I wonder how much Open Source has contributed to the massive decline in global poverty.
I suspect it's role is not at all trivial. The ethic of "let solve problems because they are worth solving, with or without profit" and "let's share those powerful tools to the masses" Changed the game in exponential ways.
How many business decisions are made in the world today without the use of Linux, apache, mysql, php, or another free variant of such? Nearly none. We have cheap smartphones in the pockets of the poor and developing world powered by linux or a variant.
When I was a kid, It cost dollars to call a state away. I recently watched my kids play 'Magic the Gathering' with over video chat with their friends in Australia for several hours. If technology can be used this trivially, How big of an impact is it having where it generates goods and services? If you can afford to negotiate for hours over a game, you can afford to negotiate for seed, tools, medical missionaries, well drilling missionaries, and all kinds of things that will make life better, freeing people from doing subsistence tasks and being able to move to more exponential endeavors of building tools and infrastructure.
There is a libertarian socialism that has emerged without the need for government revolution or force. It is handing the means of production to the masses. Those tools being distributed allow communities much better ability to solve problems locally and to communicate and coordinate with others to obtain resources that are needed.
You get many benefits of socialism without the the need for government involvement at all. We still have a ways to go. As Open Source ethos spreads outside of the software realm, and into hardware, we can expect it to further accelerate it's compounding interest of making things cheaper and better. Gradually we will let go of the old way of doing things, and migrate to the new. It only makes sense -- Even the big oligopoly software companies are joining the movement. The old expensive systems will be circumvented by the path of least resistance.
This thought was inspired by Mike Overby's post