Bad ideas attract the good

According to Gresham’s Law, bad money drives out good. Known since Aristophanes, this law states that undervalued, or more value-stable currency would eventually be put out of circulation by an overvalued, or value-losing currency, when both currencies are allowed on the market. Faced with the choice of keeping both in circulation or keeping one for themselves, people will choose to transact bad money and keep the good one for themselves, effectively taking it out of circulation, since good money may be worth more than its face value. Under maximum monetary freedom conditions, good money loses.

The circulation of thoughts and views works in the opposite way. In the marketplace of ideas, the bad ideas attract the good. Under maximum freedom-of-thought conditions, most ideas will be bad because anything goes. Any old birdbrain has a place under the sun and a chance to add another voice to the crowd in the public square. But that is not a bad thing at all, since most bad ideas prompt new and better ones to challenge them. An analogy with the human body may not be completely out of place here. In a free environment, bad ideas act like pathogens calling for antibodies to confront them. Without pathogens, our bodies would be as defenceless as those of the Martian invaders in H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. We need the long tail of bad ideas to make us see the good ones. Because once we see them, we are able to chase the bad ones out of circulation.

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