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Is open source politically attractive?

Open source is more than a business model. It is more than a development model. It represents a new model for how we deal with all information -- not just software. It teaches that sharing code, sharing data, and sharing views makes us stronger.

Elizabeth May, Canada Green Party leader, from greenparty.ca
Matt Asay thinks it funny that Canada's Green Party has made open source a part of its election manifesto. (To the right, party leader Elizabeth May.)

Given that it is one of the country's smaller parties, attracting less than 10 percent of the vote, he questions its utility. Given his view that open source is a business model and little more, he questions its validity.

These are good questions and, on a day when conservatives are busy nationalizing their own markets they are worth a serious answer.

First, about the tactics. The Greens are currently Canada's 4th largest party. They are jockeying for leadership of the nation's liberal voters with two other parties, the Liberals and the New Democrats.

After the expected victory of Conservative Stephen Harper (likely a parliamentary majority with barely 40% of the popular vote) there will be pressure on these other parties to unite. (Harper himself is the product of unity among multiple parties.)

The leftist parties' strength, relative to one another, will determine their power in the new coalition. The Greens are gambling that supporting an open source business model will give them influence when the real political struggle starts.

It's an interesting gambit. Will it win votes? I don't know.

The other question Matt asks is whether open source should be on the political table at all.

In a perfect world it would not be. We would dispassionately gauge the value of different software packages and use what worked best for the least investment.

But we don't live in a perfect world, as I've seen in my own reporting on the military dismissal of the VA's VistA software, or Massachusetts' struggles with ODF.

Open source is more than a business model. It is more than a development model. It represents a new model for how we deal with all information -- not just software. It teaches that sharing code, sharing data, and sharing views makes us stronger.

That's a big political ask. The point is, it is a political ask.