Bernard Maris suggests that cooperative, noncommercial labor and services may be the immersed end of the economic iceberg, not only undisclosed in current statistics, but also larger than we know. (Photo: Luc van Gent / Flickr)
With France Inter: The Forum of Open Source Software, which took place June 17, is an opportunity to get a fix on that secondary economy represented by noncommercial labor or services. A concealed economy based on cooperation.
Today the Forum of Open Source Software is taking place at the Museum of Computer Sciences in La Défense. I often talk about open source software in this column. I like it because it challenges proprietary software such as Microsoft's Windows, which is closed, secret, hidden software. One cannot enter it. On the other hand, one can enter open source software, which is "open" as the name indicates. One can modify or improve it, as long as one informs the community of developers about any changes. So it's the principle of cooperation that defines open-source software, extremely popular with management since it's very effective, malleable and adaptable. And it has one great characteristic, especially for the military or police: it hides nothing. No little spy in the house who could get by unnoticed.
How does it happen that extremely talented software engineers spend their time improving software for the collectivity, without receiving any remuneration for that work? Strange, no? You have to believe that the pleasure of developing is stronger than greed, as the pleasure of researching is greater than the profit from a patent resulting from that same research, even though one does not exclude the other. But how to measure this wealth? How to calculate all this knowledge due to voluntary cooperation? How to calculate all the knowledge and labor garnered in Wikipedia? It's pretty convenient to go on Wikipedia! And yet Wikipedia results from largely noncommercial work.
A secret GDP exists that is not accounted for anywhere.
The Market? A Paper Tiger
One example: I take a friend home in my car. This service will not be accounted for in the GDP - while if he had taken a taxi, it would have been counted. If he reads me a book during the drive, that won't be counted, but if I buy a book without reading it, that will be counted. The Stiglitz Commission, appointed by the president, estimates that we'd have to add at least 35 percent to national wealth to account for all these "domestic" services. If a woman marries her gardener, one may suppose that he'll stop having her pay for the upkeep of her garden and the GDP will be reduced.
All this secret, hidden (open source software) GDP is based on cooperation. It's the immersed surface of the iceberg! While real GDP (proprietary software) is based on rivalry, exclusion, competition.
And what if the market were nothing but a paper tiger?