The Knotty Questions of Real and Relative Incomes
Who Will Watch How the Watchmaker Works?

Nasty, Brutish, and Short

Susan Madrak writes:

Fooled: I was following some Google link to a post on a Motley Fool message board. In order to read it, you had to register, so I did. Big mistake. Ever since then, I've been swamped with penny-stock emails -- over 100 a day. Be warned.

There has been a big change on the Internet in the past decade. A decade ago, the Internet seemed to be a place that exemplified the left-anarchist utopian doctrines of Prince Kropotkin--friendly and helpful people coming together to create things for the common good, expecting that their contributions would be more than matched by those of others and that all would benefit.

Today? Today the Internet seems dominated by people like--well, like the proprietors of the Motley Fool, who don't care how much of Susan Madrak's time their clients' emails waste as long as they can make a few ¢¢¢¢ by selling her registration info. It is, to me, surprising how *many* people there are out on the Internet who do not care how large a burden their actions impose on others as long as they hold some promise of gaining them a trivial advantage. It's the State of Nature out there.

And so today it teaches a different lesson: not Prince Kropotkin but instead Joseph de Maistre, who in his Soirees from St. Petersburg wrote that behind every stable and peaceful social order stands the shadow of the executioner.