I'm not going to even comment on the Ashley Madison case. I've found that Americans are so deranged when it comes to matters of gender, race, and sex that it's almost impossible to have an intelligent conversation on those subjects. So I generally try to avoid those topics. (Actually Bryan is one of the few people I know with whom I could have an intelligent conversation on any topic, if no commenters were listening in.) - Scott Sumner, Beyond victims and villains
This is why we can't have nice things!?!? It's because of deranged commenters that we can't have intelligent public conversations on important and interesting topics!
Doesn't this make you really want to eavesdrop on Caplan and Sumner? Just how good can their private conversations truly be? Wouldn't I like to know! Lucky for Caplan and Sumner I'm nowhere near Virginia. But if they are ever in Southern California...
Also, it begs the question of why they wouldn't simply just banish any deranged commenters. For example... they banished me! Ostensibly for linking to the tax choice Wikipedia entry too many times. That was back when it was worth linking to. After I was banned from Wikipedia... the knockers were able to tear the content down to their heart's content.
If Econlib hadn't banished me three years ago... I wonder how many comments I would have left on their blog? "Too many" is of course the correct answer! Now I simply have to settle for making deranged comments from afar... :(
How cool would it be if Sumner could, with one click, publicly highlight any deranged comments on his blog entries? What if, 9 times out of 10, the commenters simply had no idea that their comments were deranged? With some super quick and easy feedback from Sumner... 90% of the deranged comments would quickly improve. Then Sumner could simply ban the 10% of commenters who were fully aware, but didn't care, that their comments were deranged.
Which brings us to the real reason that we can't have nice things. It's because Sumner doesn't understand the value of clarifying demand! Let me try and help correct this deficiency...
Rather than clicking to highlight the deranged comments... Sumner could spend his own money to highlight/reward the most intelligent comments! Caplan could also spend his own money to highlight the most intelligent comments! Same thing with Henderson! Increasing the inclusivity of valuation would of course increase the accuracy of the total valuations. In other words, the more people who were free to participate in the valuation process... the more trustworthy the results.
Right now the comments are sorted by date submitted. But if the demand for comments was clarified... then the default sorting would be by value. The comments nearest to the entry would be the most valuable (least deranged) while the comments furthest from the entry would be the least valuable (most deranged). Near... and far. More valuable... and less valuable. Less deranged... and more deranged. The efficient allocation of resources, in this case comments, is entirely dependent on clarifying demand.
The more money that the crowd would spend on the least deranged comments... the greater the incentive for people to leave less deranged comments. It would be a virtuous cycle. Well... at least until the robots started leaving the most valuable comments! Darn evil robots with their extremely intelligent comments. Then again... Tabarrok did say that, "Perhaps any sufficiently advanced logic is indistinguishable from stupidity". So maybe robots would leave the least valuable comments? So I'm a robot? Ouch, my brain.
Anyways, Sumner essentially complained that his garden is overgrown with weeds. And evidently he's not in the mood to do some weeding. Should Sumner really be worrying about weeds though? Nooooo... he should be focusing on facilitating the nourishment and cultivation of any plants in his garden that aren't weeds. Over time his garden would grow larger and larger and be packed with the most incredible diversity of wonderful, colorful, fragrant, fruitful and amazing plants. There would still be weeds... but the increasingly fierce competition for space closer to the house would constantly be pushing the weeds further and further away from his house.
To put it differently... it's like complaining about an abundance of crap bands when you should be helping to cultivate cool bands.
What I'm endeavoring to explain is how and why markets work! Clearly, and most unfortunately, Sumner doesn't truly understand how and why markets work. Because if he did... then he wouldn't be berating and disparaging commenters. There wouldn't be any need to! Because as soon as he joined Econlib, he would have pooled his pennies with Caplan and Henderson in order to hire a programmer who would have minimized payment costs.
If Econlib had minimized payment costs when Sumner started to blog there last year... what's the total amount of money that he would have already spent on comments? Maybe $5 dollars? Or $20 dollars? $100 dollars? $300 dollars?
What would the graph have looked like? At first... Sumner wouldn't pay very much at all... maybe he'd spend a few pennies on the very best comments. But, because incentives matter, the quality of comments would start to increase. Would the quality increase slowly or quickly? How steep would the slope be? How long would it take until Sumner was buying the best commenters the equivalent of a coffee for their comments? How long until the best comment was worth a cheap steak? And then a decent steak? And then a really nice steak?
And then Sumner would complain because the quality of comments was so high that he was quickly going broke.