Brexit and free software

Paul Boddie paul at
Thu Jun 9 14:46:32 UTC 2016

On Thursday 9. June 2016 14.35.45 MJ Ray wrote:
> Daniel Pocock wrote:
> > - Brexit "leave" campaigners argue that the EU erodes democracy and
> > compromises national independence.
> They do argue that, but both of those points are rather misleading and
> shouldn't be repeated without clarification: the UK government is less
> democratic than the EU because while the European Commission is indeed
> appointed by recent national governments, UK governments often contain
> people who are descendents of someone appointed by a government
> centuries ago, such as Earl Howe, currently Minister of State for
> Defence; and national independence will remain compromised by membership
> of things like NATO and the UN - for good reason.

Indeed, the UK has its own collection of democratic deficit issues which you 
will rarely hear about in mainstream political discourse because it just 
doesn't suit the government of the day to have them discussed. Now, those of 
us who remember the big software patent battles of ten or so years ago and had 
our introduction to EU law-making at that time also recognise the democratic 
deficits in the EU. But, in any case, the Brexit "debate" has largely been 
about mud-slinging and people making stuff up to suit their particular 

> That democracy argument is like someone saying a pork chop has too much
> fat on its edge, so we should eat a pork pie instead!

It certainly is a struggle to resist the temptation to take the pork analogies 
further. What one can say without compromising the decency of this message, 
however, is that the Brexit "debate" has been rather like watching pigs 
squabbling in the mud. I recommend not trying to make too much political 
capital out of it by joining them.

> > Could it be argued that switching to
> > free software for public institutions would do more for democracy and
> > sovereignty than leaving the EU?
> Yes!  I suggest that it would make it easier for us to monitor the
> internal workings of government and reduce the hold of private
> corporations over our government's data.  Has someone prepared a good
> explanation of this already?

Free Software encourages things like fairness, interoperability, sustainable 
infrastructure and, hopefully, transparency. We should be encouraging its use 
and those desirable outcomes regardless of what or who our government is.

It might be said that if such outcomes were prioritised seriously at the 
European political executive level, people might be more satisfied with things 
like the EU, mostly because the general culture of government might need to be 
different in order to that to occur. And indeed, the same might be said about 
the UK government with regard to its record on things like surveillance and 
certain aspects of its transparency.

I guess you could say that Brexit makes no difference if whoever it is that 
governs you doesn't care about things like digital rights, fair competition, 
open standards, sustainability, transparency and genuine democracy. But any 
arguments really don't want to be making anything out of the Brexit circus 
itself, in my opinion.


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