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2005-05-13

Machiavelli on the political innovator (and open source software) 

I came across a shorter version of this Machiavelli-quote (The Prince, chapter VI) in Larry Lessig's article "The architecture of innovation". Yes, I was also thinking about Open Source Software and related political issues, but the quote is intriguing more generally:
And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, then to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them. Thus it happens that whenever those who are hostile have the opportunity to attack they do it like partisans, whilst the others defend lukewarmly, in such wise that the prince is endangered along with them.
Machiavelli's advice to the innovator is to use the sword rather than prayer in defending his cause, but fortunately that is not the choice we face today. A cool head and water-proof arguments seem to be advisable though. I found the following publication helpful:
G. Haber and M. Getzner (2003), "Gesamtwirtschaftliche Effekte des Softwaresektors in Österreich 2003" [DE], Universität Klagenfurt


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