit with greed, as though it is somehow unethical to reap the rewards of one’s own hard work. For all I could tell, I may have been the only one in the whole network with an opposing point of view.

Now comes another rant from Richard Stallman, the rabid FOSS advocate who sees all other software as inherently evil because it may have a profit motive. In his most recent anti-capitalist rant, the Bearded One rails against Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu Linux, the most popular and most widely used desktop Linux distribution in history. He urges Linux users to abandon Ubuntu because of an advertized feature of it’s innovative Unity desktop interface (here). He claims that the “shopping lens” in the desktop “dash” (think of “dashboard” – that Unity desktop is pretty cool, and is designed with a view towards touch screens and such – the future!) is a “sneaky” invasion of the user’s privacy with an eeeeevil profit motive.

First of all, the shopping lens is an advertized feature of Ubuntu, so there’s nothing “sneaky” about it. And users can easily opt out if they don’t want to use it. Secondly, it takes money to fund development of Ubuntu’s innovations, which they then provide for free to their users. Canonical’s deal with Amazon helps provide some of that funding while preserving the user’s privacy by not collecting any “user-identifiable” information. What expectation of privacy does any online shopper have anyway? Gimme a break! If Canonical can get enough profit from deals with companies like Dell, Amazon, and Google to continue funding their awesome and innovative operating system and then give that operating system away for free, how can that be considered greedy and selfish?

It’s only considered “greedy” by anarchists, communists, and others who believe that the rewards of one’s own hard work should not be retained by those who earn those rewards. “Share the wealth,” we are told by those who would remove any incentive to work at all, much less invest in the work of others. The Linux and Free and Open Source Software communities have more than their fair share of such rabid anti-capitalists who think they are entitled to all the benefits of other people’s work. What about their own volunteer contributions to the Free Software Foundation? How is that different from any Ubuntu user who wants to use Ubuntu’s cool search feature or shopping feature to support their favorite Linux/FOSS project? Answer: It’s no different at all. It’s just easier than writing a check to support the Bearded One’s favorite Linux/FOSS projects – or more accurately, to support the Bearded One himself.

Shut up, Stallman. Quit begging and bitching and get a real job. I bet if you did, you would come to resent the efforts of other socialists and anarchists to confiscate your wages in order to “share the wealth” with other bums like you.

5 thoughts on “Are Linux Users Anti-Capitalist?

  1. I think Stallman is 100% right. I’m actually shocked that there’s not more uproar about the “Shopping Lens”, which is enabled BY DEFAULT in Ubuntu. Its presence runs counter to the very ideals that Ubuntu was founded on. It seems to me that Canonical just caved in to the easy money. Don’t get me wrong: I support people being able to make a profit, and support themselves from their work. But if Canonical is suddenly finding itself in need of money, and needing to monetize Ubuntu, then they should just start charging for it. That, at least, would be transparent & direct, instead of the underhanded, sneaky way in which they are going about things. You say that the Amazon shopping search is “Advertised”… It’s not, actually. On the page you linked to, the word “Amazon” doesn’t appear ONCE. If Canonical wanted to be really honest about things, they would provide the Shopping Lens as an “Opt-IN”, rathern than an “Opt-OUT”. They know that most standard users use the software as it is configured, out of the box, and will likely not find the command to disable the Shopping Lens, or simply won’t bother. And they’re taking advantage of that. In this way, Canonical is not unlike Facebook, which takes huge liberties with its users’ data. Yes, Linux is geared towards more technically-savvy folk, and as such, some would say that entering a command in Terminal is easy, but within the world of Linux, Ubuntu is aimed more towards beginners; users who don’t necessarily know their way around a command line (or who simply aren’t interested in one). If the only way to opt-out is to go into Terminal,a nd write a line of code, then that says pretty clearly to me that they don’t intend to make opting out easy. They could present the user with a choice at installation, but they do not. It’s a cop out. It’s obvious what Canonical are doing, and it’s sneaky. I’d rather just PAY for Ubuntu up front, and keep my searches private. I, for one, am seriously reconsidering using Ubuntu now, as I now have to question their integrity, whereas I used to never have to. Don’t know if I will continue with Ubuntu or not…


    1. Stallman is completely over the top calling the Shopping Lens “spyware,” just as he is over the top by demonizing those of us who by necessity use “non-free” software because our Linux computers won’t function without proprietary drivers or multimedia codecs. The Bearded One has made such a negative impression with his shrill tirades, it’s little wonder that anyi-capitalists are such a large majority in the Linux/FOSS community.


  2. I do not believe that profit is bad at all. I believe that one should be able to sell software (and from his other writings I believe that Stallman believes the same), but when they put profit above other people’s freedom and privacy, something is wrong.


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