Ethics and the free market

Esoma believes ethics are an essential component of a free market in software. Ethics define the balance between rich and poor, weak and strong, private and common interests.

When we define our policies and positions on complex topics such as software patents, open standards, competition, and regulation, we often use ethics as an analytical tool.

We ask these questions of a policy, legislative proposal, administrative system, or practice:

  • Does it treat the rich and powerful in the same was as the poor and weak?
  • Does it balance private interests against the common good?
  • Does it treat all participants equally, and without prejudice?
  • Does it encourage further ethical behaviour?

As an example, we can look at the patent system. This fails on all the above criteria. Worse, it encourages highly unethical lobbying by the patent industry and power-seeking by the patent administration.

Ethics means sustainability

When system suffer an ethical failure, or are inherently unethical, they eventually become unsustainable. Esoma believes that the regulatory role of the state must be used to enforce ethical behaviour on industry.

The patent system, Esoma believes, is a good example of a system that has lost its ethical basis, with consequence that:

  • The patent system has lost public sympathy, and is now widely seen as an "evil" system.
  • The patent industry has lost most political support.
  • The patent administration has lost its integrity and values.

Ethics in business

Much of the lobbying done by large firms at government level is highly unethical, done with the specific purpose of securing contracts, promoting proprietary technologies, restricting competition in a market, and slowing the opening of markets to new suppliers.

Esoma believes that egalitarian markets, in which all may enter and compete equally, are the most rewarding and vigourous. For software producers, an ethical market means that producers are judged on the quality of their innovation and product alone. For software consumers, an ethical market means the best price/quality ratio.