TCS Daily

Campaign Money for Bloggers

By James D. Miller - May 16, 2005 12:00 AM

In elections, ideas matter more than repetition. So, rather than spending their money to repeat the same ads over and over again, rich George Soros-like political partisans should use their dollars to fund the production of ideas. And, as the last election showed, the creators, refiners and propagators of some of the most politically powerful ideas are bloggers.

A partisan millionaire should set aside, say, $20 million to give to politically useful bloggers. He should create a panel of judges that in the months leading up to the next election would periodically allocate money to the bloggers that have been the most helpful to his favored party. The possibility of receiving such a financial reward would induce many bloggers to put more time and creativity into their writings.

But, you might ask, since most bloggers already work for free, why would anyone need to pay them? Well, bloggers would surely be far more willing to neglect work for their blogging hobby if their hobby could lead to riches. Furthermore, the ability to make substantial sums would draw many more Americans into the field of partisan blogging.

The bloggers who uncovered the Dan Rather National Guard memo fraud were easily worth $20 million to the Republican Party. Similarly, the bloggers who pointed out Tom Daschle's left-wing record to South Dakota and those who helped push the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth story were more helpful to the Republican Party than millions of additional dollars spent on ads would have been. These bloggers all acted without hope of receiving significant financial rewards. Well, if the Republican Party can get all this help for free, imagine how much more benefit they could get from bloggers if they promised to give millions to the bloggers who proved themselves the most useful.

An alternative approach to paying bloggers who have proved useful would be for partisans to directly fund a few friendly blogs. But it's difficult to know where the next important political idea will come from. In the last election knowledge of old typewriters proved critical to uncovering the National Guard memo fraud; who knows what information each side will need to influence the next election. The best approach to blog subsidization, therefore, is for partisans to leave open the possibility to every blogger that they can receive riches if they're able to use their specialized knowledge to favorably influence the election.

Some bloggers want to be perceived as non-partisan and so might not take money for helping a political party. But other bloggers clearly indicate their support for one party and so their ethics wouldn't be compromised by accepting money for having helped a political party.

James D. Miller writes The Game Theorist column for TCS and is the author of Game Theory at Work.


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