Distributing Information through
Dispersed Media and Campaigns
EMPIRICAL INVESTIGATION and prediction markets can generate substantial data about the likely effects of policy. But by themselves they cannot broadly distribute the data to the general public. Moreover, by themselves they cannot create debate about explanations of the relevant facts. Other information technology must be responsible for distributing this information and for creating platforms for debate. Fortunately, new information technology has also created a more dispersed media that has the capacity to bring a sharpened deliberation to the data and set the stage for a more intensive discussion of policy results in political campaigns.
The most beneficial effect of the Internet on democracy is its capacity to produce a better evaluation of policy consequences, thereby advancing a politics of learning. Because of the greater space and interconnections that the Internet makes available, Web-based media like blogs can be dispersed and specialized and yet also interconnected and connected with the wider world. As a result of this more decentralized and competitive media, the Internet generates both more innovative policy ideas and better explanations of policy than were available when mainstream media, dominated the flow of political discussion. But the more mainstream media, like newspapers and television networks, remain an important part of the media mix, distilling the best of the Internet and bringing it to a wider public.
Specialized blogs can address policy issues with a level of sophistication and depth that the mainstream media never could achieve. In my own field of law, the Internet hosts scores of widely read blogs, often with a quite particular focus, from tax law to contracts, from empirical studies to law and economics.1 Websites like Marginal Revolution, Calculated