Defending the “black market in human decency”

This essay in the New York Times, Slaves of the Internet, Unite, is a fine defence of the value of writing, art and, yes, journalism.

Tim Kreider, an American writer and cartoonist, quotes Vladamir Nabokov: “Let us not kid ourselves. Let us remember that literature is of no practical value whatsoever.” Responds Kreider: ”  
 
“But practical value isn’t the only kind of value. Ours is a mixed economy, with the gift economy of the arts existing (if not exactly flourishing) within the inhospitable conditions of a market economy, like the fragile black market in human decency that keeps civilization going despite the pitiless dictates of self-interest.”
 
Kreider is calling for creators to stop giving work away for free on the Internet, in a world where no one hands out necessities like free groceries or shelter, or most luxuries.
 
All I would add is that nothing is ever “free.” Often, though, it requires critical thinking to figure out who is paying for it, and to realize there’s a cost to neglecting what really matters.
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