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Private vs. public property

Posted By Russ Roberts On June 8, 2009 @ 5:18 pm In Web/Tech | Comments Disabled

My desire to restructure [1] (maybe) the comments on this blog and change the commenting culture has generated a lot of responses. Most of them have been suggestions for ways to nest comments. Almost all have been enthusiastic about changing the comment culture.

But one reader wrote me to say he would never be reading Cafe Hayek again. He said I had betrayed my libertarian principles. I was no different from someone wanting government regulation to get his way.

I've seen this reaction before. It usually comes when I delete a vulgar comment or close comments. The charge is censorship.

Censorship? My caring about how the comments are made on my blog is akin to wanting government regulation?

I am a bit bewildered. The only way I can understand this is to assume that people see the internet and this blog as public property.

When I decide not to write something at Cafe Hayek, this is not censorship. It's authorship. I can delete all the comments I want. It's my blog. Or more accurately, it's ours, Don's and mine. It might not be wise or prudent to delete comments. I think not. I only delete spam and remarkably vulgar or hateful comments. I've deleted maybe three comments in the years this blog has been published. But that isn't censorship. It's our blog. We put the work into it. We pay for the service that puts it on the web. I care deeply about my audience or I wouldn't do this. But it isn't yours. It isn't yours in the literal sense. But to treat it as yours is to endure all the problems with communal property. It gets misused.

Private choices are not coercion. They're not censorship.

But if you disagree, you're free to leave. Don and I can run our blog as we see fit. We can't force you to stay or read it. That's just one more reason our choices aren't the same as government regulation.

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[1] My desire to restructure: http://cafehayek.com/2009/06/emergent-comments.html

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