You Are Right

When someone you agree with disagrees with you

People long to hear those three words. Joy turns to hate when they hear the next word, but…. Often the word but introduces a complete denial of that initial agreement. I say this to preface remarks about Richard M. Stallman and Dave Ramsey. I love both these guys. They are right, but I fear they will hate it after I say but.

These two guys come from radically different places. It seems odd to link them. If you ask me about each, I will cheerfully say they are right and you ought to listen to them.

Dave Ramsey (DR) is a guru of personal finance, and Richard M Stallman (RMS) is a guru of software. These gurus are militant about freedom in different ways. DR is militant about freedom from debt. RMS is militant about freedom from proprietary software. I imagine that they agree on little else and have little else in common.

Militantly advocating freedom is a heck of a thing to have in common.

When freedom and convenience intersect trouble starts. I agree with Dave Ramsey’s debt aversion. I strongly endorse debt avoidance. I love sitting down with a spreadsheet program and figuring out a budget. The personal finance space is something I’ve been interested in for decades.

I got out of debt using a modified version of Dave Ramsey’s “debt snowball” when he was still in receivership from his own bankrupcty. (I’ll come back to what I did to modify his snowball in a later post.)

DR and I disagree at the point of convenience, because I’m willing to keep a credit card around. (In 1980 I promised my wife that if I ever paid one cent of interest on any credit card, I would cut them all up.)

Richard M Stallman (RMS) is the father of the “free software” movement. He has disowned “Open Source” software because he believes software should be free to study, modify, and share. If you compromise on any of these points you can expect his disapproval.

Yet I strongly endorse almost everything else he is for. I’ve written software for decades and contributed in a minor way to it.

We disagree at the point of convenience.

DR wants me to cut up all my credit cards. He would also say that I paid off my debts wrong. RMS wants me to quit using my iPhone, Windows, IOS, etc. Both of these things reduce my freedom. The nominal amount on my credit card that I pay off each month is still debt. As such it takes my freedom. Likewise, each of those annoying end-user licensing agreements that I click through without reading, constitute reductions in my freedom.

As I enjoy these conveniences I serve as an example to the next guy. This increases the power that the corporations holding those things exert over us. These are risks I willingly shoulder in exchange for the convenience of using seamlessly integrated software and buying stuff magically using my Apple Watch.

Though I love DR and RMS, I believe they would be angry when I pursue convenience over ideology. It’s a tradeoff. You should weigh the pros and cons in your own circumstance and decide for yourself. And you should decide for yourself with mindfulness of the subtle societal consequences.

Steve Poling

Masters degrees in math and computer science. Poet in several computer languages. I write stories about Sherlock Holmes' brother Mycroft, steampunk, and SF.

Grand Rapids, Michigan