The blogosphere as a market, not a democracy

Excellent post by Perry de Havilland over at Samizdata, on the question of "are blogs democratic?" His answer is no, since:

Democracy is about politics, and politics is about the use of the collective means of coercion. Democratic politics thus refers to systems by which the people who control those collective means of coercion are chosen and made accountable via one of several methods of popular voting. For something to be 'democratic' therefore, it must be amenable to 'politics'. Therefore for a blog to be 'democratic' that does not mean it is empowering or that it disintermediates the state. In fact it means the state, which is to say democratic politics is very much involved.

But you, the reader, do not get a vote on what get written in the articles on You may agree with what an article says or you may utterly disagree, but what gets written does not depend on how popular those sentiments are. We write what we want to write.

Where you do get to choose is whether or not you decide to come back and read us again. Much as in an open market, I might decide to try and sell my fruits and meats to those who pass by, yet I cannot force them actually purchase any of my goods if they do not wish to. They cannot stop me offering for sale those things I think makes economic sense but if I am wrong about what the market wants or if others make a better offer, then the passers by will choose to shop with someone else.

Indeed, just as the choice in the marketplace is to buy or not to buy, the choice in the blogosphere is read or not to read. There is no coercion on either side, and the market renders a decision based on the choices of individuals (and, so long as the provider has the means to continue, he or she is free to ignore the judgement of the market and continue unread.) This is the heart of a kosmos, of a spontaneous order, of civil society working to coordinate the various ends of individuals while respecting each individual. The reason the blogosphere has been so successful is not because of democracy, but because it carved its own niche, and offered something better than major media. It has shown that markets and free choices are what truly empower the individual, not democracy.

In a similar vein, Perry's point about the market nature of blogs (as opposed to a democratic one) and the truth about democracy is precisely why Iraq needs the restoration of civil society (Liberty) more than it needs collective control over the instruments of coercion (Democracy). As we've seen in incidents throughout the Shi'ite south (as well as the Kurdish north), score settling and the urge to religious tyranny are alive and well in vast majorities of the people; giving these people the keys to the state would simply result in the imposition of the tyranny of the majority. Democracy doesn't lead to prosperity, liberty does.

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