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Re: An ammendment (Re: Formal CFV: General Resolution to Abolish Non-Free)

On Thu, Jun 15, 2000 at 04:26:18PM -0400, Raul Miller wrote:
> > On Tue, Jun 13, 2000 at 06:31:50PM +1000, Hamish Moffatt wrote:
> > > Obviously you have no problem with throwing out the social contract on a
> > > whim.
> On Thu, Jun 15, 2000 at 01:34:20PM -0400, Branden Robinson wrote:
> > Please explain to where the proposed GR mandates this.
> Please explain what part of the constitution allows for a GR to
> amend the social contract.

How is this a rebuttal?  It's not even on point.  If the constitution does
in fact not permit amendement of the SC, then the relevant section of the
GR is nullified.  It doesn't rewrite itself to say "The Social Contract is
hereby repealed."

> > I see an amendement of its language, but no blanket repeal of the document.
> As near as I can tell, the constitution gives debian developers the
> power to issue new documents.  I don't see anything in it that grants
> debian developers the right to amend the social contract.

So we are bound to all of the terms of the Social Contract in perpuity?
The Constitution says only that we can issue documents...does that mean we
can issue documents that supersede, amend, or repeal others?

If not, then I ask how much sense it makes for Debian Developers 20 years
from now to be bound by a document which says we make available an FTP
archive of non-free software.  What do we do when FTP goes the way of UUCP?
What do we do in a hypothetical future where non-free software no longer
exists for general purpose applications?  (I.e., the only remaining
non-free software is so proprietary -- or so marginal in its utility that
we are not permitted to distribute it, or can't be bothered to.)

> (*) We could decide that the social contract is nothing more than
> a document.  We should probably rename it ("The Social Document" or,
> more likely "Social Issues") in this case.

I submit that it is in fact nothing more than a document.  I do not
understand why it is necessary to change its title.  It is a statement of
our goals, principles, and intents.

> [Personally, I consider the social contract to be senior to the
> constitution.  If the constitution explicitly dealt with the issue of
> modifying the social contract, I'd probably go along with that.  However,
> when I originally accepted the constitution, it was with the idea that
> the constitution was a mechanism for implementing the social contract --
> not the other way around.  But that's probably just me, personally.]

I think you are constructing unnecessary chains of inherited legitimacy

The Consitution says:

1. Introduction

   The Debian Project is an association of individuals who have made
   common cause to create a free operating system.

   This document describes the organisational structure for formal
   decisionmaking in the Project. It does not describe the goals of the
   Project or how it achieves them, or contain any policies except those
   directly related to the decisionmaking process.

The Constitution takes no particular cognizance either of the SC or the
DFSG.  It does not derive its governing authority from those documents;
rather, being a constitution, its authority is grounded in the collective
consent and ratification of its terms.

If the Social Contract and DFSG are neither amendable, supersedable, nor
revocable, then we have the interesting situation of a group of volunteers
being bound to terms which they had, and have, no voice in determining --
for what is to happen when all the members of the Project who participated
in the creation of those documents have moved on?  Many have already,
including some rather important ones.  As new-maintainer reopens, we must
take note of the fact that we are asking for agreement to terms of these
documents which they took no part in helping to shape.  I believe that all
maintainers should be permitted to be one voice among many determining the
ultimate goals of the project.  If those change over time, so be it; so too
does the world change.

The most important thing about the Debian project is the people that
comprise it; our governing documents are our tools, not our masters, just
as software is a tool.  The Social Contract, DFSG, and Constitution must
reflect the goals and intentions of the people who are bound by them.
While we ask each developer individually to conform to the standards, we
must in return grant each developer the right to participate in democratic
procedures for their amendment.

G. Branden Robinson            |     Kissing girls is a goodness.  It is a
Debian GNU/Linux               |     growing closer.  It beats the hell out
branden@ecn.purdue.edu         |     of card games.
roger.ecn.purdue.edu/~branden/ |     -- Robert Heinlein

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