Perverted Blogging Economics

Back during the “dot-com boom” of the 90’s, I was one of those observers who constantly expected the dot-bomb collapse to arrive any minute. I couldn’t understand how anyone could buy into the notion of pouring more and more and more money into internet businesses that had absolutely no clue how to get any of it back. And when it eventually did fall apart I had a hard time working up the slightest trace of sympathy for those who lost their shirts.

Hold on to that thought for a minute. I’ll get back to it.

Political beliefs have usually been tied to certain economic beliefs. The left tends towards socialism, with communism the extreme. The spectrum runs from goverment regulation of the economy to government control of the economy to government ownership of the economy. “The people own everything. To each according to their need, from each according to their ability.” Everything made affordable, or free.

The right tends towards capitalism, with plutocracy and utter laissez-faire being the extreme. Buying and selling is good. Big business is good. Profits are good. Corporations should be as unfettered as possible to maximize their own benefits.

But here’s where the perverse nature of the Internet cited above intervenes. In the blogosphere, the political sites are the “big boys.” And here, we’ve fallen into topsy-turvy land. I did a quick perusal of Truth Laid Bear’s Ecosystem rankings, and one bare fact leaped out at me.

Several of the biggest blogs on the left are wholly owned and operated subsidiaries of private companies. Atrios, Kos, Oliver Willis and others all blog for a paycheck. A purely capitalistic “payment for services rendered” system. On the other hand, the biggest conservative blogs (Instapundit, Little Green Footballs, Powerline, (ahem) Wizbang) are pretty much “vanity” sites — the owners are the bloggers, and they do whatever the hell they want. They make some money off ads and donations, but they mainly do it “for the common good.” They have the ability, so they provide.

(A personal note here: I’ve often joked about “selling out,” but lack any interested buyers. I am actually rather proud of the fact that I have never asked for a single thing as compensation, and don’t foresee ever doing so. I write here purely for the love of writing, for the thrill of the feedback, and the excitement of actually, somehow, making a difference — something I’ve never been able to do before in my life. I owe Kevin a huge debt of gratitude for sharing this tremendous stage he has built, and I don’t think I can ever thank him adequately. Nor can I thank you, the readers, adequately.)

I have absolutely no idea what deep, profound message is concealed behind this observation. Maybe it’s tied into the old theory that the political spectrum is actually a circle, and the extremes eventually meet and cross. Maybe it’s just what I alluded to above in the perverse nature of the Internet, and its tendency to invert conventional logic. Maybe it has something to do with the conservative’s tendency to value the accomplishments of the individual, while the left tends to have more faith in large groups and institutions and collectives.

But I think it’s at least something worth kicking around.


(Update: Perhaps I should soften my definition of “paid to blog.” How about if I pointed out that most of the big conservative bloggers have “day jobs” unrelated to their blogging, while the bigger liberal blogs seem to have jobs that encourage and support their blogging. Does that soften the blow a little, Atrios?)

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