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Licenses are the death of freedom

I wrote yesterday how the definition of freedom can be stated as “the lack of dependence on an arbitrary power,” and that freedom is the sum of your “microliberties” as permeated across the subtleties of your life. Personally, I’ve never been able to handle lack of freedom well, in any situation. No one likes being told what to do. We want to do what we want to do. Freedom is the space to pursue that.

I will say that in the course of my life, government hasn’t been a large impediment to my freedom. College and employment, on the other hand. Really, permission-based environments, no matter how wonderful they seem at first, eventually become a prison. I’ll always reach a point where what I want to do is not what is wanted of me to do. The ticking starts then.

The only other area of my life where I have felt restricted upon is with licenses. “Permission to operate.” If you want to submit an app to the app store, first you need to seek permission from your local government to establish a corporation. They usually say yes, but nevertheless, have the arbitrary power to say no.

You then seek permission to join the Apple Developer Program. This requires you to have a “DUNS” number, which is a sort of business and address verification done by an external company. They usually don’t give you any trouble, but nonetheless, have the arbitrary power to say no.

After you are accepted into the program and spend a year developing the app of your dreams, you must seek permission to post your app on the app store. Here, anything goes. They might say yes. Or they might say no. I’ve been rejected for vague reasons many times. And every time, I fear my livelihood is at stake. In this regard, I am not free. I am a faithful servant to the Apple gods. Please, blessed Apple, do not cast upon me your wrath, and continue to shower me with the sweet nectar of your graciousness. Amen.

Licenses are also how markets are controlled. It’s easy to control supply and demand when any one who supplies needs permission to do so, and in many cases, the demander requires permission as well.

This isn’t a blanket assault on the mere concept of licenses, as it has been a useful construct. Rather, it’s an assessment of our circumstance as software developers producing goods for an entity that ultimately controls the supply of these goods. In that regard, while that entity may not frequently exercise its power of rejection, the mere presence of that arbitrary power, in the aforementioned definition, is deemed sufficient circumstances for a non-free existence.


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