John Galt is dead or Linus shrugs

The genius of Steve Jobs is to be valued highly. But so is that of the team around Linus Torvalds. What should matter, in the end, is the quality of the finished product, its usefulness, its value.

Robert Woodruff, former CEO of Coca-Cola Co.
John Galt is the lead character in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, a classic beloved by boys in late adolescence and former Fed chairmen.

Galt represents Rand's ideal of objectivism, of free market absolutism and rule by those few who dominate the market.

The idea has been taking a beating lately, what with even Alan Greenspan admitting the ideology is flawed.

But those of us in the open source movement knew those ideas were bogus a decade ago. John Galt, meet Linus Torvalds.

Linus is the anti-Galt. He is naturally shy, he likes teams. He is more interested in solving a problem than in anything else.

"We haven't had a lot of huge pressing technical issues, so what people have been writing about is how we do development," he said in an interview at the recent Linux Kernel Summit. His gentle way of saying how is the wrong issue.

One of the more remarkable exchanges came when Linus was asked about shortening release cycles. He admitted he had favored such a move, then added that the discussions had convinced him otherwise.

John Galt would not approve of that. He would demand things be done his way, that others bend to his will.

So when Randians like Andrew Keen see the success of open source, they're flummoxed. They wind up with arguments that make them look like idiots.

Because there is no absolute ideology, no simple -ism that will explain it all to you. The genius of Steve Jobs is to be valued highly. But so is that of the team around Linus Torvalds. The proprietary and open source model both have their points.

What should matter, in the end, is the quality of the finished product, its usefulness, its value. Focus on that and you can't go far wrong.

The real answer lies in the words of that great capitalist Robert W. Woodruff, the man who built The Coca-Cola Co.

"There is no limit what a man can do or where he can go, if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit." I think Linus would agree with that. It's wisdom you can dance to.

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