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Henry George and the Intellectual Foundations of the Open Source Movement



    1. University of New Hampshire
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    • The author is Associate Professor of Economics at the University of New Hampshire. Direct correspondence to: Neil B. Niman, Department of Economics, University of New Hampshire, 15 Academic Way, Durham, NH 03824; email: This research was funded in part by the Shalkenbach Foundation.


The emergence of a common development platform (either in the form of open source projects or proprietary products) and the corresponding economic communities that emerge to support those platforms is similar in scale and scope to the concept of the city found in Henry George's economics of time and place. A modern counterpart to the 19th-century focus on land can be found in the 20th-century concern with the establishment of intellectual property rights that fence off a portion of the creative commons in order to construct temporary monopolies. Captured in the open source movement where licenses that specify property rights are adopted in order to provide a great deal of flexibility in terms of how ideas are used and shared, a strong connection can be drawn between this modern movement and the work of Henry George. Building a connection between the two provides greater clarity in terms of understanding how in a modern technology-based economy, progress can be achieved without poverty.

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