Monday, April 06, 2009

Free Markets Of Ideas

Remember when we were told that the Internet would provide us the ultimate free market for ideas? A place where ideas would don their silver helmets, raise their magic swords and go at each other at the dawn of the New Era, all following the Marquess of Queenberry rules, naturally? A civilized but open struggle! Let the best idea win!

It doesn't look anything like that, does it? Except perhaps for that manly parable I painted, all stirred together from unarmed combat and noble dueling. What mostly seems to have happened is that the ideas cower each in their own corner of the boxing ring, surrounded by their acolytes. Thus, the conservatives stay on their blogs and the liberals stay on their blogs and any visiting consists of trolling raids.

I'm not sure what the impact of that will be on the mythical free market of ideas. Neither am I sure why it seems to be the case that an unmoderated large forum is always ultimately taken over by the extremists and/or the trolls. If the idea of a free market of ideas really worked then we'd have to conclude that it's the trolls and/or the extremists who had the best ideas.

The conclusion I draw from all this is that the cyberspace does not provide a free market for ideas. Of course I could have drawn the same conclusion much more quickly by just checking the list of requirements of a perfectly competitive market against the cyberspace reality, but that wouldn't have made a post.