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Don’t free ride on the yellow brick road to wherever we’re going


I was talking to a cab driver in Istanbul the other day, and, after confirming all my previous beliefs about Istanbul, Turkey, Eurasia, planet Earth, the galaxy, and the observable universe, he suddenly said, “Sir, how can I donate to Lawyers Guns & Money, which is my favorite blog in the observable universe?”

And I said, that’s a great question Kemal (that was his name). The answer is, in all the ways you can give money to people who beg for it on the Internet:

And you really should, too, because LGM is pretty much the Last Blog on the Internet, and you wouldn’t want to kill the Last Blog on the Internet through laziness and indifference, which are the things that are currently killing liberal democracy and charismatic megafauna and the climate and a bunch of other things, because there’s way too much free riding in this crazy mixed up world of ours.

Free riding is one of those Econ 101 concepts that’s actually quite useful. Free riders are people who enjoy the benefits of something, and especially public goods like LGM, without ever paying anything for them. A public good is something that, once it’s provided to the public, can be consumed by anybody without paying for it, and further consumption doesn’t lessen its availability to others. Public goods are basically communism in other words, and, while after all we are not communists (except for Erik), we are, as the syndicalist collective that runs the Last Blog on the Internet ™, stubbornly sticking to a model in which we depend on the kindness of strangers to pay the bills, instead of charging for access, like good little SubStack capitalist entrepreneurs would.

Except you’re not strangers: when you’re here, you’re family. And face it, you’re here a lot, because this is the Last Blog on the Internet ™. Don’t well actshully me about that; you know what I’m saying, and it’s sort of true, or true enough.

The internet has been around for 25 years now — I’m talking about when suddenly it was a thing that everybody was doing, which happened on February 14, 1997, at 7:27 UTC — and for a long time people were asking, how are we going to get people to pay for this? They figured it out, eventually, but we are sticking with the old ways of just asking/begging readers and commenters and especially people who belong to both categories to voluntarily support this enterprise, because we’re Old School, like the Showtime Lakers, and Derek Jeter, and Richie Aprile. We play the game the Right Way is what we’re saying.

In all semi-seriousness, your hosts put an enormous effort into this project. I calculated that I wrote around 300,000 words for this blog last year, which is about six academic monographs, for which I got affirmatively negative credit at my so-called real employer, who I’m about to sue, but that’s a story for another post. And people like Scott and Erik are putting in even more work than I am, not to mention all our more occasional but still critical contributors, who bring an intellectual and stylistic diversity to the Last Blog on the Internet ™, which would very much like to continue to celebrate our cyber-version of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion ™, but which needs your voluntary contributions to continue to do so.

We can’t do this for free, but that’s what we have to do it for when you free ride. I mean I get it; some free riding is inevitable and even desirable. If you’re genuinely struggling financially, you can and should read and comment without contributing, because this thing of ours is more than a livelihood; when one of us suffers a personal tragedy, falls ill or what not, we all feel it deeply, no matter what kind of acrimony is in the air.

But if you’re doing OK or better than OK you need to contribute. Don’t be that person who thinks about contributing, and feels a warm glow of self-satisfaction just from thinking about doing something good, and then doesn’t do it. I’m that person all the time: the other day a friend of mine’s father died, and I thought about writing her a long, thoughtful, eloquent handwritten note about what a great man her father was (he was, too), but I haven’t done it yet, even though I felt very pleased with myself for having thought about doing that thing, as opposed to you know actually doing it.

So here’s the deal: you send us some some Lira, like Kemal, who totally exists outside my imagination, has already done, and I’ll write that note.

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