Wikipedia: Libertarian, Not Anarchic

Massimo Pigliucci discusses a study about the accuracy of Wikipedia vs. the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Academia is notoriously resistant to change, which to some extent is a good thing. It was therefore no surprise that when Wikipedia became a phenomenon most academics scoffed at it as a passing fad, fatally flawed by its very core idea: anybody, and I mean anybody, can become a Wiki author and post new entries or edit existing ones. Surely, this will inevitably lead to chaos and complete unreliability, the critics said. But a few years ago a study of a sample of entries compared the accuracy of Wikipedia with that of the unquestionably prestigious Encyclopedia Britannica, and Wikipedia was at least as accurate, in some cases more.

Many of my friends with Anarchist leanings sight Wikipedia as an example of what is possible when we get rid of the old-guard rules and let people do what they want.  They are close, but I think Anarchy is not the right political moniker for Wikipedia.  It’s a Libertarian idea:  People should be free, and we should let the marketplace of ideas thrive without excessive impedance.

But, there ARE rules.   Wikipedia is relentless about not allowing “stubs”, or articles with little useful information.  They comb for accuracy, and encourage others to do the same and report misinformation.

A good marketplace HAS to have rules if it is going to function.  Just keep them minimal and under control.  Go Wikipedia.


2 responses to “Wikipedia: Libertarian, Not Anarchic

  1. While not technically an anarchy, Wikipedia is more along the idea of mob-rule. There are very few rules, that deal with a handful of specific things such as 3 reverts in 24 hours, harassment, copyright infringement, etc. WP policies…well one policy is to ignore all policies, go figure out that one out. Outside of that, as long as the mob thinks something is correct, it stays in the article until the mob moves elsewhere and someone more knowledgeable about the subject intervenes. If the mob comes back…all hell breaks loose.

  2. But anarcho-capitalism has rules too. And not just the obvious “natural laws” against murder, theft, etc., that people generally accept and punish in society without any formal rule telling them to. A DRO Anarchy is something like a free market of governments where any violation of liberty (defined as the right to do whatever you want if it doesn’t directly violate another person’s right to do the same) is punished by the market shifting between “insurance companies.”

    The line between libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism is fuzzy, so I think wikipedia is probably both, but the facts that wikipedia lacks designated police with unquestionable authority, instead relying on the consensus of users, pushes it in to anarchic territory. It even has an “ignore all rules” rule, which states that users should ignore a rule if it prevents them from improving wikipedia.

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