During its relatively short history e-commerce, the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in business has been more successful and glamorous than e-government or e-democracy, the comparable use of ICT in governments and administration. This may be the reason why many government initiatives try to emulate the success of e-commerce by using concepts, processes, technologies, and approaches pioneered by businesses. This paper analyses the relevance and limits of this use of e-commerce as a paradigm in government. For this purpose it starts out by distinguishing between e-government and e-democracy. In the following step the paper discusses which factors have led to the success of e-commerce and might therefore be applicable as parts of the paradigm. It then discusses the strengths and the weaknesses of e-commerce as applied to government. The conclusion will be that there are good reasons to use the commercial paradigm in e-government and e-democracy. However, this may lead to an unintended shift towards e-government. E-democracy may even be weakened by the paradigm which might turn out to be detrimental to the democratic legitimacy of e-government and e-democracy.