Craigslist, EBay, the Left, the Right, Some Random Thoughts

I really haven’t thought this post through very well… its more a collection of unfinished thoughts with a unifying theme….

I was thinking about a few things. I imagine, based on comments and e-mails I receive that most of our readers are slightly left of center. Sure, we have a few right wingers and a few libertarians, and perhaps ten percent of our readers could be described as socialist. I’m not sure we have any regular readers that are to the left of socialist though.

I was trying to think of what is the difference between being roughly where most of our readers are and being on the right. Most of us believe in the same things… we believe that there should be markets, for instance. However, we disagree about the degree of government regulation of those markets. A strict libertarian might feel that there should be zero regulation, but I imagine there aren’t that many of those. As a general rule, therefore, I would imagine those on the left will generally want more government regulation of markets than those on the right. The idea, for those on the left, is to reduce externalities, deal with asymmetric information, etc. For those on the right, the market itself will deal with that.

Anyway, it seems to me that in this internet age, its easy to create any kind of market (or even internet community) one wants, provided its legal. Since there is already a government out there in the background imposing the entire body of law on everyone, one would imagine that if the right is, well, right, on-line market sites wouldn’t need any additional rules or regulations. (Similarly, on-line communities or message boards or whatnot would not need any monitors or moderators.)

What do we see? Well, I can think of two very large on-line markets: Craigslist and EBay. Of the two, Craigslist has the lefty reputation. (The Ex-GF uses it as her home page.) And they are pretty left leaning – right at the top, they have “community” links, including links for “activists”, etc. And its fairly obvious that the “personals” at Craigslist are the kind of thing decried, at least publicly, by any social conservative. And as I understand it, the founder of the company, and the company itself, has a fairly leftward tilt. Is it a real marketplace – well, its a classified ad system, and functions similarly enough to a market.

EBay is more corporate. And more uptight. With a whole lot more rules and regulations. It seems ironic to me that the lefty site seems to be the one that is more, well, free-wheeling and which imposes less of an encumbrance on its users. But OK… that’s just two companies. It isn’t necessarily generalizable to the left and the right…

Which raises the question… where are the places on the net for the true believers? The ones which recognize that the government already has sooooooo many laws and rules that adding any more is superfluous. Where are those marketplaces (of goods and ideas) online where we can see the ideal of the right and the libertarians of no rules and regulations (over and above what the government already imposes)?