A New Year's reading suggestion for Free Software advocates

It’s a new year, and Free Software is more ubiquitous and important than ever. At the same time, the work is far from over. Here’s something inspiring you can read to stimulate some deep thoughts about the nature of Free Software: an essay from 1958, “I, Pencil.”

I first read this essay at my father’s suggestion, long before I was involved with computers. He told me it was the best defense of free enterprise and free markets that he’d ever read.

Here’s a quote I think is particularly interesting to think about in the context of software:

The above is what I meant when writing, “If you can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing.” For, if one is aware that these know-hows will naturally, yes, automatically, arrange themselves into creative and productive patterns in response to human necessity and demand—that is, in the absence of governmental or any other coercive masterminding—then one will possess an absolutely essential ingredient for freedom: a faith in free people. Freedom is impossible without this faith.

Among all the ancestors the pencil lists, it would today be obliged to list an incredible diversity of Free Software programmers and the software they write, which controls everything from the ship navigation systems to the telephone switches to the fuel injection systems in the diesel engines. And even more interesting, any given piece of Free Software should list a simple pencil amongst its ancestors. I know I used a lot of pencils in my studies.

Happy New Year! Long live Free Software!

I'm Baron Schwartz, the founder and CEO of VividCortex. I am the author of High Performance MySQL and lots of open-source software for performance analysis, monitoring, and system administration. I contribute to various database communities such as Oracle, PostgreSQL, Redis and MongoDB. More about me.