Freedom can be Free: "The Economics of Indigenous Freedom"

A short article appearing on Guerrilla News Network caught my eye with its title, "The Economics of Indigenous Freedom," and, although it's over a month old, I decided to post it here to open up the conversation to our readers as well.

In the article, author David Sugar lays out the possibility that the indigenous of the U.S. could find "freedom" in open-source technology. He argues many economic endeavors undertaken by American Indians fail to sustain families and communities, while maintaining a cultural bankruptcy as well -- forcing participation in what Sugar terms "a culturally foreign social-economic model." This foreign model encourages competition, coercion, and deception in pursuit of wealth -- concepts that intrinsically clash with American Indian lifeways.

Sugar's kind-of curious, but certainly practical, solution is investing in and developing free software:
As I noted there are basic cultural questioned tied to economics. This was best explained to me once by Russell Means. While at the time we were talking about the social and cultural consequence of western styles education, what he said that most stuck with me was, and to roughly paraphrase his words, “Indians do not compete”. Clearly then, the logical way forward is to look at sustainable models based on voluntary cooperative economics, and there are a number examples found practiced today which do not require high levels of (presumably external) investment to get started and which have already been demonstratively effective. One example of this is found in the economics of free (as in freedom) software.
He goes on to explain how the relationship between the creator of free software and the user is one that fosters cooperation and freedom of use, neither of which contradict "core social and cultural principles."

Whether Sugar's argument is completely fleshed out, I'm not sure. But it's certainly a fresh and interesting approach to thinking about technology and indigenous issues.

You can read the entire article for yourself by clicking here.
Image credit: gnn.tv
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4 comments:

  1. Anonymous4:44 PM

    This is an interesting post - and idea. What I'm not sure that I understand is how does participation in open-source technology production solve any problems in the wider capitalist world in which Native Americans are living. Is money earned in the open-source 'market'? Can there really be an alternative system within the capitalist system?

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  2. This brings to mind our post on Indigenous views on the economy from earlier this year: http://recycledminds.blogspot.com/2009/06/indigenous-views-on-economy.html

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  3. Take a look at some of Christopher Kelty's ethnographic work on open-source programmers. Lots of ways that ethic could be adopted in other industries, it seems; however, it's still not a perfect system - anything that involves voluntary activity is subject to critical dropouts, unfortunately.

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  4. Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!
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