Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Provocative bloggers

If you read things like the following in a blog, how would you react?

Should we hire more mercenaries today?... Why not bypass residency entirely and go straight to Mexico, India and elsewhere to hire soldiers? ...

... if Indians can be trained to do US tax returns they can be trained to fight US wars.

When the blog is Marginal Revolution and the blogger is an academic called Alex Tabarrok, you get calm, measured responses that contribute to a meaningful debate.

Many people who would otherwise go ballistic, do not react with outrage at MR! I really have no idea why this is so. My first guess is that the blogger is an academic with a long track record of fairness and objectivity, and his political leanings are well established; this combination of qualities probably ensures that provocative ideas are taken by the readers in the right spirit. Since readers accept that these ideas/questions are meant for furthering inquiry, their participation in the debate is also in the same spirit; bingo, there is very little abuse/nastiness in the comments section.

Of course, it is entirely possible that MR bloggers, who disable comments on most of their posts, scrupulously delete nasty comments before they make it to the blog; however, I don't think they get many abusive comments to delete.

You might also want to try another provocative post; this one, from Crooked Timber, poses a question that has rather grave implications for civil liberties. However, the blogger -- Chris Bertram -- clarifies his intent, and the readers respond accordingly.