Friday, February 22, 2008

Welcome to the Free World

Indian über-blogger Amit Verma (of India Uncut) has a column in today's Indian Express, on the parallels between the Internet, particularly the blogosphere, and the "spontaneous ordering" of free markets:
There is a lot of junk on the Internet, but readers navigate through it easily, and soon settle on a few sites they regularly visit. Information percolates so quickly that a good new blog doesn’t take much time to build a readership. You write something nice, people who like it link to you, their readers check you out, and so it grows. Marketing and hype are generally wasted, and everything is viral. If you provide compelling content, readers come. If you write rubbish, readers go. Competition is the best regulation.

The blogger Ravikiran Rao once speculated on what would happen if the government decided to protect users from ‘bad blogs’, and regulate blogging. If government babus started deciding what content was appropriate for audiences, good bloggers would be intimidated away, not bothering to enter a space where there were so many hassles. Established bloggers would lobby for regulation to protect them from pesky newcomers. The quality of blogging would go down, not up — and readers would be shortchanged.
It's quite a compelling little column. Of course, I'm not a dyed-in-the-wool libertarian. I don't think a Catholic can be. I do have my libertarian proclivities though. And any visit to India, where the immense, asphyxiating bulk of the Indian state weighs down on every aspect of life, reinforces those proclivities.

That said, do check out this piece in Slate: Digg, Wikipedia, and the myth of Web 2.0 democracy. It's not just all liberty. The chaperones are important. Things are a bit more oligarchic than purely democratic.

[Aside: Varma is quite reflexively anti-religious. His critique of religion, it seems, boils down to that tired old Enlightenment dogma: "But it's irrational and backwards and holds people back and look how silly it all is. And see how much violence it engenders." Actually, I'm pretty anti-religious too. In different ways, of course. Christianity, at one level, isn't really a religion. Or just a religion. But that's a separate essay ... ]

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