I did more or less expect the comments as posted by Ash and Nadia - for that didn't read those yet, it basically came down to "do you spend real money in a virtual world?!" and "stop over regulating everything and the inhabitants will find their own way" - so I'll try to answer the questions posed and in the mean time throw out some new one out there for everyone to choke on.
For those that don't have a clue what Second Life is, I'll try to write it as I see and experience it. The "What is Second Life" question is also the hardest one to answer, as it definitely is different for everyone involved and we all may get something out of it, even if it's the exact opposite.
Some say that Second Life is a game, and one with no predefined purpose. Some say it's a glorified chat box where you walk and fly around and talk to people from all over the world - social interaction at it's best. Others consider SL a true virtual economy or a micro nation even with everything that comes with that : money, work, laws, regulations, banks, stock markets, land ownership, Intellectual Property rights,....
My opinion on what SL is exactly was "it's a game" at first but within days that changed to "it's a virtual micro nation" as I took a dive deep into the economic system and became part of it. I'll throw in some numbers to give you an idea about the economic powers that lies within Second Life : in the past 24 hours a total of $1,040,450 was spent in world.
That's a figure in USD, not in the virtual Linden Dollar L$)! I must admit that I don't know how Linden Lab came up with that figure, and there is a possibility that their data is inflated in the same way as their number of total residents (8,501,546) is far from the daily average population online. But even if that is the case, over 1 million USD in a 24h time frame is massive. It definitely changes my point of view when it comes to defining something as a game or not.
Anyway, where was I? Ash wanted to know whether I - or others I assume - spend real money on this, and once again the answer is different for everyone : I have indeed pumped a nice stream of hard earned Real Money into this virtual world. Some don't and only use the resources they also earn in SL to do their thing, but back in the days I opted to inject real money into Second Life to support and grow my virtual self. Money can be brought into the game, by buying L$ on the LindeX or some of the third party L$ exchanges, and using the same mechanisms you can sell L$ and transfer it to a bank account, credit card or paypal account. There is a very real link between the virtual L$ and the USD.
By establishing that there is more to this than pure fun, I think in some way I also answered Nadia's question or statement that there should be less regulation and moral judgment passed upon others. However, as we all - should - know, businesses thrive in an environment that is stable and regulated just enough so they get to protect their investments yet are very free to pursue and chase their goal of making a profit and keeping their shareholders happy. Second Life is a micro nation with the fundamental laws being written as it grows and expands, and at times this leaves the economic foundation of this "world" very vulnerable and in flux.
This is what happened on July 25th when LL decided to ban wagering in Second Life effective immediately : all the financial and emotional efforts that were poured into creating and running a virtual business were nullified and erased with a stroke of a pencil, or in this case, a post of a new policy on the SL official blog. Sure enough, not everyone was struck as not all of the SL residents ran a casino or entertainment place, but the economic numbers don't lie either and SL is not that different from Real Life : sex and gambling are a considerable part of the economy and often rather innovative when it comes to technological challenges and creations.
I'm gonna leave you with a blog post by Nobody Fuzagi titled Towards A Healthy Economy - an interesting read if you want to know more about this "game".