January 10, 2002

Libertarian candidate speaks out for Open Source, but would hire Gates as his CEO

Author: JT Smith

- by Tina Gasperson -
Libertarian candidate for the Jacksonville, Florida, city council Adam
Davis is a Web developer, FreeBSD user and Open Source advocate who says
if he could choose any CEO to run his company, it would be Bill Gates.

Adam Nathaniel Davis is a different kind of politician than the ones
we're used to -- refreshingly straightforward. "I've always followed
politics, and if you're not pissed off by the actions of your elected
representatives, then you're not paying attention," he says. He's only
28, and says he would have run for office much sooner, but "I assumed I
would have to spend more time fighting my own party than I would serving
the people and affecting positive change." Then he discovered the
Libertarian party and found a set of ideals that matched his own.

Davis is a self-taught Web developer and FreeBSD user. "I've been
fascinated by computers since I was a kid." Like a lot of young geeks,
he first learned to program in BASIC. He got his first dialup account in
1993, "and from there it was only natural that I would want to create
things on the Internet, rather than just read and view the work of
others."

Davis says he learned new technology in order to achieve his goals.
"When I first wanted to create Web pages, I learned HTML. When I first
wanted those pages to actually do something, I learned PHP. When
I wanted those pages to allow others to interact in a community, I
learned SQL, through MySQL."

The Web hosting company he uses runs FreeBSD, and it was a matter of using it or
paying extra to use something else. For Davis the choice was easy. He
learned to use FreeBSD. "I tend to troll around on PHPBuilder.com and
occasionally visit developer forums" in order to learn the skills he
needs to run two of his sites, JaxLiberty.com and Queryous.com.

If Davis is elected, he will consider it a foot in the door for Open
Source ideals, but he's not going to run with it like a bull in a china
shop. "It wouldn't look too good if I -- the supposedly small-government,
low-budget advocate -- came immediately into office and said we should
throw out (Microsoft) licenses that we've already paid for and, in many
cases, will be contractually obligated to pay for into the future."

"Nudging (for implementation of Open Source) can be greatly aided, or
hindered, by the IT director/CIO in the city. If I find that the city's
existing IT staff thinks that 'open source' is secret code for 'Satan,'
then 'nudging' will be decidedly more difficult. But if the existing IT
staff support the open source idea, then it is much easier to present a
case to the council when it comes time to craft and approve the new
budget.

"I can't preach the Open Source gospel to the other members of the
council, because ultimately they will take their cue from the IT staff
that understands hardware and software decisions.

"What I can tell you is this: the city budget is approved every
year by the council and you can bet that a year will not go by that I
don't exhaustively investigate the amount of money that is being spent
in IT and where it can be trimmed, as well as all other city
departments. In any year where there is a new software purchase to be
made, whether that is upgrades, additional licenses, or new software
packages altogether, I will be the first and the loudest voice asking
why we are not using Open Source software."

Naturally, being a FreeBSD user, Davis is firmly in the Open Source camp
and a bit skeptical of the Free Software movement. "I have heard the
'all software is free' argument, and I don't believe that those people
understand the central contradiction in their premise.

"'Free' ... is a behavioral mandate. You cannot give me something and
then dictate to me how I use and/or alter it. If you want to control
what happens to a piece of code, then don't give it to someone. Or at
least, sell it to them under very strict stipulations. You can't give me
a sweater for Christmas and then tell me that I'm only to wear it on the
third Friday of months that end in 'y.'

"But that is precisely what people want to do when they make software
available and then complain about how it is used. I don't believe you
can ever truly dictate what happens to a creation once you release it to
the public, even if you sell it under tight stipulations.

"I have come to understand that once you release it, whether it's a
story, or a song, or a compilation of code, there really is no way to
completely control how it is used or abused by the public."

Like a true Libertarian, Davis believes the market will decide the fate
of closed and Open Source software. "If someone wants to take an Open
Source product, alter it until it is a new product, and then attempt to
sell it, more power to them. If the product does not offer significant
improvements over the free version, the market will never pay for it."

Davis, in fine politician fashion, says he supports software patents,
sort of. "To the extent that companies can enforce them without
infringing on the personal rights of their customers. When Microsoft
tries to tell me that I cannot make a backup copy of my operating
system, they are in violation of fair use statutes. The same is true for
any purveyor of information, whether it be a software, music, or
publishing company."

Speaking of Microsoft, Davis has mixed feelings about the company that
Open Sourcers love to hate. "Microsoft is not the Great Satan,
regardless of what a community of frustrated sys admins might have you
believe. I'm not trying to defend them, but I find it amazing that we
revere sports icons like Vince Lombardi for driving their opponents into
the ground, but we revile Bill Gates for the same acumen in the business
world. If I could choose any CEO to run my company, it would be Bill
Gates."

Davis believes that it is the government's fault that Microsoft
is steamrolling the rights of consumers and snuffing the life
out of competitors. "Microsoft is simply doing everything it can to
protect its revenue streams. The problem is not so much that Microsoft
will attempt to trample all remaining semblance of fair use into the
ground, the problem is that the legislators and the courts will stand by
and let them do it. When these companies try to control what I do with
their product, for my own personal use, after I have purchased it, they
are ignoring Constitutional precedent and that is why we need
Libertarians in our legislatures and in our court rooms."

Davis is complimentary in his regard for the Open Source community and
true hackers. "Unfortunately, we will not have a nation permeated with
Libertarians anytime in the very near future, and for that reason I put
a lot of faith in the hackers. God bless them."

Davis admits that he was "thoroughly primed" for Libertarianism
by Ayn Rand's Atlas
Shrugged
, and says, "Hackers are the Ragnar Danneskjolds of the information frontier. If the courts
continue to support the erosion of fair use, it may come to pass that
the unwashed masses do indeed lose a great deal of their rights, but
those who are tuned in to the hacker community will always be able to
counteract, to some degree, the infringements of corporate America."

Davis' campaign is a family affair; his wife is his campaign manager and
will be his assistant should he be elected. "I want [my children] to see
me working hard to fight for the things I believe in. I don't want my
daughter to have memories of daddy just sitting on the couch and
bitching because he didn't like the way the world works as he drinks
another beer.

"I want her to know that I am actively working to improve the system and
hopefully she will follow in my footsteps."

Davis can be reached at adam@jaxliberty.com.

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